New Zealander Danny Lee recorded two eagles in near-perfect scoring conditions to soar into a tie for the first-round lead at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Thursday as Tiger Woods made an encouraging start.
Lee fired a flawless nine-under-par 63 at Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of three venues being used this week, to end a glorious day of unbroken sunshine level with American Dustin Johnson and South Korean Charlie Wi.
Big-hitting Johnson, champion here in 2009 and 2010, matched Lee with an opening 63 at Pebble Beach while Wi carded a nine-under 61 at Monterey Peninsula, the easiest of the three layouts.
Ken Duke covered the back nine in a record eight-under 28 at Pebble Beach to complete a 64, finishing alongside PGA Tour rookie Brian Harman who also started out at Pebble Beach.
Former champion Woods made a solid start in his first appearance on the U.S. circuit this year, firing a six-birdie 68 at Spyglass Hill, the most difficult of the three hosting courses.
While delighted with his driving, the 14-times major champion was a little frustrated by his approach play.
"I just wasn't very good with my irons so I'll have to go and work on that. I left a few shots out there for sure," Woods told Golf Channel after hitting 11 of 14 fairways and 15 of 18 greens in regulation.
"It seems like the rest of the guys are going pretty low around this place. They are just tearing the place apart.
"This is the hardest of the three (venues) so hopefully the next two days I can get it going," added Woods, who won the 2000 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am before winning the U.S. Open later that year at Pebble Beach Golf Links.
Lee, who at 18 became the youngest player to win a European Tour event with victory in the 2009 Johnnie Walker Classic, eagled the 11th and fifth on his way to a share of the lead.
He covered his back nine, holes one to nine, in five-under 31 to join Wi and Johnson in early control of the pro-am celebrity event.
Duke, a 43-year-old who has yet to win on the PGA Tour, holed out from the fairway to eagle the par-four 16th before finishing one stroke off the pace at eight under.
"When the weather's like this, you really have to take advantage of the golf course and the conditions," Duke told reporters after mixing seven birdies and one bogey with his eagle.
"I just kind of hit it close the whole back nine, and dunked the one on 16. When it's going good like that, things like that happen."
Woods, back at the event for the first time in a decade, made a sizzling start with consecutive birdies after teeing off at the 10th before reaching the turn in two-under 34.
He birdied the first and third before dropping his second shot of the day at the par-four fourth after overshooting the green with his approach.
However he rammed in a 15-footer to birdie the par-five seventh and then parred the last two holes to remain at four under.
Three-times winner Phil Mickelson opened with a 70 at Spyglass Hill to finish level at two under with triple major champion Padraig Harrington of Ireland, who carded a 68 at Monterey Peninsula.
(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue; To query or comment on this story email firstname.lastname@example.org)