“It’s rare for me to wake up before a 4:15 a.m. alarm, but this morning I did. Clearly, the opportunity for me to compete again on Pebble Beach gets my mind on full alert. I had asked my caddie, Cliff, to meet me on the practice putting green at Pebble Beach at 6:00 a. m., but not even the lights of the surrounding shops were enough to be able to see a putt. I hit four putts in the dark then proceeded up to the practice area. The greens did seem a little speedy to me, but that was a harbinger of what was to come.
At 6:20, I arrived at the driving range. I noticed a few of The First Tee kids practicing in the portable lights that were brought in for the tournament. Their iron shots would disappear into night sky so I headed to the fitness van and got a second warm-up using bands and stretching. Finally at 6:45, there was enough light to see a wedge land on the ground. It was a rather short practice for me. By 7:10 I was making my way to the 10th tee shuttle for my 7:41 tee time.
When I arrived on the 10th tee, I met my pro-am partners, both members of the Preserve where I am also a member. My partner from The First Tee, Jose Perez, was grinning ear to ear. The scenery was spectacular, as the morning sun was making its first appearance of the day, lighting up the 8th fairway in the distance as if to showcase my favorite hole at Pebble Beach. At 50 degrees and with a slight east wind, I knew the ball would not fly very far. The 10th hole required a drive and a 6-iron for me to reach the green. When I stepped onto the green, I could feel the firmness under my feet and the look of it being freshly mowed and rolled. The green had an almost U.S. Open shine to it, at 7a. m.! I missed a short 10 foot birdie putt at the 10th, then headed for the 11th where I was startled watching my pro-am partner hit his bunker shot well past the hole, only to see the ball start to roll backwards towards and past the cup. The last time I saw the 11th green that fast was during the 2000 U.S. Open. They had to be rolling 13 on the stempmeter.
I’ve never seen Pebble Beach play this hard in perfect weather. I shot a one-under par 71, a score just one player bettered at Pebble Beach. However, my house guest, Bernhard Langer had quite a day at Old Del Monte, shooting a 9 under par 63, a round that included 9 birdies and 9 pars. He has already opened up a four-stroke lead! He could be very difficult to beat this week!
I practiced some after the round, and got home just in time to celebrate another spectacular sunset from my back deck. I can’t wait for the sun to rise tomorrow and go play Old Del Monte, where I broke par for the very first time on any course at age 14.”