The long slog that is the first three days of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am got off to a hot start on Thursday as four golfers shot 7 under or better and rocketed to the top of the leaderboard. Though no big names or megastars have emerged yet, a board has started to take shape at Pebble Beach, Monterey Peninsula and Spyglass Hill.
Hank Lebioda leads after shooting 8-under 63, but he’s tailed closely by Kurt Kitayama, Chad Ramey and Harry Hall, all of whom shot 7 under on various golf courses. Martin Trainer, Eric Cole and Aaron Baddeley make up a group that shot 6 under and are a bit further back.
Let’s take a deeper look at Lebioda’s big first day and what’s in store for him and the rest of the field over the rest of the week.
1. Hank Lebioda (-8)
Lebioda shot 63 at Monterey Peninsula on Thursday, which was playing as the easiest of the three courses used over the first three rounds. It was likely that the first-round leader would come from this course, but that doesn’t diminish what Lebioda did Thursday. He birdied half the holes he played, went out in 3 under and came home in 5 under for the 63 (Monterey Peninsula, interestingly, plays as a par 34 on the front and par 37 on the back). It was the best score he’s shot all season and just the second round he’s shot in the 60s in six tournaments.
“Felt like everything [was going right], to be honest with you,” Lebioda said. “Hit a lot of great iron shots. I made the putts when I was close. It was just a nice day. It was a really nice day.”
Lebioda winning this week would be shocking. He hasn’t made a cut so far this year and has only cracked 70 one time. Now to go out and do it against some of the best players in the world at a place like Pebble? The updated odds suggest that others are as skeptical as I am, but it would be quite a story of Lebioda could hang on.
T2. Kurt Kitayama, Chad Ramey, Harry Hall (-7)
T5. Martin Trainer, Eric Cole, Aaron Baddeley (-6)
T8. Scott Stallings, Ben Martin, Kyle Westmoreland, Keith Mitchell, Harry Higgs (-5)
The good news for Lebioda is that the players behind him are not all that strong. Stallings could be a problem — he played some truly terrific golf at times in 2022 — but beyond that there’s not a ton to be scared of here.
That begs the question of where Jordan Spieth, Matt Fitzpatrick and Viktor Hovland are after 18 holes. Hovland led the group by shooting 2 under at Spyglass Hill. Spieth and Fitzpatrick shot 1 under on the same golf course (more in a minute on why that’s better than it looks).
“Spyglass is hard, it’s a tough test,” Spieth said. “Would have liked to have done better on my front nine. That was really gettable. Then I thought I played the back nine really well. It was really bizarre the last four holes or so with the wind. It went from nothing to flipping and then blowing about 25 out of nowhere the other direction than the forecast. That throws us through a big loop when you’re prepping for something and you’ve got to make the adjustment.”
“I know one thing, Monterey’s typically the lowest scoring average and I.ve got to try and get back into it tomorrow,” he added later on.
Here are the three scoring averages across the golf courses on Thursday.
To Spieth’s point, shooting 71 at Spyglass is nearly tantamount to shooting 69 at Pebble Beach. The scoring averages matter perhaps more at this tournament than at any other event on the PGA Tour. As the Hovland-Spieth-Fitzpatrick trio heads to Monterey on Friday, where the scoring average was nearly three strokes easier in Round 1, it’s something that’s worth keeping an eye on.
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
We can go ahead and stop right there. The names I love are Fitzpatrick and Spieth at 16-1. They’re only one back of Hovland after playing the same course, which to me does not add up to the difference that’s represented on the betting board here. Spieth is such a menace at this tournament, and he gets his favorite course — Pebble Beach — for the final 36 holes. If he shoots 66 or 67 on Friday at Monterey, it’s going to be off to the races on the weekend.
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