PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Hardly focused on the top of the leaderboard, considering that it doesn’t include his name, Phil Mickelson was asked about Brandt Snedeker, who seems to be playing beautifully at this week’s AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Conceding that he hadn’t studied the scores in the two minutes since his round had finished, Mickelson shrugged and offered a diplomatic response about Snedeker’s chances to win.
“Final rounds at Pebble Beach? A lot of things can happen,” he said.
Fact is, Mickelson had just proven that a lot of things can happen in the third round, too. Like his shocking finish, two errant shots toward the beach left of the 18th fairway for one painful close to an otherwise beautiful day at Pebble Beach.
If there was a silver lining for Mickelson, who started the day six back and concluded it 11 behind, it was the fact he didn’t hurt himself while searching for his first stray shot at the 18th. Gingerly stepping over rocks left of the fairway, Mickelson slipped, but caught himself. “I got lucky,” he said. “I didn’t get hurt.”
He wishes he could say the same about his chances at a title defense of this tournament, but alas, the lefthander is so out of contention that he more or less said it’s time for some forward thinking.
“I’ll see if I can get ready for L.A.,” he said, referencing this week’s Northern Trust Open at Riviera.
Mickelson’s third round at Pebble was as stunningly bad as Brandt Snedeker’s was brilliantly solid. Mickelson started the day 2 under, only six off the lead and had to be in good spirits; he was five back through 36 holes a year ago and stormed to victory with two stellar rounds at Pebble. But on a sun-splashed, coolish day, Mickelson bogeyed the first hole and never got untracked.
“It has not quite been on,” he said, shaking his head.
Still he played Nos. 2-15 in 3 under to seemingly keep himself at least a topic of conversation, but that was a mirage. Mickelson missed the green short from just 111 yards at the par-4 16th, made bogey, then followed a birdie at the 17th with misery at the 18th.
Pushing his drive left, Mickelson searched for his ball down on the beach, then dropped where it last crossed the hazard line. He promptly slammed his next shot into the Pacific. What unfolded was his worst score on the hole since he also made a triple-bogey 8 in the final round in 2003. In 16 visits since that triple, he had played the hole in 6 under.
He also had been dreaming big after his birdie at the 17th got him to 4 under. “If I could have made a birdie on the last hole, been five or six or seven shots off the lead, you never know.”
But a triple?
“Takes a lot of wind out . . . now, I’m a little too far back.”
For the record, he’s 11 behind Snedeker, who shot 68 for a 202 total at Pebble, and James Hahn, who went for a bogey-free 66 at Spyglass Hill. On the bright side, Mickelson did make the cut on the number, 1-under 213.
Miserable as his round of 73 might have been, it was hardly his worst. He shot a third-round 79 at Pebble in 2009 and a 78 in the third round the year before. And that triple at 18 in 2003? It finished off an 80.