Trailing by 10 at the halfway point at the Dubai Desert Classic a fortnight ago, Rory McIlroy came out all guns blazing on day three and thrust himself right back into the mix, but he’s going to have to do something even more special if he’s to repeat the feat at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am after shooting a second-round two-over 73 that leaves him 12 adrift.
Round one was somewhat similar to his opening effort in Dubai, starting well before dropping shots late in the day, but the errors at Spyglass Hill were this time compounded by an incorrect drop and subsequent two-stroke penalty.
He was a little off from word go on Friday on Pebble Beach, dropping a shot at the first after spinning a wedge off the front of the green and then making a mess of what should have been a routine up-and-down, failing to birdie the par-5 second after having just 186 yards with his second shot, and then blasting a drive out of bounds at the fourth and making double.
He’d make three birdies to two bogeys on the way home, but at a course that he’s never shot lower than 68 on, any hopes of a repeat of Dubai appear to be wishful thinking to say the least.
Seamus Power, on the other hand, is a man with fond memories of this tournament, finish ninth and 15th in 2022 and 2023 when the tournament was played over three courses, and despite appearing to be on the wrong side of the draw – there’s a near four stroke discrepancy in scoring average in favour of those who played Spyglass Hill first and Pebble Beach second – he moved up to a tie for 44th with a three-under round at Spyglass.
With just a single bogey coming at the 15th – his sixth – Power birdied two of the par-4s and two of the par-5s to leapfrog McIlroy and a host of others and set himself up nicely for the weekend where, with a two-tee start in place, he’ll have the opportunity for a moving day charge from an early tee time.
It’s a top-heavy leaderboard, however, with world number one Scottie Scheffler finishing strongly with back-to-back birdies at Pebble Beach to take a share of the lead alongside Belgian Thomas Detry and Swede Ludvig Aberg. First-round leader Detry had briefly got to -13 before dropping two strokes over the final six holes, while Aberg, playing alongside McIlroy, showed off his imperious driving and putting skills as he shot a seven-under 64 despite losing strokes to the field with approach play. And he would go on to reference an incredible Shane Lowry chip in from on the green at the 17th in the 2019 US Open as being one of the memories he has from Pebble Beach.
“It was nice,” Aberg explained when asked about going low in his first professional round at one of golf’s most storied venues. “Obviously got off to a nice start with a couple of long putts
that I don’t remember the last time I did that, so obviously that’s a little bonus. I felt like I kept
playing quite well and kept being disciplined, so it was nice.
“I think I’ve seen all the [shots from] Tiger winning here in 2000. I was just talking to my caddie about Shane chipping in on 17 in the U.S. Open here a couple years ago. I do remember a lot of those moments. It was pretty cool to see. Obviously it’s a pleasure to play here and to play well is nothing that hurts, either.”
Scheffler had been in danger of losing the top spot in the world rankings with McIlroy poised to overtake with a win, but the big Texan is enjoying one of the better putting weeks he’s had thus far and appears in no mood to be overtaken.
“I mean, it was just so wet,” Scheffler said after his round. “Like I did not realize how much it rained
overnight. It was really wet. So like on a lot of these back-to-front greens it’s a big adjustment going from hitting a pitching wedge to hitting an 8-iron to try to take off spin. It’s little stuff like that you have to adjust to on the course.
“But it felt like the wind may have lied down a tiny bit as the day went on. I think we were
forecast to have a little bit more aggressive winds than we did. Outside of that, yeah, just
Patrick Cantlay, who’s finished third and fourth in his last two visits here, is one stroke back at -10, while Justin Thomas’ resurgence continues and he’s tied for fifth alongside the Emiliano Grillo and last week’s winner Matthieu Pavon at -9.