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GOLF

First-round scores are low at Pebble Beach

Robert Garrigus and Dustin Johnson lead at 65 in mild conditions.

February 13, 2009|Chuck Culpepper

PEBBLE BEACH — So many humans charged up the leaderboard on the Monterey Peninsula's toothless Thursday that some of them were bound to defy belief.

So up around the top you had a guy who owes his career partly to a perceptive grandfather and a BMX cycle accident in a mud puddle, a guy who quit golf after 2006 to enter sales for a Las Vegas nonprofit, and a major winner who hasn't played the event since 2000 because, well, he didn't like it.

Question: "Why didn't you come back here?"

Rich Beem: "Because of the weather."

Clear enough, and as Beem shared ancient tales of "blowing and raining sideways," tranquillity got such a turn on the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am's three courses that some of the best players on Earth spat out two 65s, three 66s, seven 67s, 16 68s, 14 69s and 14 70s.

Robert Garrigus of the leg-breaking BMX accident and the keen grandfather eagled No. 8 on demanding Spyglass Hill with a 50-foot putt and, at seven-under-par 65, joined co-leader Dustin Johnson, whose 151-yard nine-iron from his first fairway at Pebble Beach actually did get in the hole for eagle.

Beem, the 2002 PGA Championship winner with the AT&T past that reads quickly -- two entries, two missed cuts -- joined Vaughn Taylor and the hot-of-late Charley Hoffman at 66 even though Beem said, "No disrespect to Pebble Beach and their tournament and AT&T, but it's never suited my game. Just because I shoot 66 today doesn't make me want to come back every single year, but it certainly has been fun today."

With rain expected to come around and hang around -- if not necessarily bringing along gusty wind -- Beem may have a point.

Then there's Bill Lunde, the 33-year-old PGA Tour rookie who wrung a tour card from the Nationwide Tour, and who three years ago certainly wouldn't have imagined sharing board space with such dignitaries as Mike Weir, Steve Elkington and Mark Calcavecchia. Yet there he sat after his 67 matched theirs, saying, "I played Nationwide in '04 and '05 and then half-heartedly went to Q-school and kind of gave up golf, didn't get through and gave up."

He then worked for Las Vegas Founders, the nonprofit that runs the PGA Tour stop, until the market started sinking and he started rethinking. "When I was working in the kind of office atmosphere," he said, "it was always kind of funny, me walking into an office sitting behind a desk with a phone and a computer."

Garrigus, 31, held his first lead after any round of any of the 90 events he has entered, justifying the vision of 96-year-old Boise resident Chet Carpenter.

Carpenter, Garrigus' grandfather and a fine golfer himself, thought he spotted golf potential in the teenage Oregon lad, after Robert's baseball dream died of a bushed pitching arm at 13 and after his right ankle snapped when his BMX descended a 25-foot jump into a puddle.

In a veritable golf country song, Garrigus said, "My grandpa gave me a triple extra stiff titanium shafted tiny Taylor Made Burner head and told me to swing as hard as I can until I'm 18."

Garrigus became one of the PGA Tour's long hitters and said Thursday of his grandfather: "I got him a big 65-inch TV so he can see me now."

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chuck.culpepper@yahoo.com

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