Nobody can deny that Seamus Power has been consistently on the up since his win at the Barbasol Championship last year, but on Friday he took his form to new heights at Pebble Beach.
Ten birdies, two bogeys on the infamous Links on his way to an eight-under 64 – the same score he shot at Spyglass Hill in Thursday’s first round – and the Waterford man set a new record for the lowest score to par at the halfway stage of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Power is one of the form players in the world right now, with his latest low round his seventh in 14 this season that have been of 65 or less. At 16-under for the week on the California coast, he takes a remarkable five-shot lead into the weekend over Americans Andrew Putnam and Tom Hoge and Canada’s Adam Svensson.
“My wedge play was great. I had like three or four shots I hit very, very close and the way I’ve been putting, they were not gimmie birdies, but certainly ones you would expect to make and it just changes your whole complex of your round, of your score. So that was the most pleasing,” he said.
One of the other things that he will take from Friday’s round was his maturity.
Standing on the final tee at seven-under for the day with a four-stroke lead, the obvious temptation would be to pull driver and try and go for it in two, but Power decided to go with iron and play it as a three-shotter, and it paid off as he wedged his third shot to four-feet and holed the putt to close with a birdie.
“My miss, especially with driver, is always going to be to the right. And on that left-to-right wind that right side gets pretty short. Like it sets up pretty well for me, because I haven’t been missing a lot of shots left, but it’s just that right miss on that left-to-right wind if you get it just inside that bunker it gets out of bounds in a hurry,” he explained.
“Honestly, like, having the confidence I had in my wedges, I knew if I could get myself around a hundred yards in the fairway I just was going to have something inside 10-feet for birdie, which is probably all you’re looking at anyway if you hit driver, so that was my thought process on the tee.”
That followed a sensational round up to that point, which saw the World No.50 birdie all four of the 9th, 10th, 11th and 12th, considered one of the toughest stretches in all of golf, as he broke the 36-hole scoring record held by Phil Mickelson in 2020 and Nick Taylor in 2005.
The marked differences in his performances have been incredible since winning the Barbasol back in July, and the 34-year-old acknowledges that just being in these positions means he is no longer overawed by seeing his name at the top of leaderboards.
“I mean it’s night and day, to be honest,” he said of his confidence.
“Golf is one of those things, you want to play with confidence but how do you get confidence without playing well? So it’s one of those things I’ve been able to work on off the course and it’s led to some improved results on it.
“The last couple of years I was in that 26 to 50 category, struggling to get starts. I could have a month between starts. And it’s just tough to get momentum going, it’s tough to get that confidence that you need.
“So that win got me in pretty much all the tournaments and I’ve been able to pick and choose and play when I want. I played three, I had last week off and was really prepared for this week. I played here before, I know what to expect, I know what my game needs to play here.
“I just feel much more comfortable in these positions, I’ve been putting myself there a little bit more often, so it definitely seems a little easier, but still obviously a lot of work to do over the weekend.”
In a position like this, it is worth remembering where Power was as recently as 2016 when he was grinding it out on the Korn Ferry Tour, and even in 2014 he was playing on the eGolf Tour, earning $15,000 for winning an event and considering it to be like winning the lotto.
To now be leading by five going into the weekend at a prestigious PGA Tour event shows just how far he has come.
“I’ve always loved playing golf, I have fond memories of playing those tours. Obviously it’s not where you want to be, but any time you get to play golf for a living, you’re in a pretty good spot,” he recalls.
“So it’s obviously satisfying but guys have gotten here a lot of different ways and it doesn’t matter once you’re here, it’s how is your game going to hold up? That’s kind of the fun part is trying to improve and just see where you can kind of put yourself.”
Power also reserved some praise for Leona Maguire, who is tied for the lead with one round to play at the LPGA Drive On Championship on the other side of the States in Fort Myers, Florida.
“I think it’s fantastic. She had a great year last year, like an incredible performance in the Solheim Cup. And she’s been fun to follow,” he smiled.
“I met Leona really for the first time properly in the Olympics 2016 and it’s been fantastic following her progress. She came out last year and she’s up in contention and she almost won, it’s not going to surprise me if she wins this week.
“It’s great, it’s great for Irish golf, it’s great for Irish women’s golf and hopefully she can keep it up.”
Meanwhile, Cork’s John Murphy, in his first PGA Tour start, carded a three-under 69 featuring five birdies and two bogeys at Pebble Beach to reach level-par at the halfway stage, in a share of 95th.
The pair play the third course of the rotation, Monterey Peninsula, in their third round at 6:09pm Irish time.