- Associated Press - Friday, February 7, 2014

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) - Four months and five tournaments into his first season on the PGA Tour, Andrew Loupe had only one score under par and had yet to play on the weekend. It would be enough to make any rookie panic, or at least wonder if he belonged.

Except that Loupe had been down this road before.

He was headed for another season in the minor leagues last September after missing three straight cuts in the Web.com Tour Finals, a four-tournament series that awarded PGA cards to the top 25 players. Down to his last chance, Loupe put together four rounds in the 60s for the first time all year and tied for sixth to earn his card.

And there he was Thursday in the AT&T; Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, looking forward instead of back.

He hit a 7-iron into 4 feet on his opening hole and was on his way. He made birdie on all of the par 5s. He missed only one fairway. He putted for birdie on every hole. And even though he missed a short birdie attempt on his final hole, he had an 8-under 63.

It was a round he won’t soon forget, more because of where he was than what he shot.

“Fun day, man. I had a blast out there,” Loupe said. “What a great place. It’s my first time here and Monterey, it’s beautiful out there. Just cherishing the moment.”

The first round wasn’t completed until Friday morning. And more rain is in the forecast by the end of the week.

Rain forced play to be stopped for three hours on Thursday morning - good news for the local residents who have been concerned about a drought, tough on a tournament that tries to get around 156 pros and 156 amateurs over three courses in the Del Monte forest.

Just his luck, Loupe was headed to the first tee when play was stopped. He had 18 uninterrupted holes, mostly decent weather, and he played the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula, which played nearly three shots under par and was the easiest in the rotation.

Phil Mickelson made par on his last three holes Friday morning for a 66.

Stuart Appleby, Jim Renner, Scott Gardiner and Richard Lee each had a 65 at Monterey Peninsula. The low round on the toughest course Thursday - Pebble Beach - belonged to Jimmy Walker. Already a two-time winner this year, the leader of the FedEx Cup and in the Ryder Cup standings, he opened with a 66.

The low score at Spyglass Hill came from 20-year-old Jordan Spieth, remarkable in many ways. Along with a rookie season in which he won a tournament, played in the Presidents Cup and finished at No. 7 in the FedEx Cup, Spieth is one of the few players who raves about the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am without mentioning a negative. The rounds are long. The weather is unpredictable. All he ever says is that it’s a beautiful place and a tournament he loves.

Spieth loved the way he played, and that he finished. He handled the par 5s (even though he three-putted the first one for a par), made a few tough saves on the harder holes and made a few putts on the back nine for a 67.

He was concerned about finishing, but they were on the final green in darkness when the horn sounded to stop play.

“That was a no-brainer. We were going to finish or else Jake was going to kill me,” Spieth said of his amateur partner, country singer Jake Owen. “So that’s good.”

Dustin Johnson, a two-time winner at Pebble Beach, played with Wayne Gretzky, whom many refer to as the “Great One.” Johnson soon will call him “Dad,” when he marries Gretzky’s daughter. Johnson had one shot hit off the pin and carom some 40 yards back into the fairway. He chipped that in for a birdie on his way to a 68.

Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley shot a 67 at Pebble Beach. Graeme McDowell, the 2010 U.S. Open champion at Pebble, opened with a 71 at Spyglass Hill.

Defending champion Brandt Snedeker had a 72 at Spyglass Hill.

No one was more thrilled than Loupe, who spoke with great patience about what he called a “rough start” to his rookie season.

“I really just stick to the plan and I know that my group is good. I have 100 percent trust in my swing coach, my family, my trainer,” he said. “I guess when you’re in those ruts, I just kept telling myself, ‘You’re supposed to be here, you’re going to play good, just keep playing.’ This is just one round, guys, but I feel good.

“I did miss a few cuts coming into Sawgrass and played good,” he said of the week that secured his card in the Web.com finals. “And I just knew that I could do it again. Would I like to play more consistently? Yes. But I just want to keep this rolling.”

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