PEBBLE BEACH, California (AP) ― D.A. Points knew it was going to be a great week at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am when he found out Bill Murray was his amateur partner.
It got even better Thursday.
Points found Murray’s antics to be more amusing than annoying, and it showed in his play. With eight birdies on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula, he opened with a 7-under 63 and shared the lead with Steve Marino.
Some might think he shot a 63 despite having Murray in his ear all day. Points says he shot 63 because of him.
“I know people talk about his antics, or he’s a showman while he’s out there, making lots of comments and talking while people are getting ready to hit shots,” Points said. “To be honest, it really loosens me up and makes me between shots not be grinding so hard on what I’m doing. It helps me take a little bit of a breather between shots and joke around with him.”
D.A. Points (right) is greeted by actor Bill Murray after chipping the ball in for a birdie on the 16th green of the Monterey Peninsula Country Club during the first round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament in Pebble Beach, California, Thursday. (AP-Yonhap News)
There was plenty to enjoy for most everyone on a glorious day on the peninsula, with only a mild breeze to accompany views that were as spectacular as ever. Beyond the weather, the conditions on three courses were as good as they have ever been. The fairways were particularly firm on the Shore Course, and the greens were fast everywhere.
The rounds took six hours, as usual, but some of that was because of the speed of the greens.
Marino had a most unusual 7-under 65 at Spyglass Hill in that he failed to birdie any of the par 5s. He still managed seven birdies, including a big drive and a wedge to inside a foot on his final hole. The green is elevated, and Marino only knew it was good when a woman began shrieking after it checked up close to the pin.
“I think your mother likes it,” Mark Long, the caddie for amateur Dermot Desmond, called back to Marino.
Even more pleasing to Marino was the 9-iron he hit on the previous hole, the par-4 eighth, that took one hop and hit the pin before settling about 8 feet away. A year ago on Spyglass, he holed out with an 8-iron.
The best shot of the day belonged to Alex Cejka, who was one shot behind after a 64 on the Shore Course. He started his day by holing out a 3-wood from the fairway on the par-5 10th. The PGA Tour checked its records as far back as 1982 and could not find another player who had started a round with an albatross.
“I think it was the best start I’ve ever had,” Cejka said in somewhat of an understatement.
It was a chilly start to the day, and he figured he would need a little extra club from 240 yards away, so he choked down on a 3-wood.
“It carried just short of the green and bounced up and took a break toward the hole,” Cejka said. “There were like three or four marshals up there and they started screaming, and suddenly it was in the hole. It’s the first one for me.”
The group at 5 under included Gary Woodland, whose 67 was the best score at Pebble Beach.
Most of the screaming took place on the Shore Course, its second year in the rotation for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and already one of the favorites. That’s where the celebrity rotation began the tournament, and the crowd followed.
Phil Mickelson didn’t provide too many highlights, opening with a 1-over 71. Dustin Johnson, trying to become the first player since this tournament began in 1937 to win three successive years, made bogeys on two par 5s and had to settle for a 71.
For Points, there were a few trying moments. On the par-3 14th, Murray and former San Francisco 49ers tackle Harris Barton both made long birdie putts. Then it was Points’ turn.
“I got up over my putt and he started talking to me about he just made a putt, and how Harris just made a putt, and how easy this should be,” Points said.
He three-putted for his only bogey.
“It didn’t bother me at all,” he said. “I just hit two bad putts.”
Nothing could stress him out on his day ― beautiful weather, a partner he always wanted. A year ago, Points was excited to be drawn with Mickelson and Rickie Fowler at Torrey Pines, and with Tiger Woods at Aronomink in the AT&T National.
This topped them all.
He grew up in Illinois, and Murray has long been one of his favorites. He thought about asking tournament officials if he could be paired with the actor, then decided against it. Imagine his surprise when someone sent a text to his wife Tuesday night that Murray would be his partner, and the phone call that followed the next morning.
“I’ve got this message on my phone,” Points said. “He says, ‘D.A., this is Bill Murray. ... I got your number from the Police Department.’”
Murray invited him to play that afternoon at Cypress Point, and Points said he played the final four holes ― some of the most beautiful of any golf course around the world ― as the sun was setting over the Pacific.
While telling the story, Points mentioned Thursday was his daughter’s first birthday.