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After getting two exemptions in 11 minutes, Austin Eckroat in contention at Pebble Beach

Austin Eckroat didn’t have plans to make the trip to Torrey Pines last week or Pebble Beach this week. But that all changed in the blink of an eye at the 11th hour.

“Funny story, it was Monday of last week. And I got an e-mail from the tournament director in San Diego, Marty Gorsich, and I got an exemption into that week,” Eckroat said following his first round at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. “So then I get a phone call from California, and I was just thinking it was Marty Gorsich. And I go to answer and it’s like, ‘Steve John here with the AT&T Invitational,’ and I was super excited. It was almost an overload of emotions because I had — in 11 minutes — I had gotten two exemptions and I was just very excited.”

It was a quick turnaround for Eckroat. He found a flight just hours after receiving the exemption and made it in time for the Farmers Insurance Open’s Wednesday start. However, he missed the cut, but that gave him a little more time to prepare for Pebble Beach and it showed on Day 1.

Full-field scores from AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am

The 23-year-old jumped out of the gate with five straight birdies and sits T-7 after a 5-under 66 round — in which he ranked top-5 amongst the field in driving distance, driving accuracy and putts (GIR) — that has him four shots off Tom Hoge’s lead.

“Just started off, you kind of get three par 5s early on that back nine and I was putting well and birdied the par 5s,” he said. “And then I knocked in a long one on 11, the par 3. And then it was easy to start, the golf game was good and making putts and hitting good shots, so it was easy.”

Tom Hoge enjoys being at Pebble Beach even in a frigid wind and relentless rain. He loved it even more Thursday in brilliant sunshine.

And it was “easy” despite Thursday being Eckroat’s second-ever round on the Monterey Peninsula course, with the first being his practice round earlier in the week. However, he already has ample experience playing on the other two courses in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am’s rotation. He’s played Pebble 23 times, including the 2019 U.S. Open, and Spyglass “probably” five times.

So after firing a 66 on the course in which he’s least familiar with, the former Oklahoma State star who won a national championship in 2018 with Matthew Wolff and Viktor Hovland, is excited to continue taking advantage of his exemption as he looks for his first PGA Tour victory in only his 11th Tour start.

"(The practice round) was huge,” he said. “You got to score out here. You can see that in the past. I only got the one practice round and I was just thinking if you get off to a good start out here and survive Spyglass and then go tear up Pebble again, that’s kind of how it seems like it goes. So just looking forward to the week.”