Johnson, 2 others tied for lead at 63
On a spectacular day of scenery and scoring, 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 one shot 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.
Woods picked up another birdie on the par-5 seventh for his 68. He played the par 5s in a 3 under.
“I don’t know if it’s a good sign or a bad sign,” Woods said about his 68. “With the scores the way they are, I thought I could have it lower than I did. The guys are just tearing this place apart with no wind. I’m not too far away from posting a good number out here.”
His partner, Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo, contributed pars on the holes where Woods made bogey, and Romo had a birdie on the par-5 14th when Woods missed the fairway and had to settle for par. As a team, they were tied for 25th.
Romo gets to play a forward tee, but he doesn’t get any shots with a scratch handicap.
Ken Duke shot a 28 on the back nine at Pebble Beach and was at 8-under 64, along with Brian Harman.
Women’s Australian Open
At Melbourne, Australia, American Stacy Lewis and Australia’s Sarah Kemp shared the Women’s Australian Open lead at 4-under 69, leaving top-ranked Yani Tseng a stroke back in her bid to win the event for the third straight year.
Lewis, the Kraft Nabisco winner last year, had six birdies and two bogeys in the LPGA Tour opener at historic Royal Melbourne.
Tseng won the tournament, sanctioned this year by the LPGA Tour for the first time, the last two seasons at Commonwealth Golf Club. The Taiwanese star went on to win 12 worldwide titles last year.
Brittany Lincicome and Julieta Granada matched Tseng with a 70 in the event also sanctioned by Australian Ladies Professional Golf and the Ladies European Tour.
Teen star Lexi Thompson opened with a 74.
Dubai Desert Classic
At Dubai, United Arab Emirates, Spain’s Rafael Cabrera-Bello birdied nine of the first 11 holes and finished with 9-under 63 to take a two-stroke lead in the Dubai Desert Classic.
Germany’s Marcel Siem and Scotland’s Scott Jamieson were tied for second at 65.
U.S. Open champion Rory McIlroy was three shots back in group that included Martin Kaymer and Thomas Bjorn. McIlroy birdied seven of his last 10 holes.
Third-ranked Lee Westwood had a 69, and defending champion Alvaro Quiros shot a 70.
A colorful grouping included Fred Couples (70), John Daly (71) and Colin Montgomerie (71).
Last updated: 7:45 pm Thursday, December 13, 2012