PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Dustin Johnson is near the top of a leaderboard at Pebble Beach.
What else is new?
The guy who has owned Pebble Beach the last two years shot a 1-under 70 in Friday’s second round after opening with an even-par 71. Showing his prowess at Pebble Beach can extend beyond February, Johnson finds himself with a late tee time for Saturday’s third round.
“I’m very comfortable off the tee here. So I drive it pretty well, and in these greens, they’re really small. But if you’re hitting good quality shots, you can get it close to the hole,” Johnson said. “And I just feel like I got a good game plan to play this golf course.”
Playing late on the weekend at Pebble is very familiar to Johnson. Two of his three PGA Tour wins have come here in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, both in the last two years. In February, Johnson birdied the final hole to win his second straight title at Pebble.
As most have said this week, the course Johnson finished at 16-under on in February is nothing like the one Johnson has played at 1 under through two rounds.
“In February you get no roll on the greens, everything backs up,” Johnson said. “The course, it’s playing shorter because it’s firmer … but the way the ball is bouncing, it’s very hard. You really have to hit it to the right side of the flag to have a putt.”
Johnson showed consistency and restraint in the second round. He started with a quick birdie at the first, then ran off eight pars. Another birdie after a long tee shot at the 10th pushed Johnson to 2-under for the tournament, only to give one back with a bogey at No. 11. He then closed with seven more pars.
“I played really, really good the last two days, just haven’t made a lot of putts at all. If I can get my putter rolling then I can shoot some really good scores.”
OLD AND NEW: The past, present and future of golf converged Friday on the 14th tee at Pebble Beach.
Vijay Singh had a tee in the ground, waiting for the group ahead to clear on the par-5. Davis Love III stood behind him watching, while long-hitting Dustin Johnson took a few slow practice swings with his driver.
The group behind arrived, bringing 21-year-old Rory McIlroy, a rising star. Walking behind him was Japanese sensation Ryo Ishikawa, all of 18.
Playing with them was the man who got the biggest greeting from the crowd. At 60, Tom Watson was of another generation, but on this day he was the second-best player in his threesome, behind Ishikawa.
While Watson waited his turn he saw a TV technician stretching off to the side.
“Stiff?” he asked, getting an affirmative response.
“Me too,” Watson said, bending over and stretching some himself.
EXPERIENCE ON HIS SIDE: As different as Pebble Beach plays for the U.S. Open, Singh finds there’s still plenty from golfing here in February that can be applied now.
Singh is happy to be playing in the Open at all.
The USGA granted Singh an exemption into the field, citing his injury trouble as a reason for letting him in – keeping alive Singh’s streak of consecutive majors at 64, the longest current run.
The 47-year-old Singh, from Fiji, is a 34-time PGA Tour winner who has played in 16 straight U.S. Opens and 17 overall. His best finish was a tie for third in 1999.
He shot a 1-over 72 during Friday’s second round, leaving him at 4-over 146 for the tournament.
“I think the golf course played a little easier with no wind,” he said of his morning round. “The greens, especially the pins, were not as tucked away as we thought. They were in slopes, but more toward the middle of the greens. They were not tucked away. If you hit it on the front side of the greens you have a chance to make birdies.”
All of his experience doesn’t mean much on these unforgiving greens or when teeing off into winds that regularly change. For Singh, it’s about visualizing what he already knows about Pebble.
“You know your lines. You kind of go through the whole golf course and you know the green in your head, what’s the layout of the green,” Singh said. “With the new majors you go to, you’re trying to figure out what do the greens do over here? Here, you pretty much know where to hit it. That’s pretty much the local knowledge.”
SCOUTING REPORT: The back of the 18th was packed with media from all corners of the world when Tiger Woods, Ernie Els and Lee Westwood approached the green. There was a Japanese TV crew, the usual assortment of U.S. networks, reporters from newspapers, golf magazines and websites.
And there was Derek Lamely.
Lamely, the PGA Tour rookie who won the Puerto Rico Open this year, was in the midst of all this media, dressed in golf clothes and tennis shoes. He still had another two hours before he teed off in the second round.
“Just checking it out,” said Lamely, making his U.S. Open debut.
LOW AM: Illinois junior Scott Langley, the NCAA individual champion this year, shot a 2-under 69 Friday morning and is the low amateur entering the weekend at 2 over. Langley struggled through his first nine holes Friday and was sitting at 6 over when he suddenly got rolling. Langley made birdies at Nos. 10, 11, 13, 14 and 17. His only blemish on the back nine was a bogey at the 15th.
In the first round, Langley was 5 over on the back nine, including bogeys at two of the holes he birdied a day later.