Phil Mickelson already has four AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am trophies to his credit, and come Sunday evening on the Monterey Peninsula, he just may have a fifth if things go according to plan.
If he is to capture his 44th career PGA Tour victory, it won’t have come as easy as some of the others. Brutal weather and chilly temperatures have plagued this year’s renewal of the event, yet Mickelson, at 48 years of age, seems no worse for the wear.
Lefty shot rounds of 65-68 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club and Spyglass Hill, respectively, before heading to Pebble Beach on Saturday. With the winds whipping, Mickelson plodded his way around the future of host of the U.S. Open in 2-under par 70, but it wasn’t without its theatrics.
On the fourth hole, Mickelson was even par on his round with a birdie, par and bogey to his credit, when he pushed his tee shot into the fairway bunker off of the right side of the dogleg. Facing a stance that was beneficial to a lefthander, Mickelson clipped a knockdown wedge from 95 yards some 10 yards over the pin and into the back rough only to see the spin imparted on the ball take over.
The 3-foot birdie putt was no issue for Mickelson, but he could only manage an even-par front nine.
After getting through the teeth of the golf course — holes 8 through 10 — with a pair of dropped shots, Mickelson got his round back under par by going birdie-eagle on 13 and 14.
“It was difficult out there, especially around the turn there, 8, 9, 10, and that was really the only point where I had a couple of bogeys and it was very difficult, but I was able to come back with a few birdies when it cleared up,” Mickelson said. “And I thought anything in the 60s was going to be a heck of a round, and I was one shy.”
If it wasn’t for the bunker shot at 4, the dissecting way Mickelson played the par-5 14th would have been the highlight of the round.
“The drive on 14 was a hellacious bomb,” he said. “That thing was way out there. I can barely reach that hole ever and I had 4-iron in. So that thing was pretty nasty.”
Mikelson enters the final round three shots behind his final pairing competitor, Paul Casey, who has notched rounds of 69-64-67 to reach 15-under par.
“I just have to play solid, a good solid round and make a move,” Mickelson said. “Usually, the winner comes from groups in front of the last group, so it will be a challenge for us to keep pace. And obviously Paul’s playing some great golf, so he’s going to be tough to catch no matter what. But I just need to shoot a good solid round in the 60s.”