PEBBLE BEACH — Rory McIlroy was well into a stellar return to playing golf on the Monterey Peninsula. He was a 6-under-par through 14 holes at Spyglass Hill Golf Course and held a two-stroke lead over the remainder of the 80-player field.
But as suddenly as the rain showers arrived during the first round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, McIlroy’s opening-round success abruptly stopped.
Playing in the AT&T for the first time since 2018, McIlroy was 5-over-par on his final four holes and finished with a 1-under 71. He was among 11 players eight shots behind leader Thomas Detry.
Despite his late-round stumble, McIlroy, ranked No. 2 in the world, remained optimistic.
“I feel like my game’s in really good shape,” said McIlroy who won had a runner-up finish in Dubai in January. “I’m hitting it well, feel comfortable around the greens, on the greens.
“Yeah, the game feels in good shape. It was just one of those where I just let it out there I had a really good score and then just sort of let it get away from me those last few holes.”
McIlroy’s stumble including not knowing a golf rule. His errant tee shot on No. 7 was unplayable. He explained his mistake:
“So I took an unplayable on 7 and I took it back online,” he said. “Then unbeknownst to me the rule changed in January 2023 where you used to be able to come back online and take a club length on either side.
“That was changed in 2019 to be able to do that. I wasn’t aware that that rule was changed again in 2023, so I took a drop thinking of the 2019 rules when everything was sort of changed not knowing that the rule was changed again in 2023, so got a two-stroke penalty there.”
McIlroy took a triple-bogey 8.
Rose takes it in stride
Justin Rose now has five straight rounds under 70 at the AT&T. He won last year as the only player under 70 in all four rounds held over five days.
Rose began the defense of his title with a 4-under 68 at Spyglass Hill.
“I feel like so far it does feel the same (as last year), “ said Rose. “I think there’s good vibes, good energy. I think that you’re seeing obviously a lot of top players here, which I think is unique and rare and hasn’t always been the case.
“So obviously there’s a tradeoff, for sure there’s a tradeoff this week. Like you say some of the celebs that do bring a huge amount of fun and uniqueness to this event, maybe that’s sort of not there, but then you’re adding in big-time golf to a stage and a setting that deserves it as well.”
Morikawa’s wishful thinking
Collin Morikawa is tied for sixth after an opening round 67 at Pebble Beach. His hope for the rest of the week includes a hand gesture for luck and positive thoughts.
“I was very happy,” said Morikawa, the former UC Berkeley standout. “It’s always going to play tough and it still was going to be a little breezy out here and you’re going to feel that especially being on the coast.
“Yeah, I was happy that we got through it all and didn’t have to put on any rain jacket or I wasn’t freezing. Fingers crossed for the rest of the week.”