PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – It has taken three days, but finally one doesn’t have to be confounded by the status of the leaderboard at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Whereas a debate raged late Friday afternoon – was Steve Marino at 13 under and four ahead of D.A. Points? Or was Points at 133 only two behind Marino, who was at 131? – no such mystery exists now. With everyone having played once at par-72 Pebble, par-72 Spyglass Hill, and par-70 Monterey Peninsula, it’s easy to put the picture in focus.
At 12-under 202, Marino leads by one over two players who are also seeking their first PGA Tour win – Bryce Molder and Jimmy Walker.
Which brings us to five storylines of note from the third round of this annual classic.
1.) Can he kick open that door?
All Marino has been doing since landing on the PGA Tour in 2007 is making progress. There were four top 10s that season, six the next year, five in ’09, then three more in 2010.
True, his best chances for victory have been met with disappointment. He had the 54-hole lead at the Barclays in 2009, shot 77 and finished T-15; he had a share of the 54-hole lead at Disney in 2008, shot 71, and fell into a share of third; he couldn’t quite catch Brian Gay at Mayakoba in 2008 and finished second; he lost in a playoff to Steve Stricker at Colonial in 2009; he made a spirited charge at Sony this year, only to fall shy against Mark Wilson.
But on a very short list of best players yet to win on the PGA Tour, Marino’s name would be high, if not at the top.
There’s also a strong sentiment that his name won’t be on that list very long, perhaps crossed off as early as this week.
2) Rare occurrence
At a party hosted by CBS before the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, Jim Furyk was saluted for his 2010 heroics – three wins, a FedEx Cup title and PGA Tour Player of the Year honors. While appreciative, Furyk indicated he’s been accepting accolades since last September, but sooner or later he needed to focus on 2011.
It appears that that time is now, because for the first time since 1999 and for just the second time in 15 starts at the AT&T, Furyk has missed the cut.
What’s more, Furyk has missed the cut in two straight tournaments (he also fell short at the Sony Open in Hawaii) for the first time since 2007.
3) And some other cut victims
One year after posting his richest season ($3.3 million), Bo Van Pelt is off to a spotty start. Having missed just four cuts in 28 tournaments last year, he has now missed three times in four starts. Another slow starter is Charley Hoffman. He made five double-bogeys in 54 holes and you need to go deep, very deep, to find his name on the agate list.
Paul Goydos is another who struggled. One year after a closing 78 cost him a chance to win this tournament, Goydos made just four birdies over 54 holes and finished well out of view.
Then there’s Troy Merritt. After winning the $1 million Kodak Challenge and nailing down the 125th position on the money list, Merritt is putting himself in a tough situation early. Falling short at Pebble, he has now missed the cut in all four starts this season.
4) Overshadowed, but worthy of notation
It would be easy to lose track of anyone who had to play opposite George Lopez, but that’s even more evident when the player in question is as quiet as Trevor Immelman.
Yet for three days Immelman has gone about his duties with an effectiveness that has to make him feel good. It’s been a struggle with health issues since he won the Masters in 2008, but Immelman is starting to show signs of his old form. In just his second tournament of the year, Immelman birdied three holes early on Pebble’s front nine, shot 72, and made the cut at 4 under.
Still, he’s fighting the game and the reality is Immelman hasn’t recorded a top-10 finish since the 2008 Tour Championship.
5) The leader’s leader is Spyglass
Marino seemed surprised when a reporter mentioned that a lot of players don’t like Spyglass Hill.
“Really?” Marino asked. “I don’t know why you wouldn’t like that course.”
Frankly, his reaction is understandable, because it caught veteran “Clambake” observers by surprise, too. It was always a given that Poppy Hills was not well received by players, but Spyglass? Since it joined the rota in 1967, Spyglass has seemingly been held in high regard, especially the outward nine. Marino, for one, rates it as his favorite of the three. Yes, even ahead of Pebble.
‘I think it’s just awesome, man. It’s cool,” Marino said. “You tee off, first hole you’re heading toward the ocean and then you go down and you kind of head back into the trees. It’s just a cool place.”