Loupe's two-shot lead holds up at Pebble Beach


(Reuters) - PGA Tour rookie Andrew Loupe's overnight lead of two shots held up when the rain-delayed first round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am was completed on Friday.

Loupe, making only his seventh start on the U.S. circuit, had set the pace with a sizzling eight-under-par 63 on Thursday but 40 players were yet to finish when play ended for the day in fading light.

Of those, tournament favorite and world number four Phil Mickelson was three strokes off the pace with three holes remaining but he was unable to get any closer to Loupe as he finished up with three successive pars on Friday morning.

Mickelson, aiming for a record-equaling fifth victory at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, carded a five-under 66 on the hosting Pebble Beach Golf Links, one of three venues being used for this week's event.

Also at five under were fellow Americans Robert Streb, Jordan Spieth, Brian Harman and Dicky Pride, South African Rory Sabbatini, New Zealander Tim Wilkinson and European Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley of Ireland.

Loupe's closest pursuers, who all finished at six under on Thursday, were Australians Stuart Appleby and Scott Gardiner, who both fired 65s at Monterey Peninsula, and Americans Jimmy Walker, Jim Renner and Richard H. Lee.

FedExCup points leader Walker returned a 66 on the Pebble Beach Golf Links while Renner and Lee both shot 65s on the Shore Course.


Loupe, who had to contend with the Pebble Beach layout in the second round, was ecstatic to be leading a PGA Tour event in the spectacular surrounds of the Monterey Peninsula.

"I had a blast out there," the 25-year-old from Louisiana, who has missed the cut in all six of his previous starts on the U.S. circuit, told reporters.

"What a great place. It is my first time here and Monterey, it's beautiful out there. I'm just cherishing the moment. It's just one round, but it was a very fun, very enjoyable round."

Loupe tied for sixth in the lower-tier Web.com Tour's season-ending Tour Championship to earn his card for the 2013-14 PGA Tour.

Among several big names playing this week, three-times major winner Padraig Harrington of Ireland opened at Pebble Beach with a level 72, a score matched by defending champion Brandt Snedeker at Spyglass Hill.

Northern Ireland's Graeme McDowell, who clinched the 2010 U.S. Open staged at Pebble Beach, carded a 71 while Fiji's former world number one Vijay Singh struggled to a 78 at Pebble Beach.

Though weather conditions improved at Pebble Beach on Friday with just a slight chance of showers, heavier rain has been forecast for both Saturday and Sunday.

(Reporting by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Gene Cherry)

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