Three tied for Pebble Beach lead; Woods 5 shots back

Johnson, Wi, Lee deadlocked in first

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Twenty months later, Dustin Johnson finally hit the drive he wanted at Pebble Beach. Ten years later, Tiger Woods must have wondered what kept him away from the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Johnson blasted a tee shot on the third hole at Pebble Beach and then pitched in for eagle from 41 yards in front of the green. He added another eagle on his way to a 9-under 63 and a three-way tie atop the leaderboard Thursday.

Woods was five shots to par out of the lead, a solid start to his PGA Tour season. He had six birdies in a 4-under 68 at Spyglass Hill, the fourth-best score on that course. Spyglass was hardest of the three courses, though not by much. The weather was so pure that all three courses played about 1 under par.

Charlie Wi was over at Monterey Peninsula and had a shot at 59 without ever knowing it. Wi was 8 under after a tap-in birdie on the 13th hole, and needed only three birdies in the last five holes. Trouble is, he had no idea the Shore Course was a 70. He made one more birdie and had a 9-under 61.

“I was looking at the scorecard like, `What’s the par here?’ I did not know it was a par 70,” Wi said. “That 59 never crossed my mind. Not once.”

Joining them was former U.S. Amateur Danny Lee, who holed a bunker shot for eagle at No. 2 and holed out from the 11th fairway with a wedge for another eagle to match Johnson at 9-under 63.

Johnson is turning into his generation’s “Prince of Pebble.” He won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in consecutive years, and then had a three-shot lead at Pebble in the U.S. Open two years ago until he shot 82 in the final round. On the third hole of that round, he hit driver left into the bushes for a lost ball and made double bogey.

On Thursday, he smashed a driver nearly 340 yards over the trees to just short of the green, setting up eagle. Even now, he still thinks about that tee shot in the U.S. Open. Walking off the tee, he said to caddie Bobby Brown, “I could have used that in the U.S. Open.”

“Walking off that hole, I told Bob, `This hole owes me a few more than just that one.”’

Johnson overpowered the par 5s at Pebble Beach, the secret to playing that course well. He had a 6-iron for his second shot at the par-5 second for an easy birdie, holed a 65-foot eagle putt on the sixth hole, got up and down from the bunker just short of the 14th for birdie, then cringed when his 40-foot eagle attempt on the 18th just turned away.

“I thought it was going in,” Johnson said. “I was laughing. I made plenty of putts today.”

Woods made his share, too.

He opened with consecutive birdies, stuffing his approach on No. 10 and two-putting for birdie on the par-5 11th. He also holed a downhill, 8-foot birdie putt on the 17th that was good enough to elicit a small fist pump, and from behind the par-5 opening hole, hit a flop shot to 7 feet and made that.

McIlroy three back in Dubai

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES | U.S. Open Champion Rory McIlroy was three shots back after the first round of the Dubai Desert Classic, making seven birdies on the last 10 holes.

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