Mahan and Knox share Pebble Beach lead

Thu Feb 7, 2013 10:39pm EST
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(Reuters) - Hunter Mahan, who has long relished playing golf on the picturesque Monterey Peninsula, birdied five of his first seven holes on the way to a share of the first-round lead in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Thursday.

The 30-year-old American fired a sparkling six-under-par 66 in mainly sunny conditions on the hosting Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of three venues being used for this week's PGA Tour event.

In pursuit of his sixth title on the U.S. circuit, Mahan mixed seven birdies with a lone bogey to end the day level with little-known Briton Russell Knox, who carded a six-under 64 on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

South Korean Noh Seung-yul and Japan's Ryuji Imada were among a group of six players knotted at five under while defending champion Phil Mickelson opened with a one-under 69 at Monterey Peninsula.

Mahan, who finished second behind compatriot D.A. Points at the 2011 Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, was delighted with his start in near-perfect conditions.

"I hit a lot of good putts today and they were just kind of right on the edge or lipped out today," the Californian told Golf Channel. "I made a lot of good swings and had a lot of good opportunities.

"I am happy to get in with what I did. The weather is so beautiful and the course is very doable right now. It's nice to shoot a round when it's there for you."

Asked how he would tackle the Monterey Peninsula layout in Friday's second round, Mahan replied: "That's the challenge, just to adjust to the greens and maybe the way the courses are actually playing compared to here or to Monterey or Spyglass.

"It's a challenge but that's why we are pros. The great ones adjust and they go on to win this tournament."   Continued...

Hunter Mahan tees off on the sixth hole during the Pro-Am round of the World Challenge golf tournament in Thousand Oaks, California, November 28, 2012. REUTERS/Lucy Nicholson