PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Steve Marino is too busy soaking in the scenery and atmosphere at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am to get worked up over his four-shot lead going into the weekend.
Marino made only one mistake – with his conversation and his clubs – on the par-5 14th for his only bogey of the tournament. He followed with three birdies over the last four holes for a 7-under 66 and a comfortable lead.
“This tournament is kind of strange,” said Marino, who was at 13-under 141. “You play a different course every day. You’re playing with amateur partners. It’s a little more low key and laid back.”
That’s just the way Marino likes it, and it shows. He has the low round of the tournament on both courses he has played, having opened with a 65 at Spyglass Hill.
D.A. Points doesn’t have that luxury, not with Bill Murray as his amateur partner. Points struggled from the start at Spyglass Hill and was slipping down the leaderboard until running off four birdies in a five-hole stretch around the turn. He salvaged a 70 and was four shots behind at 9-under par.
Points worried for a moment that Murray started to feel the pressure – they opened the pro-am portion tied for the lead – and perhaps tried to tone down his antics.
“Bill was struggling a little today, so he was maybe down on himself,” Points said. “We still had a great time.”
Next up for the celebrity rotation is Pebble Beach on Saturday, when the show is as much about the amateurs as the pros. Points says he plays his best when there are plenty of distractions, although he’s not about to wish for more than he can handle.
“I’m not going to feed the beast,” he said.
Keegan Bradley had an impressive gallery of his own. He is the nephew of LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, who followed him along Spyglass as the rookie shot a 69 to finish at 8-under par. Bradley was born in 1986, the year his famous aunt won three of four majors.
“Pat and I have a lot of similarities in our game, in our approach to the game, our work ethic,” he said. “I look up to her in a lot of different ways, and that’s one of the ways. I try to emulate her toughness and work ethic.”
The large group at 7-under par included Padraig Harrington, who played with Marino; Hunter Mahan, Nick Watney and Sam Saunders, whose grandfather is among the owners of Pebble Beach – Arnold Palmer.
Even with a four-shot lead, Marino won’t know until Sunday how he really stands because of the three courses in the rotation. Still ahead of him is the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula, where Points opened with a 63. The fairways are running fast at the Shore, and some players have said the greens are a little bumpy.
That didn’t stop David Duval on Friday. After opening with a birdie-free 77 at Pebble, he followed that with a 65 at Monterey Peninsula.
Dustin Johnson, trying to become the first player to win three straight times at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, is more interested in making the cut. He had a 1-under at Spyglass Hill and was two shots below the projected playing cut – not to mention 13 shots behind Marino.
Phil Mickelson did a much better job with a 67 at Spyglass, moving him to 4 under for the tournament.
Marino, though, looks tough to beat at the moment.
He knocked in a 15-foot birdie putt on the 13th, then made a mental error. After he and Harrington hit their tee shots on the 14th, they started reminiscing about the U.S. Open last summer, when the 14th was one of the toughest holes at Pebble Beach.
“It was silly,” Harrington said. “We were talking about how tough this was at the U.S. Open, and that we both had made four pars and could have sold that to half the field. And then we both made a mess of it.”
Marino was in the right rough after his second shot, still a good angle at the flag. But his wedge ran up the ledge of the steep bunker and turned left instead of right, tumbling into the sand. He did well to blast out to 12 feet and narrowly missed the par putt.
Harrington hit a fat shot with his sand wedge and plugged into the bunker. He hit a beautiful shot, running up the side of the bunker to see how it turned out just as it ran off the back of the green and down the slope. He had to scramble for a bogey on his way to a 68, a round he felt was much better than his score.
The Irishman made pars the rest of the way. Marino poured it on.
He stuffed his next shot into 5 feet for birdie, rolled in a 20-foot putt up the slope on the 16th and finished with a bunker shot to 15 feet and one last birdie.
Along the way, Marino soaked up spectacular views of yet another sunny, mild day along the Pacific.
He is the only American in an otherwise all-Irish group that features businessmen J.P. McManus and Dermot Desmond. Marino still isn’t sure how he got invited to the McManus charity pro-am event last year – an event so popular that even Tiger Woods made the trip – but calls it one of the best weeks of the year.
“I think he had a good time,” Desmond said. “He seems to be Irish. He’s always smiling, and at the same time he has a fantastic golf game. He’s got a great temperament. Even when he bogeyed the 14th, he didn’t get irritated. He just said, ‘I have to get that one back.’ And he got it back.”