Nick Taylor opened with an eagle, closed with two birdies and made a gorgeous day feel even better with an 8-under 63 at Monterey Peninsula that gave him the lead Thursday in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Most of the interest over three courses in the rotation was at Spyglass Hill, which featured Dustin Johnson and Phil Mickelson, along with five NFL quarterbacks that included Peyton Manning and his recently retired brother, Eli.
The iconic scenery is at Pebble Beach, especially when the surf turns a turquoise hue under so much sunshine.
Taylor went about his business quietly, and most effectively.
Starting on the back nine at Monterey Peninsula, with a chilly breeze at his back, he hit 4-iron to a back pin that settled 4 feet away for an eagle, ht 3-iron out of the rough for a two-putt birdie on the par-5 16th and knew he was playing well when he hit 4-iron to 10 feet on the first hole, a 495-yard par 4 that feels even longer when the air is cold at sea level.
Better still was the finish — a 5-iron back toward the ocean to 5 feet, and then a wind-aided 3-iron from 240 yards on a back tee he had never seen to 20 feet.
He led by two shots to par over Patrick Cantlay (Spyglass) and Chase Seiffert (Pebble Beach), who each had a 6-under 66.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson, whose third-place finish in Saudi Arabia last week was his best result in a year, was slightly disappointed with his 68 at Spyglass because of how well he felt he hit it off the tee.
Cantlay made nine birdies at Spyglass and wasn’t even the best putter in his group. Some of his best views of this stunning day along the rugged coastline was watching champion surfer Kelly Slater on the greens, not in the pipe.
Dustin Johnson had a 69 at Spyglass, while Jordan Spieth checked in at 70. They typically play in the same group that does not lack in entertainment with their amateurs, hockey great Wayne Gretzky and country singer Jake Owen.
Among those at 5-under par were Charley Hoffman, who holed out from the fairway for eagle on No. 4 at Spyglass for the loudest cheer of the day, and Harry Higgs, the PGA Tour rookie who drew Commissioner Jay Monahan as his partner.
Mickelson ultimately was happy to be in range after his 68, though it wasn’t looking all that great when he failed to birdie any of the par 5s at Spyglass and had gone 10 holes without a birdie until birdies on his last three holes.