After a wild few days of golf and news out of Saudi Arabia, the first round of the 2022 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am took place stateside, and the leaderboard is already interesting.
Tom Hoge, who nearly won The American Express a few weeks ago, leads at 9 under by one stroke over Seamus Power and two over Austin Smotherman and Jonas Blixt. Between them they played all three courses – Spyglass Hill, Monterey Peninsula and Pebble Beach – that the first three rounds of this tournament are played on so we have some sorting out of the leaderboard to do before we look ahead to Round 2 on Friday.
Rick Gehman and Kyle Porter discuss the latest news around the upstart Saudi Golf League and recap Thursday's action at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Follow & listen to The First Cut on Apple Podcasts and Spotify.
Let's take a look at Hoge's round and outlook and who will be chasing going into the second 18 from Pebble.
1. Tom Hoge (-9): The first thing we need to look at is the scoring averages of all three courses because this helps determine who played the best golf of the day. Here are the scoring averages.
Pebble Beach: -1.2
Spyglass Hill: +0.3
Monterey Peninsula: -1.5
The average score on Pebble was 1.2 strokes under par while the average at Spyglass was a little over par. Hoge played Pebble, where 9 under is extremely impressive but not quite as impressive as being 8 under on the more difficult Spyglass like Power was. If you look at strokes gained, Hoge was narrowly second to Power (who we'll get to in a minute) but still lights out compared to the rest of the golfer in this tournament.
This looks like the latest in a long line of big hits or big misses for Hoge, who has finished in the top five or missed the cut in each of his last four events. He popped with the putter, which might normally be a worry for sustainability purposes for a Round 1 leader, but he also finished second from tee to green (only rounds at Pebble were measured in this category) and is good from tee to green in general so I have fewer concerns. I think he'll be in one of the final three pairings on Sunday given how his year has gone so far.
2. Seamus Power (-8): Power has also been playing great golf, and he played the best golf of anyone in the field on Thursday, even though he's not in first. That's because his 64 at Spyglass Hill was a little over eight strokes better than the field on that golf course while Hoge's 63 at Pebble was just less than eight strokes better than the field on that course. Power has been on fire this season – quietly four straight top 15s and seven top 25s in his last eight events – and is now the co-favorite of this event, according to Caesars Sportsbook.
T3. Jonas Blixt, Austin Smotherman (-7): Smotherman led the field from tee to green (by a healthy margin!) after a sneaky T11 last week at Torrey Pines. He's intriguing here after a win on the Korn Ferry Tour last season and his generally strong tee-to-green play. Blixt perhaps less so. He's been downright bad from tee to green over the last few seasons and doesn't have a top 20 on either the Korn Ferry Tour or PGA Tour since 2019. Nice start for him, but I would be surprised if he stayed until the end.
T5. Patrick Cantlay, Andrew Putnam (-6): Cantlay, if you were wondering, is the other co-favorite. He should be after his 65 at Monterey Peninsula on the easiest golf course. It wasn't the most amazing round of his incredible stretch of golf (five straight top-11 finishes on the PGA Tour), but he did gain over four strokes on the field and put himself in position to contend over the last three days as the clear best player in this field and on this board.
After today's 65 Patrick Cantlay has shot 68 or better in eight of nine rounds this year— Joel Beall (@JoelMBeall) February 3, 2022
T7. Sean O'Hair, Doc Redman, Jonathan Byrd, David Lipsky, Austin Eckroat, Ryan Moore, Scott Stallings (-5): Eckroat was a sponsor exemption into this event just as he was last week when he missed the cut at Torrey Pines. He played the easy Monterey Peninsula on Thursday and birdied his first five holes and six of his first seven He played the rest of the day in 1 over but it looked for a bit like he might shoot something silly. One interesting note on Eckroat: He was a freshman on the 2018 Oklahoma State team that won the national championship and included the No. 3 player in the world (currently), Viktor Hovland and the No. 34 player in the world, Matthew Wolff. A decent squad.