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It's Donald's turn to rip Spyglass with 62

By wire services
Published February 10, 2006


PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. - Luke Donald was in the group ahead when Phil Mickelson blistered Spyglass Hill last year for a course-record 62. He remembers being amazed at the score, and hearing how it would be a long time before anyone else could do that at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

"It only took 365 days," Donald said Thursday. "I'm glad it was me."

Taking advantage of weather that approached perfection, Donald holed out for eagle from 96 yards, strung together birdies and wound up matching Mickelson's record with 10-under 62 for a one-shot lead over Mike Weir.

Traditionally the toughest among the three courses at the National Pro-Am, Spyglass Hill played as the easiest with an average score of 70.48. Dating to 2000, Spyglass has never had an average score under par.

It still required good golf, and Donald delivered. After missing a 10-foot birdie putt on his opening hole, No. 10, he ran off three straight birdies, one a 45-foot putt on the par-3 12th. Then came his sand wedge from 96 yards for eagle, and another birdie on the 15th.

"Not much was going wrong," Donald said. "I didn't really threaten to make bogey today and kept it in play."

His round went so well that when he hit a 6-iron into 12 feet on the ninth hole, it was the same putt he had during a practice round Wednesday, so he knew the break. And he knew it was for 62.

He also remembered what happened last year. Mickelson followed that 62 with a wire-to-wire victory, taking a seven-shot lead into the final round.

Weir, meanwhile, recovered from a sloppy start to make five straight birdies at Pebble Beach. He missed only one fairway and two greens, and the only thing he didn't get with 63 was the lead.

"I knew there was going to be some low scores today," Weir said. "But 10 under at Spyglass?"

The low score at Poppy Hills, usually the easiest of the three courses because it has five par 5s, came from Arron Oberholser. He responded to back-to-back bogeys with laughter, then ran off four birdies over his next five holes and finished at 7-under 65.

He was joined by Michael Allen (Spyglass) and Nick Watney (Pebble Beach).

Mickelson, meanwhile, looks like he will end a dubious streak at this tournament - the last four defending champions have missed the cut. He made the turn in 37 at Poppy Hills but finished birdie-birdie-eagle for 67 and was tied for 10th.

One week after J.B. Holmes hammered his way to victory in Phoenix with a driver and a wedge, Donald showed there is still room for someone who tidily navigates his way around the golf course. Clearly, Spyglass or any of the other courses at Pebble require more than just bashing the ball.

He fit his drives through the tree-lined fairways, kept his middle irons on the greens and made a bunch of putts to break his career-low round on the PGA Tour by two shots. Donald played behind Bubba Watson, another basher, who shot 1-over 73.

"You see some of his drives ... if I could hit it that far, this game would be easy," Donald said. "But you still have to get the ball in the hole."

He twice holed putts longer than 30 feet, which always helps. And the biggest help of all was Mother Nature, who allowed the peninsula to shine like never before. More than 100 players in the 180-man field broke par, meaning Donald had plenty of work left the rest of the week.

AUSTRALASIAN TOUR: Kevin Stadler, son of golf star Craig Stadler, and defending champion Adam Scott shot 8-under 64 to share the first-round lead in the Johnnie Walker Classic at Perth, Australia. K.J. Choi was at 65 and Richard Green, Tony Carolan and Jean Van de Velde were another stroke behind in the $2.1-million event sanctioned by the European, Asian and Australasian tours.

SORENSTAM SIGNS ON: Top-ranked Annika Sorenstam signed a long-term agreement with Golf Digest and Golf For Women magazines to serve as an exclusive playing editor. She will contribute bylined instruction and feature articles.