Wayne Gretzky Still The Great One, Jordan Spieth Finding His Major Form, Tied For Lead With Mickelson & Three Others

The 'Great One' Wayne Gretzky (R) With His Son-in-Law, Dustin Johnson, Take On Spyglass Hill In The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am - Flickr Image Used With Permission

By Alfie Lau

With all due respect to David Hearn, Brantford ON’s most popular golfer at the 2019 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is NHL living legend Wayne Gretzky.

Gretzky, along with playing partner Dustin Johnson and their usual Pebble foursome of Jordan Spieth and Jake Owen, were one of the marquee groups playing Spyglass Hill on Friday morning and there is no shortage of fun and frivolity in this group.

Let’s start with Gretzky’s caddy Jimmy, who is often the life of the party and has so many essentials packed into The Great One’s golf bag that when Gretzky took off his rain pants, a walking marshall had to carry it for Gretzky because, as Jimmy said, there was no more room in the bag.

After Gretzky put on a bright yellow baseball cap and uncorked his best drive of the day, he noted: “It must’ve been the hat.” Without skipping a beat, Spieth’s caddy Michael Greller chimed in: “It certainly wasn’t your caddy.”

Not to be left out of the festivities, Owen hit his approach into 18, their ninth hole of the day, long and into a scruffy lie behind the pin. Spieth’s advice to his partner: “Play it like a firm bunker shot. Put some speed into it (your swing).” After Owen took the advice, his ball landed softly on the fringe and rolled downhill for an improbable birdie.

As Owen celebrated, he had just finished the beverage he had picked up two holes earlier,  their group walked up the hill from 15 green to 16 tee box. There, a raging house party welcomed them in and Owen was handed a guitar, where he played an impromptu song with the unforgettable lyric, “You can’t drink all day if you don’t start in the morning.” A modern day Confucius.

And all of this didn’t detract from the fact that Spieth looks to have found the game that has seemed to be missing since he won three majors in the blink of an eye. Five birdies in his first seven holes, highlighted by an almost ace at the par-3 15th are evidence that Spieth is rounding into form and not only is looking to complete his Career Slam by winning the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black in May, there are three other Majors that his game is always suited to winning.

Spieth, with two holes left to play at Spyglass Hill when rain suspended play, is in a five-way tie for the lead, with Phil Mickelson, Lucas Glover, Scott Langley and Paul Casey all having completed their rounds and sitting at (-10), just like Spieth.

The most notable name amongst the four who have finished tied for the lead has to be the California Lefty, who had it as low as (-12) before three straight bogeys derailed his round. Mickelson would finish with a birdie to get it back to double digits.

Ontario’s Mackenzie Hughes is currently the low Canadian, at (-6) with three holes to play in his second round at Spyglass Hill.

Abbotsford’s Nick Taylor is at (-4) after a clean round at Monterey Peninsula that included one birdie amongst 17 pars.

Ontario’s Ben Silverman is at (-3) with two holes to play at Monterey Peninsula while Abbotsford’s Adam Hadwin is at (-2) and sitting in the middle of the 18th fairway at Pebble Beach. Right in front of Hadwin is the final group to finish Friday, with Cameron Champ and Cody Gribble needing the submerged 18th green to be squeegeed so that they could complete their second rounds.

Surrey’s Adam Svensson is at (+2) after his second consecutive round of 73.

Ontario’s Corey Conners and David Hearn will have a lot of work to do, sitting at (+4) with just one round left before the cut is made Saturday.

It was nice of the PGA TOUR Communications staff to point out that Merritt's Roger Sloan made a rarely-seen double eagle on Pebble Beach’s second hole. That hole, which will become a par-4 for the U.S. Open in June, is a reachable par-5 that Sloan made look easy by holing a 3-wood from 243 yards. But that was the highlight of his day, as Sloan would sit at (+8) with two holes to play at Pebble Beach.

The anticipated heavy rains on the Monterey Peninsula held off until noon, but organizers had anticipated this, moving up tee times an hour so that the first golfers were out at 7 a.m. just as the sun rose. The rain from noon until 2:11 p.m. got so bad that play for the day ended just after 2:11 p.m., with the 2nd round to resume at 7:10 a.m. Saturday and the third round to begin, as per scheduled, at 8 a.m.

Saturday’s forecast looks to be rainy as well, with showers all day being an inconvenience for the golfers trying to make the cut, which is top 60 amongst the professionals and top 25 for the pro-am teams.

This is the one tournament where a PGA TOUR professional can miss the cut on his own ball, yet play Sunday if his team is amongst the top 25. That happened last year with Ontario’s Mike Weir and his amateur partner George Roberts.