Mickelson stays on course
News Tribune news services
The conditions were the toughest Phil Mickelson has faced in eight months, a day of survival in Pebble Beach, Calif., when it was important to keep the ball in play and keep big numbers off the scorecard.
That’s the kind of language often used at the U.S. Open.
This was only the wet, cold, windy and miserable Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, where patience is tested not because of 6-inch rough but six-hour rounds. The similarity Saturday was Mickelson tied for the lead going into the final round, the first time he’s been in that position since last summer at Winged Foot.
All he has to do now is write a better ending, although redemption didn’t even cross his mind.
“I don’t really think in those terms,” Mickelson said. “I would like to get off to a good start this year, and I love playing this tournament, having won it a couple of times. It would be nice to get momentum on the West Coast.”
Mickelson made only two small errors at Spyglass Hill and shot a 2-under 70, putting him at 14-under 202. He was tied with Kevin Sutherland, who birdied the last hole at Poppy Hills and also found himself in a familiar spot.
It was the second time in three weeks he birdied the last hole to get into the final round. And it was the second time all the focus was on somebody else. He had Tiger Woods in the group ahead of him at Torrey Pines. Now he gets Mickelson at his side at Pebble Beach.
“That’s to be expected,” Sutherland said. “I’m playing well right now. I’m shooting scores that I should be shooting given the way I’m playing, so I feel good about tomorrow.”
John Mallinger, a 27-year-old rookie, had a 68 at Poppy and was one shot behind.
Mickelson is perfecting his swing by the day, and what helped this week was the perfect rotation of courses. He played Pebble Beach on Friday, the only day the wind didn’t blow much, and shot 67.
Sutherland opened with a 72 at Pebble Beach on Thursday and rallied at Spyglass and Poppy.
Jim Furyk had to take on rain that fell sideways in 20 mph gusts at Pebble Beach on Saturday, and it was costly. He hit a fairway metal for his second shot on the par-4 10th over the cliffs and took double bogey, and wound up with a 76, six shots behind.
“A tough day to be at Pebble,” he said. “I could have done a lot better job. I have a lot of work to do tomorrow.”
More “Crosby” weather looms in the forecast for today, and that was OK with Mickelson. While he has started slowly this year after a four-month layoff, he is most pleased with the ease in hitting draws, fades and low, piercing tee shots.
“The key if the weather gets bad is to drive the ball well,” he said. “You have to put the ball in place because from the rough or the bunkers, you’re just fighting for par the whole time. I’m actually really excited about my chances. I’ve been driving it better than I think I ever have, and I’m excited about putting it to the test here.”
Aiding his chances are the limited number of contenders.
The 42-year-old Sutherland plays his best golf in his native California, but his only PGA Tour victory came five years ago down the coast at La Costa in the Accenture Match Play Championship.
He was one shot out of the lead going into the last round at the Buick Invitational, but closed with a 74 and tied for 14th.
Jay Haas shot a 7-under 65 for a share of the second-round lead in the Allianz Championship with first-round leader Craig Stadler and England’s Mark James in Boca Raton, Fla. Stadler followed his opening 63 with a 70 join Haas and James (69) at 11-under 133 on The Old Course at Broken Sound. … Five-time winner Karrie Webb shot a course-record 10-under 62 for a share of the third-round lead in the ANZ Australian Ladies Masters in Gold Coast. Webb, coming off a victory last week in the Women’s Australian Open, matched fellow Australian Michelle Ellis (68) at 15-under 201. … Argentina’s Ricardo Gonzalez shot a 3-under 69 to tie Englishman Marcus Higley for the third-round lead in the Malaysian Open in Kuala Lumpur.
TRACKING RYAN MOORE and MICHAEL PUTNAM
What: PGA Tour Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, through today, Pebble Beach, Poppy Hills and Spyglass golf courses, Pebble Beach, Calif.
Moore’s third-round score: 2-under-par 70 at Spyglass.
Putnam’s third-round score: 1-over 73 at Poppy Hills.
Position: The two locals made the cut by the skin of their teeth at 1-under
215, sitting tied for 49th. Phil Mickelson and Kevin Sutherland are co-leaders at 14-under 202. Today’s final round will be held at Pebble Beach.
Recap: Both golfers were under par on their rounds into their second nine holes before going into hold-on-for-dear-life mode. Moore, of Puyallup, had bogeys on Nos. 3 and 6 before making a birdie on the par-5 seventh hole, or his 16th of the day. He also got up and down from the green-side rough on the final hole to salvage par. Putnam, of Tacoma, had back-to-back birdies on the 11th and 12th holes before suffering a double bogey-6 on the 13th hole, then another bogey on No. 16. On the 500-yard, par-5 finishing hole, he two-putted for a birdie to make the cut.
Moore’s tee time today: 8:40 a.m.
Putnam’s tee time today: 8:50 a.m.
Todd Milles, The News Tribune