McGinley gets rolling with immaculate 67 at Pebble Beach
A happy Paul McGinley walks off the fifth green following his birdie two. 

A happy Paul McGinley walks off the fifth green following his birdie two. 

European Ryder Cup skipper Paul McGinley outshone major winners Pádraig Harrington and Graeme McDowell in the weather-delayed opening round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Following three-hour rain stoppage early in the day, the man who will lead Europe's defence at Gleneagles in September birdied the par-five 18th in near darkness to card a bogey free, five under par 67 to trail unheralded clubhouse leader Andrew Loupe by just three strokes.

The 47-year old putted superbly to pick up five birdies and keep a bogey off his card, which was something that both McDowell and Harrington failed to do on a long opening day in California.

McDowell dropped an early shot at the fourth at Spyglass Hill — one of three venues the pro-am teams play on alternate days — but birdied the seventh, 11th and 17th before dropping his second shot of the day at the 18th.

His one under 71 left him provisionally tied for 73rd while Harrington did well in the end to finish the day tied for 97th after level par 72 at Pebble Beach that was very much a tale of two halves. 

Had he holed a nine-foot birdie putt at the par-five 18th, the 42-year old triple major winner would have finished the day in the red.

But considering he was two over par with seven to play and had holed almost nothing little until he made a brace of twos on the back nine, draining a 25 footer at the 12th and a 30 footer at the iconic 17th to get back to level par, a 72 was an acceptable return.

The happier of the Irish trio was undoubtedly McGinley, who got off to a tremendous start with three birdies in his first six holes in partnership with TaylorMade CEO Mark King. 

After a two-putt birdie at the second, he holed a seven footer for par at the third, missed a birdie chance from a similar length at the next before draining a 30 footer from the fringe for a bonus birdie at the par-three fifth.

He then holed a 16 footer for birdie at the par-five sixth and saved par from 10 feet at the eighth and from eight feet at the ninth to turn in 33.

The European Ryder Cup skipper missed a chance from 12 feet at the 10th but was back on the birdie trail at the 11th, holing an 11-footer to move into the top ten on four under par.

He was in trouble just once more after that but resolved the situation with a deft chip from the right greenside to 18 inches at the 16th before getting up and down from 80 yards at the 18th for a satisfying closing birdie.

It was a far tougher day for Harrington as he partnered JP McManus to an eight under 64 and a provisional share of 13th in the team competition (McGinley and King were 42nd after a 66 with Graeme and Kenny McDowell tied 109th after a 69).

Despite struggling with the lefts early in his round, Harrington holed a nine footer for birdie at the par-five second to move into the red.

But after missing a 15-foot chance at the third and another from six feet at the next, he double bogeyed the par-three fifth when he pulled his tee shot so far left that he had 41 yards to the pin for his second.

Unable to advance the ball more than 20 yards, the Dubliner pitched on and two-putted for a double bogey five.

He then parred the par-five sixth without ever seeing the fairway, missed a 12 footer for birdie at the seventh and dropped a shot at the tough eighth, when he fired his approach through the green and left himself no chance of getting up and down.

It was clearly going to be a tough day at the office when he hit a magnificent approach eight feet above the hole at the ninth but missed what was a ticklish putt down the hill.

After failing with a 15 footer for birdie at the 10th and a 12 footer at the 11th, he holed a 25 footer for birdie at the par-three 12th to get back to one over par and then rattled home a 30 footer at the 17th for another two. graduate Loupe carded an eight under par 63 at Monterey Peninsula to lead by two strokes from a group of five players - Stuart Appleby (65 MP), Jimmy Walker (66 PB), Jim Renner (65 MP), Scott Gardiner (65 MP) and Richard H. Lee (65 MP).

Phil Mickelson was five under par at Pebble Beach with three holes of his round to complete.