PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Pebble Beach became a signature event for the elite on the PGA Tour and delivered what was expected. Scottie Scheffler and a host of big names are contending going into the weekend, and the amateurs are headed home.
Scheffler, the No. 1 player in the world, was exquisite as ever from tee to green and saw plenty of putts fall Friday in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, including a 40-footer at the start of his round and a 35-foot birdie on the par-3 17th.
The most remarkable performance came from the weather, which once again cooperated. The rain fell overnight again, and except for a 30-minute shower, sunshine graced the Monterey Peninsula for much of the day.
It still put an onus on the players to get creative in trying to access back pins with greens so soft the ball was spinning back.
“It was really wet,” Scheffler said. “So like on a lot of these back-to-front greens it’s a big adjustment going from hitting a pitching wedge to hitting an 8-iron to try to take off spin. It’s little stuff like that you have to adjust to on the course. But it felt like the wind may have lied down a tiny bit as the day went on. I think we were forecast to have a little bit more aggressive winds than we did.
“Outside of that, yeah, just another day.”
Aberg began his round by making putts of 40, 35 and 30 feet on the opening four holes.
“I don’t remember the last time I did that, so obviously that’s a little bonus,” Aberg said. “I felt like I kept playing quite well and kept being disciplined, so it was nice.”
Detry was the only player to reach 13 under par, only to slip back with a poor bunker shot that left him scrambling for bogey on No. 4 and a big miss left on his tee shot at the par-3 fifth that led to another bogey. He still managed to stay atop the leaderboard.
They were at 11-under 133.
Patrick Cantlay was poised to join them except for missing a 10-foot birdie putt on the 17th at Pebble Beach, and then hitting his tee shot on the 18th onto the rocks, forcing him to scramble for a hard-earned par and a 70. He was 1 shot behind.
Justin Thomas did everything right except on the greens in his round of 68, leaving him 2 shots behind going into a most unpredictable weekend.
There appears to be no dodging a big storm due to arrive on the weekend, the worst of the rain and wind expected on Sunday.
“I’ve played in Europe for six years and I feel like we pretty much play every single week in a tornado. I’m fine with it, I embrace it,” Detry said. “Looks like this week is a short field as well, so looks like everybody’s going to have the similar draw, not like someone’s going to tee up in the morning and someone else in the afternoon. It will be the same for everyone.”
Pebble hasn’t had a 54-hole tournament because of rain since Dustin Johnson won in 2009.
The late Payne Stewart won in 1999 with a birdie on his final hole at Spyglass Hill in the third round. He was declared the winner the next day because of heavy rain and a storm system that stretched to Japan. Those are examples of making every round matter.
“I don’t think Sunday being berserk changes how I’ll feel about tomorrow’s round,” Cantlay said. “Obviously, this course is gettable as soft as it is. I think it will take a good score tomorrow to kind of keep my spot or move up.”
The pro-am portion of this reimagined tournament ended Friday. Rory McIlroy is having a rough time and shot 74 at Pebble Beach, leaving him at 145 and 12 shots behind. But at least he had a good partner. McIlroy and Jeff Rhodes, a managing partner at TGL Capital who plays off a 9 handicap index, won the pro-am at 18 under par.
Now the amateurs — already reduced in number from 156 to 80 because Pebble Beach is now a signature event — leave the course and turn it over to the PGA Tour players.
The leading nine players going into the weekend all played Friday at Pebble Beach, an advantage when the wind was down and the conditions were soft. Collin Morikawa had a 70 at Spyglass Hill and was among those 4 shots behind.
Nick Dunlap, the U.S. Amateur champion who turned pro after he won the American Express two weeks ago, continued to struggle. He shot 74 at Spyglass Hill and was at the bottom of the leaderboard.