Leaders Shining at Pebble


It should be noted that Phil Mickelson has won the AT&T; Pebble Beach National Pro-Am before. Sure, it took him six months and 20 days to do it, but what’s the difference?

That was in 1998, when the typical tournament monsoon washed out the deciding round, which was postponed until August, when Mickelson came back and won a weather-shortened, 54-hole event.

“That was weird,” he said.

Maybe, but what’s really weird is the sunburn-inducing weather up here in the Del Monte Forest, where the umbrellas usually outnumber the trees. And it’s not really so unusual to have Mickelson leading a tournament, because he won four times last year, but now? After missing the cut last week at Phoenix? And finishing 28th in a field of 33 at Kapalua?


Mickelson said he suffered a back injury before the Hawaii event and that meant he couldn’t practice before Phoenix. Besides, he didn’t feel like working too hard in Hawaii.

“Wanting to lay out on the beach,” Mickelson said.

It will be sunbathing weather again today at Pebble Beach, where Mickelson begins the final round tied for the lead with Olin Browne and the end is in sight for a very unusual four-day, 72-hole, non-delayed, straightforward, downright warm AT&T; tournament.

Four times in the last five years, rain wrecked either part or all of the tournament, washing out the 1996 event completely.

But as for inducing sunny dispositions, there’s nothing like the 66 Mickelson shot Saturday at Pebble Beach to get the job done. Browne played the five par-five holes at Poppy Hills in four under and went for a 65 to catch Mickelson at 14-under-par 202.

Vijay Singh stayed close with a 70 at Poppy Hills and is two shots off the lead at 12-under 204. Mike Weir and Craig Barlow are three shots behind, Scott McCarron is next at 10-under 206, followed by Brad Faxon at 207.

Browne seemed more impressed by the weather than shooting seven under par.

“I never really liked playing here,” he said. “The weather is so atrocious every year. It’s such a joy to be here in these kind of conditions. I’m loving every second.”


Not loving every second is Tiger Woods. Woods bogeyed the first two holes, but still came back for a 69 at Pebble Beach. Even so, he is six shots behind Mickelson and Browne, and that’s a lot of ground to cover.

Last year, Woods made up seven shots in the last seven holes to catch and pass Matt Gogel. Woods isn’t sure he can do it again.

“There’s a lot of good players up there,” he said. “If I can shoot a good round tomorrow, anything can happen.”

Woods was troubled by the bumpy greens all day and could manage nothing more than a par at the par-five 18th when he lipped out a four-footer for birdie.

Gogel wasn’t nearly as lucky. One day after setting the Poppy Hills course record with a 62, Gogel had an 81 at Spyglass, but he managed to make the cut.

That was a long way to fall, but as far as dramatic collapses, nobody does them quite like John Daly.


Remember the 18 he took on the sixth hole at Bay Hill in 1998? Or the 11 at No. 8 at Pinehurst in the 1999 U.S. Open? And who can forget the 14 he had at No. 18 last year at the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach?

Daly began the day at Poppy Hills at six under par, but made a quadruple bogey at No. 10, which was his first hole, then a double bogey at No. 11 and a triple bogey at No. 12.

Daly, who covered his first nine holes in 10-over 46, hit his drive out of bounds on the first hole, so he reloaded and his second drive stopped close to an out-of-bounds stake. Daly yanked it out, a two-shot penalty. He wound up two-putting for a nine.

On the next hole, Daly missed the green, then chipped into a bunker. He took two shots to get out, but one-putted for a five. He drove into the trees on his 12th hole and three-putted for an eight.

Daly birdied four of the last six holes, signed for a 79 and missed the cut. He wasn’t alone on the sideline. David Duval shot a 71 at Pebble Beach and missed the cut for the second consecutive week. The last time Duval missed two cuts in a row was the 1998 PGA and Sprint.

Mickelson had a career year in 2000 but might have been lost in Woods’ backwash. Mickelson won four times, finished second three times and made $4.76 million, but Woods won nine tournaments and nearly $10 million.


But today Mickelson is in position to beat Woods to the winner’s circle for the first time this year. To help him get there, Mickelson said his swing is right where it should be.

“I feel like I should be in contention more often because my misses are not nearly as bad as they used to be, my ball striking is much better than it’s ever been and my putting is much more consistent,” Mickelson said.

In a nine-hole stretch from No. 3 through No. 11, Mickelson made five birdies--two on long putts, from 20 feet at No. 7 and from 35 feet at No. 9.

Mickelson also made a birdie at the par-four 11th when he hit an eight-iron and the ball stopped five feet from the hole. He missed a two-footer for birdie at No. 14, but came right back with a birdie at the par-four 15th when he hit a nine-iron from 125 yards to seven feet.

Mickelson hit a nine-iron over the green at No. 16 and made a bogey, but he reached the green in two at No. 18 and two-putted for a birdie.

“If I would be able to break through and win this week or next week or both, it would be a very positive reinforcement,” Mickelson said.


Browne is a two-time winner who depends on his putting to carry him. So does everyone else, he said.

“If you hit a great shot and time and time again you don’t capitalize [on the greens], the frustration builds to the point where you are ready to pop,” Browne said. “You feel like you are beating your head against a wall.”