Elliott, Leonard Share First-Round Lead
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) _ Justin Leonard, living on the edge of stardom, and John Elliott, living on the edge of the tour, were sitting at the top of the leaderboard after the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Leonard, the 25-year-old former U.S. Amateur champion who just missed his first victory last week when he lost a playoff at Phoenix to Phil Mickelson, knocked in six birdie putts of 15 feet or less Thursday at Poppy Hills while shooting a 67.
And Elliott, who has never had a top-10 finish on the PGA Tour and got into this event only because the pro-am format played over three courses has an unusually large field, rolled in a 45-foot birdie putt on his final hole at Pebble Beach to finish at 5 under par.
``I was just trying to lag it and it went in,″ said Elliott, 32, who finished 45th at the PGA Tour Qualifying School. ``If you said (before the round) I would be leading or tied for the lead I would have said, `Probably not,‴ said Elliott, who needed a final-round 63 at the 1993 Texas Open to finish 11th, his best effort on the tour.
Leonard, however, is used to being in contention. The 25-year-old sensation won nearly $750,000 last year _ 10 times Elliott’s career earnings on the tour. But he is still looking for his first win.
``I just ran into a buzz saw last week,″ Leonard said about losing to Mickelson. ``It hasn’t been something that I hung my head about.″
In a knot at 68, a stroke behind, was Fuzzy Zoeller, who had a chance for a share of the lead but missed a 2-foot par putt on the final hole at Spyglass Hill.
Howard Clark also had a chance for a 67 but took an unplayable lie penalty on No. 9, his final hole at Pebble Beach, and made a double bogey for a 69, putting him in a logjam that included Nick Faldo.
Defending champion Peter Jacobsen was five strokes behind, shooting a 72 at Poppy Hills, as did Mickelson, the only two-time winner this year.
It didn’t rain as it had the past two days, but all three courses were sopping wet and the players were allowed to lift and clean their balls in the fairway. The main problem was on the wet greens.
``The course was in great shape from tee to green,″ Elliott said, ``but the greens had a lot of foot marks.″
Elliott, who was on the Nike Tour last year, played the back nine first at Pebble Beach, shooting a 35, then got things going when he eagled No. 2, knocking a 5-iron to 12 feet and rolling in the putt.
Leonard, also playing the back nine first, shot a 31 at Poppy Hills and closed with a 36, rolling in a 20-foot birdie putt on No. 8 to get a share of the lead.
``There were a few more heel prints and foot prints on the second nine,″ Leonard said.
Zoeller was also a victim of the greens. He was at 5 under but bogeyed the last hole at Spyglass when his 2-foot putt bounced off a foot mark.
``It was heel prints and moguls all day,″ said Zoeller, who won this tournament in 1986 but hasn’t won a tour event since later that year.
The low pro-am team in the 50th edition of what used to be the Bing Crosby Pro-Am was the pairing of Leonard and amateur George Roberts. They shot a better-ball score of 14 under with Roberts’ 9 handicap.
Clark and Michael Enthoven, who plays to a 16 handicap, were three strokes behind at 11 under.
DIVOTS: The AT&T is the only tour stop that allows spectators to take cameras on the course, mostly so the amateurs can have family members snap a shot of them. ... Cellular phones are not allowed but as Vijay Singh was preparing to drive on No. 3 a phone went off about 10 feet from him, sending the offending fan scurrying off to answer his call. ... Jack Lemmon is off filming in England and missed the tournament after missing the final-day cut 23 consecutive times. But a fan walked the course in a Lemmon mask. ... Comedian Bill Murray, a big crowd favorite, and his partner Scott Simpson were at 9 under, five strokes behind in the pro-am.