PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Tim Herron was so frustrated that he changed putters for the first time in seven years at a tournament renowned for having some of the most unpredictable greens on the PGA Tour.
Desperation slowly gave way to satisfaction Friday in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am when Herron shot a 2-under 70 at Poppy Hills and emerged with a one-shot lead in a tournament loaded with possibilities.
“Everyone who makes the cut is going to be right in the tournament,” said Herron, who was at 7-under 137.
The cut won’t be made until after Saturday, when the 180-man field has played all three courses in the rotation, but one look at the muddled leaderboard makes it perfectly clear what Herron is talking about.
A 12-foot birdie putt on his final hole at Poppy gave him a one-shot lead over four players, including FBR Open winner J.B. Holmes and Nicholas Thompson, who was tied for the lead until missing a 20-inch putt on No. 8 at Pebble Beach, his 17th hole.
Holmes was fortunate to stay one shot behind after his tee shot on the 18th at Pebble Beach dropped into that big water hazard left of the fairway known as the Pacific Ocean. He took a drop, belted a fairway metal onto the green and two-putted for par.
Jason Day, the 20-year-old Australian and youngest member of the PGA Tour, had a 70 at Spyglass Hill and was among a half-dozen players at 5-under 139.
Three dozen players were within four shots of the lead.
That group did not include defending champion Phil Mickelson, who played his final 11 holes at Spyglass with no birdies and three bogeys for a 72, although he still was in range at 1-under 143.
“This is the round that could’ve been,” Mickelson said. “I really could have had it going. I had a number of birdie opportunities to be well under par and just gave it away.”
Mickelson joins the movie stars and corporate VIPs at Pebble Beach on Saturday, when the tournament might finally take shape.
“If I shoot a good round tomorrow … at Pebble, you can shoot 6 or 7 under and get back in it, and that’s what I need to do,” he said.
But those rounds have been hard to find.
The peninsula has rarely been this majestic for the AT&T, but those blue skies have been accompanied by a cool, stiff breeze that has made scoring higher than unusual. Ryan Palmer has the best score at Pebble this week, a 65 that was 13 shots better than his opening round.
Davis Love III was disappointed when he walked off Pebble Beach with a 71 until he looked at the leaderboard behind the green and realized his 3-under 141 was right in the mix.
“It’s harder than you think,” Love said. “The ball isn’t going anywhere.”
He left a number of iron shots well short of the hole to limit his birdie chances, but playing for the first time in four months because of ankle surgery, he had no complaints about the way he walked or played. Love has two months to qualify for the Masters, and he could finish in the top four, it might be enough to qualify for the Accenture Match Play Championship in two weeks.
“I’ve got to look at the positives,” he said.
Floyd catches himself looking at the past when he gets to Pebble Beach, primarily because his name is in bronze on the wall of champions leading up to the first tee.
“That’s my claim to fame among my friends, that I won Pebble Beach,” said the 32-year-old son of Raymond Floyd. “I don’t really tell them it’s the amateur portion of it.”
Floyd was a teenager playing with Dudley Hart when they won the pro-am in 1994, the year Johnny Miller won his final PGA Tour event at age 46, by one shot over a group that included Tom Watson.
Floyd had a solid amateur career but has yet to make it to the big leagues. Even though he earned his real estate license and still works a few days a week, he has not given up on his dream. Floyd played the mini-tours last year, failed to advance through Q-school, but received a sponsor’s exemption to Pebble Beach. He also is playing next week at Riviera on an exemption.
He opened with a 68 at Pebble Beach, then followed that with a 70 at Poppy Hills.
“To come out here and be able to perform is really exciting,” Floyd said. “It’s only two rounds. I knew I was playing well enough to do this. I didn’t know if I was going to be able to handle my nerves well enough to play. So far, I guess, good enough.”
But there’s still a long way to go, and so many players within the lead.
Tennis great Chris Evert got to watch her fiance, Greg Norman, play all 18 holes on Friday, and the Shark played most of them well. He shot a 70 at Spyglass and was at 2-over 146, needing a low round at Pebble Beach to make his first cut on the PGA Tour in three years.
As expected, Tiger Woods will skip the Northern Trust Open at Riviera next week for the second straight year. Riviera again drew a strong field however, with 17 of the top 20 in the world ranking. … Tadd Fujikawa took two double bogeys on his way to an 81 at Pebble Beach, and the 17-year-old from Hawaii was headed for another missed cut since turning pro last summer. … Pat Perez rallied for a 70 at Spyglass Hill and was on the cut line. He has to make the cut to have any chance of qualifying for the Accenture Match Play Championship in two weeks.