Few tuning in to watch the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Thursday will have been surprised to learn that former Real Madrid star Gareth Bale is good at golf.
After all, the Welshman made no secret of his love for the game throughout a glittering soccer career that he called time on in January.
Yet, just how natural the former Tottenham Hotspur and Real forward looks on the fairways has taken many aback after an impressive first round showing on his PGA Tour debut in California.
Playing alongside professional partner Joseph Bramlett, Bale carded a seven-under 65 on the notoriously challenging Spyglass Hill course to finish the day five shots behind the Pro-Am’s leading duo, the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes’ owner Tom Dundon and American pro golfer Will Gordon.
As a five-time Champions League winner and one of the most decorated players of his generation, Bale is no stranger to big stages. Just three months ago, he was his country’s captain at the Qatar World Cup.
But the 33-year-old, who plays off a two handicap, admitted to a few jitters standing over the first tee on Monday.
“I think every amateur will tell you, even though we’re used to playing in front of 80,000 or more live on TV, it’s a completely different sport,” Bale told Sky Sports.
“Outside your comfort zone and something that’s just different. It’s a cool experience.”
Bale’s opening tee shot looked nerveless, however – a superb effort that found the green and spun back towards the hole, allowing him to kick off his round with a par.
Yet the overwhelming highlight of the Welshman’s round followed at the subsequent hole when Bale was given a drop on a cart path close to the green.
Faced with an awkward route over a curb, Bale sent a ricocheting shot bouncing off the bank and onto the green, the ball trickling to within four feet of the hole for a par-saving putt.
In the moment, Bale’s first thought was to check the nearby cameras had captured the effort. On reflection after his round, the first thing on his mind was ruing why he’d had to play such a shot to begin with.
“I was more worried how I was there in the first place, but I guess a lot of amateurs find themselves out of position,” Bale said.
“It was a great shot. Just tried to put it into the bank and hope for the best, like most amateurs do. It was nice to see it roll up nice and close.
“It was a fun day. Looking forward to two more fun days with an amazing group of people like we had today.”
Bale’s feats will have come as no surprise to World No. 3 John Rahm, who lavished praise upon the former footballer’s golf prowess after the pair played a round together last month.
“I told Gareth, ‘you can’t be so good at professional football and golf at the same time, it just doesn’t seem fair’,” Rahm said.
“Can’t be dedicated to one thing and have this much talent for golf, it’s not fair in the slightest.”
Among the other biggest celebrity names on the star-studded 156-player field, Green Bay Packers’ Aaron Rodgers sits two shots adrift of the lead after carding 10-under 62 with pro partner Ben Silverman. Actors Jason Bateman and Bill Murray, as well as rapper Macklemore, are also featuring at the event.
American Hank Lebioda leads the professional leaderboard after shooting eight-under 63, one shot clear of compatriots Kurt Kitayama and Chad Ramsey, as well as England’s Harry Hall.
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