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Patrick Cantlay polishes a gem at Pebble

Patrick Cantlay shoots 62 to lead 1st round of 2021 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Patrick Cantlay takes a big step toward his 2nd victory of the 2020-21 PGA Tour season by opening with a 10-under 62 at Pebble Beach.

With a course-record-tying 10-under 62, Cantlay sets 1st-round pace at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am as Jordan Spieth gives chase

For the critics who said the PGA Tour’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am lacks star power, Patrick Cantlay provided an emphatic response Thursday.

Cantlay matched the competitive course record at Pebble Beach Golf Links with a 10-under 62 and a two-stroke lead in the first round (scores). At No. 11 in the world, he is the highest-ranked player in the field and one of only five competitors among the world’s top 50.

Cantlay played flawlessly, making birdie on seven of his first eight holes as he turned in 7-under 29, needing only nine putts on the first nine holes. After holing an 8-foot birdie putt at the par-4 11th hole, he cooled off a bit, with five consecutive pars, before finishing birdie, birdie with short putts on the last two holes to complete a bogey-free day.

Cantlay hit 10 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in regulation, and he led the field with 3.616 strokes gained putting.

“My game’s in a really good spot, and I’m comfortable,” he said understatedly.

American Akshay Bhatia, a 19-year-old left-hander who is competing as a sponsor exemption, hit all 18 greens in regulation and shot 8-under 64. He shared second place with Sweden’s Henrik Norlander. Jordan Spieth, seeking his first victory in 3½ years, built upon his T-4 finish last week at the Phoenix Open with a 7-under 65, highlighted by a hole-out from 113 yards for eagle at the par-4 10th. He shared fourth place with Nate Lashley. Spieth, the 2017 Pebble Beach champion, owns four top-10 finishes in eight starts in this event.

American Will Gordon, who shot 6-under 66 for a share of sixth place, was the only player among the top 10 who played the first round at Spyglass Hill. Both courses will be used for the first 36 holes, before the low 65 scorers and ties advance to Pebble Beach for the weekend’s final two rounds.

Cantlay, 28, a native of Long Beach who played college golf at UCLA, has posted three top-10 results in seven starts this season, including a victory at the Zozo Championship in the fall at Sherwood near Los Angeles. In his most recent start, three weeks ago at the American Express, he finished runner-up after a 65-61 weekend.

“My ball-striking has been good,” said Cantlay, a three-time winner on the PGA Tour. “The difference the last three rounds I played on Tour is just making putts.

“We got Pebble in pretty much ideal conditions, and I don't think it's going to be like that the rest of the week,” he said in a nod to anticipated windy weather and potential rain on the weekend. The forecast calls for highs in the mid-50s, with winds of 17-22 mph each day and rain early Friday and then more of a factor during the day Saturday.

Because of tight COVID-19 protocols in California, the traditional amateur partners have been eliminated this year, and only two, not three, courses are being used.

Cantlay said he is looking forward to his turn at Spyglass Hill, which he called “one of my favorite courses out here,” on Friday, regardless of the weather forecast.

Spieth recognizes that the second round for the leaders Friday at Spyglass will present a new set of challenges. “When the conditions were going to be easier today, you needed to kind of shoot a low round and make sure you're in this tournament,” Spieth said, “because it's going to be a grind the next few days, with the weather that we have coming in.”

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