On a day that Justin Rose aptly described as “kind of English” — as in dreary, grey, rainy — it was the Northern California guy, Kurt Kitayama, who held on for the 36-hole lead at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Playing at the course from which the tournament takes its name, Kitayama followed up his brilliant Thursday 64 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club with a more modest, but perhaps harder earned 70. At nine-under, he holds a one-shot lead over the quartet of Keith Mitchell, Scott Stallings, Joseph Bramlett, and Hank Lebioda. It’s a terrific start for the 30-year-old, two-time European Tour winner as he seeks his first ever PGA Tour triumph. But on a day like Friday, even the tournament leader tipped his hat to the conditions.
“Today was really tough,” Kitayama said after his round, and went on to characterise his strategy for Saturday as “stay patient.”
Kitayama was born and raised in Chico, about 250 miles north east of this weekend’s tournament, and while Monterey Peninsula and Pebble Beach itself were not overly familiar to him as a youngster, he did get a good amount of time on Spyglass Hill, where he’ll play on Saturday. His familiarity is the good news; the bad news is that he already knows Spyglass is getting hit hardest by the weather and playing even tougher than the course he survived on Friday.
Like Kitayama, Lebioda was fortunate to have his Monterey Peninsula round on Thursday, and he took major advantage with a spectacular 63. But like Kitayama, things proved to be a little tougher at Pebble Beach, where he followed an opening birdie with nine straight bars, and watched his two-under round go up in smoke with a double bogey after a yanked tee shot on the par-3 fifth. He recovered with another birdie, but three-putted his closing hole to remain one back of Kitayama as he heads to Spyglass on Saturday. He’ll also be seeking his maiden PGA Tour win, but Friday’s challenges are only the start.
If a player makes a hole-in-one but there’s no video to commemorate it on the internet, did it really happen? That’s a question we can ask of Rose, who did just that on the 15th at Spyglass Hill, jarring the 12th ace of his career en route to an opening nine of 32.
“A special day always when you manage to have a hole-in-one,” he said, a master of understatement. “I believe it’s my 12th. Really fun to do, obviously in front of a couple friends, obviously James at Morgan Stanley. So really that was a nice moment.”
Nice, indeed. Less nice were the two bogeys late in his round that dropped him to six under for the tournament, three shots off the lead. Still, he had the worst of it on Spyglass Hill, a course that was playing extra long in the wind, and his 69 was a relative gem in those conditions.
Even better, he’ll head to MPCC on Saturday, which was once again the easiest of the three courses in the rotation, and should give him a chance to make up some ground on the leaders.