PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Even for being located next to the ocean, the iconic finishing hole at Pebble Beach is short for par 5s by modern standards. That didn’t keep Seamus Power, who has plenty of pop, from taking an iron off the tee and playing it as a three-shot hole.
Power knew what he was doing. He wrapped up a sublime display with his wedges Friday with a 4-foot birdie, his 10th of the round, to set a 36-hole record in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
The 34-year-old Irishman had another 8-under 64 — the seventh time in 14 rounds this year he has been at 65 or lower — and built a five-shot lead to par.
“My wedge play was great,” Power said. “I had three or four shots I hit very, very close and the way I’ve been putting — they were not gimme birdies, but certainly ones you would expect to make — it just changes your whole complex of your round, of your score.”
That score was 16-under 128 over rounds at Spyglass Hill on Thursday and Pebble Beach on Friday, both under as magnificent weather as the Monterey Peninsula can provide.
The wind might show up at some point this year on the PGA Tour, it just might not be in Hawaii or California.
Power broke the 36-hole tournament record previously held by Nick Taylor (14-under 129) in 2020 and Phil Mickelson (15-under 129) in 2005.
Tom Hoge could only manage a 69 at Monterey Peninsula and was at 11-under 132 along with Adam Svensson of Canada (63 at Monterey Peninsula) and Andrew Putnam (67 at Spyglass).
Patrick Cantlay, at No. 4 the highest-ranked player in the world at Pebble, again was slowed by a back-to-back bogeys. Four of his six birdies were on the par 5s at Spyglass, and he had a 68 that left him six shots behind to par.
Jason Day, who tied for third at Torrey Pines last week to at least get back inside the top 100 in the world, had a 66 at Monterey Peninsula and was still in the mix at 9-under 134. He was joined by a relative surprise, Sean O’Hair, working himself back from a torn oblique. O’Hair has opened with a pair of 67s.
All of them are chasing Power, who might just not be coming into his own.
After attending East Tennessee State — a scholarship became available when another kid from his part of the world, Rory McIlroy, decided instead to turn pro — Power toiled on the eGolf Tour in North Carolina, where a victory worth $15,000 made him feel as though he won the lottery.
He worked his way onto the Korn Ferry Tour and then the PGA Tour, where he kept a full card only once in three years until breaking through with a victory in the Barbasol Championship last July in Kentucky.
It was an opposite-field event, but it was a win. And equipped with more confidence than ever, Power now is No. 50 in the world and trying not to think about a Masters invitation.
A win would take care of that, and Power isn’t doing much wrong at the moment. The five-shot lead to par — Monterey Peninsula is a par 71, the other two courses are are par 72 — ties the tournament record for largest margin through 36 holes.
“I just feel much more comfortable in these positions,” Power said. “I’m putting myself there a little bit more often, so it definitely seems a little easier, but still obviously a lot of work to do over the weekend.”
He made his move Friday with a birdie on the par-5 sixth — set up by more good wedge play, this prompted by a bad drive — and a 20-foot birdie putt on the par-3 seventh.
The most picturesque part of Pebble Beach brought out his best golf. A big drive set up a wedge to 6 feet for birdie on the ninth, he holed a 25-foot putt on the 10th and then hit wedge to about 5 feet on the 11th, and a 6-iron that just cleared the bunker in front the par-3 12th and rolled out 8 feet by the cup.
More wedge work led to a short birdie on the 14th. His one big gaffe — other than a three-putt bogey from 60 feet on the par-3 fifth — was some indecision on a club at the par-3 17th that led him to quit on his swing, the ball soaring right toward the two-story grandstand.
He dropped his flop shot into the bunker and had to make a 5-foot putt for bogey.
Irritating? Yes, but not enough to change his strategy on the 535-yard closing hole. Iron off the tee, lay up to just inside 100 yards, let the wedge and putter take care of the rest.
It’s not an easy game. It just feels like that now more than it ever did.