PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — There have been a number of unlikely round leaders and even some unlikely winners of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am over the years. Anyone remember Brett Ogle? How about Matt Gogel?
But Andrew Loupe (pronounced “loop”), who shot an 8-under 63 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club to take a two-stroke first round lead, definitely joins the tournament's Ripley's Believe It Or Not group.
LEADERBOARD: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
Even though 40 of the 156 pros didn't finish their opening rounds due to a three-hour morning rain delay, it was still safe to say the thoroughly unheralded 25-year-old Loupe played the best round of the day.
How unheralded is he? Loupe is a PGA Tour rookie who has played in five events so far this season and has yet to make a cut or a single dollar. Moreover, he'd never been to the Monterey Peninsula before this week, and both he and his caddie's primary knowledge of Pebble Beach Golf Links was gleaned from playing it on a 2003 Tiger Woods video game.
Needless to say, after his bogey-free gem that included eight birdies, he was a little wide-eyed coming to the media interview room as the leader.
“Fun day, man, what a great place,” said Loupe, who was born and still resides in Baton Rouge, La., and played collegiate golf at LSU. “I didn't know there were so many golf courses. It's beautiful out there.”
It wasn't so beautiful to start the day. A steady rain and gusting winds forced golfers off the course at 8:39 a.m. and play did not resume until 11:30. But calm and favorable conditions prevailed once things did get back under way, and there were plenty of low scores before darkness halted the action.
Of the 116 players who finished, Loupe had a two-stroke lead over four players, including three that shot 6-under 65s at MPCC — Jim Renner, Scott Gardiner and veteran Australian Stuart Appleby. PGA Tour money leader Jimmy Walker shot a 6-under 66 at Pebble Beach.
Loupe played in 25 events on the Web.com satellite tour last year and was only so-so on that circuit with just three top 25 finishes and 12 missed cuts, including three in South America. But he finished tied for sixth in Web.com Tour Championship at TPC Sawgrass in September, which earned him a number of exemptions on the PGA Tour.
Up to now, his experience in the big leagues hasn't gone well.
“Obviously, a rough start to the year,” he said. “But I really just stick to the plan and I know my (support) group is good. I have 100 percent trust in my swing coach, my family, my trainer. I guess when you're in those ruts, you just keep telling yourself you're supposed to be here. You're going to play good. Just keep playing.”
Loupe said the biggest adjustment he's had to make is mostly mental.
“There's a little more to the golf courses, but that's not it,” he said. “I think it's settling in. I'm looking at guys now I've been watching on TV .I think I was a little nervy the last couple of weeks but I thought I did a better job of handling that today.”
While admitting it was the best round he's shot as a pro, Loupe isn't getting too excited about what he did as it relates to the big picture for the week.
“It's only one round, guys,” he said. “It was a very fun, very enjoyable round, but it is only a start.”
As for the 42-year-old Appleby, it was almost as surprising to see him on the leader board. A nine-time winner, he hasn't made much noise since 2010, when he shot 59 in the Greenbrier Classic, which was also the last event he won. He was just one of five men in PGA Tour history to accomplish the feat.
“You can use a million analogies, but they're all appropriate,” he said. “Certainly I struggled with some swing issues and I had an injury that affected my swing. I think emotionally I took a real hard hit of just playing golf the way I was accustomed to. I'm really not trying to rebuild, but improve on some of the things I've done in my career.”
There are some interesting names lurking on the leader board. The Tour's 2013 Rookie of the Year, 20-year-old Jordan Spieth shot a 5-under 67 at Spyglass, and 2011 AT&T winner D.A. Points shot a 5-under 66 at MPCC. Two-time winner Dustin Johnson shot a bogey-free 4-under 68 at Spyglass, and even though he only finished 15 holes, four-time winner Phil Mickelson was 5 under at MPCC. Defending champion Brandt Snedeker shot an even-par 72 at Spyglass.
Play will start at 7:45 a.m. PT Friday for those didn't finish their opening rounds (none of the 40s have more than five holes to play). The second-round tee times will be pushed back an hour from the original schedule and begin at 9 a.m. PT.