Stack & Tilt golfer Charlie Wi’s 9-under 61 was good enough for a share of the lead after 18 holes Thursday at this week’s Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

Playing Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Wi, an unabashed booster of Andy Plummer and Mike Bennett’s swing method, played flawless golf that included an eagle and seven birdies. With a 28 on his front nine, and sitting at 49 after 15 holes on the par-70 MPCC, Wi needed two birdies down the stretch to reach the magic score of 59 — although he had no idea he had a chance to go that low.

“I didn’t know it was par 70,” Wi told reporters after his round. “I thought it was par 72. Yeah, that 59 never crossed my mind, not once.”

The 40-year-old with seven wins on the European and Asian Tours had to settle for his 61 after he made three consecutive pars to finish his day in a tie with Dustin Johnson and Danny Lee, each of whom shot a 63 and carded two eagles on the par-72 Pebble Beach Golf Links. Lee collected his eagles on the par-5 second and par-4 11th, while DJ posted a two on the par-4 third and a three on the par-5 sixth hole.

Despite the fireworks at the top of the leaderboard, all eyes were on the golfer who closed out his opening round in a tie for 15th — five shots off the pace.

“I drove it great today,” Tiger Woods said after shooting a 68 on the par-72 Spyglass Hill track in his 2012 PGA Tour debut, during which he missed just two fairways but struggled with his short game. “I drove it on a string.”

James Driscoll is an advocate of the Stack & Tilt golf swing (Photo: Emily Kay)

While he was not so pleased with “some awful” wedge shots, Woods noted that Spyglass was the most challenging course in rotation during this week’s event.

“This is the harder of the three,” he said. “Hopefully next two days I can get it going.”

As for Wi, perhaps enough time has passed since his forthright defense of Plummer and Bennett in 2010 that he won’t have to set the record straight again about what he considered unfair attacks on the two S&T teachers. During the BMW Championship in September of that year, Wi went out of his way to praise the swing maestros who, he said, “really understand the fundamentals of the game.”

Golf Channel’s Brandel Chamblee may still have it in for the S&T approach, but at least two other golfers in this week’s field have taken to elements of the Plummer/Bennett system. Indeed, since Wi’s spirited 2010 support of the discipline, Woods has fully accepted the process of Sean Foley, who has made it well known that he holds the S&T guys in high regard.

Boston golfer James Driscoll, who earned his tour card and national renown because of his “bubble boy” status last year, is also an S&T practitioner.
“People [who denigrate Stack & Tilt] don’t know what they’re talking about,” Driscoll told us in October. “There are a lot of good things about Stack & Tilt.”

Driscoll has some work to do to make it to Sunday’s finale. He’ll start the second round of the Pebble Beach tourney in a tie for 114th place at 1-over. Other golfers with ties to New England included Ricky Barnes (his dad was a punter with the Patriots back in the day) and Connecticut native J.J. Henry at 2-under, Worcester’s own Scott Stallings (1-under), and Patrick Sheehan from Rhode Island and University of Hartford grad Tim Petrovic (even-par).

Emily Kay is a regular contributor to New England Golf Monthly. View all her articles here. You may also follow Kay on Twitter @golfexaminer