PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Even at 52 years old and 14 years into retirement, there’s still a semblance of what made him The Great One.
With his heralded professional partner, Dustin Johnson, en route to a bogey at Pebble Beach’s closing par 5, Wayne Gretzky knew what his putt meant. “Knew I had to make it,” he said. “Seventeen wasn’t going to do it.”
As in 17 under, which is what the Johnson-Gretzky team would have fallen to had the hockey legend missed his putt. But when Gretzky slipped it home for a net par, his team was in the clubhouse at 18 under.
Whew! The team was inside the cut . . . but only momentarily. A dozen teams were still on the course when Johnson-Gretzky finished and when scores were finalized 45 minutes later, there were 10 at 18 under, but only eight of them could advance, since the final round is only for the low 25.
Using as a tiebreaker system the low 54-hole total for the professionals, Johnson and Gretzky were cooked. Johnson’s 216 never gave them a chance. So, from joy to despair, The Great One’s heroics went for naught, though the greater story is: What went wrong, DJ?
Having seemingly owned Pebble Beach, Johnson shrugged. He made just one birdie in his 2-over 74, finished three lackluster days at 2-over 216 and missed the cut by three. In five previous trips to his tournament, Johnson had won twice and added a T-5 and T-7, and never missed the cut.
“I’m just not driving that well right now. It’s just costing me too many shots,” said Johnson, who hit just five of 14 fairways at Pebble Beach in Round 3 and for the week was 18 of 41, or a woeful 44 percent. “I had been hitting the driver pretty well, but I’ve got the lefts right now.”
Having opened the season with a win at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, where the Plantation Course fairways are wide enough to land 747s, Johnson had strung together three forgettable efforts. He withdrew after a round at the Sony, finished T-51 at the Farmers Insurance Open, and missed the cut here.
No surprise, Johnson appeared unconcerned.
“I’ll get it fixed before next week, maybe try to work something out this afternoon,” he said.
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AND TO THINK, HE OWNED THIS PLACE: Johnson’s early departure was surprising, given his history at Pebble Beach. Before a lifeless 74 in Round 4, Johnson had played Pebble Beach 13 times in competition, including four at the U.S. Open in 2010. He had been 18 under, shooting in the 60s five times.
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ALL ABOARD: The bus for those leaving early included more than Johnson. Padraig Harrington made just one birdie in a round of 2-over 72 at Monterey Peninsula and finished at 1 over, missing the cut for just the second time in seven starts here.
At 3-over 217, Geoff Ogilvy missed the cut, assuring that he will not be in the field at the WGC Accenture Match Play for the first time since 2005. After a T-27 at the Humana Challenge to start his season, Ogilvy has missed three consecutive cuts.
Nick Watney followed a 68 at Monterey Peninsula with 75 at Syglass Hill and 76 at Pebble Beach and missed the cut here for the first time in nine appearances as a PGA Tour member.
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TEAM WORK: Jordan Spieth not only shot 68 at Pebble Beach to move to 6 under and into a share of 17th, he and his Dallas friend Tony Romo moved to the top of the team standings. Spieth and Romo are at 25 under, one ahead of Brandt Snedeker and Toby Wilt and Michael Letzig and John Erickson, who shot a net 58 at Monterey Peninsula.
Among the notable amateurs who won’t be playing on Day 4: Condoleezza Rice and Jason Bohn shot 9-under 207 . . . Bill Murray and D.A. Points finished at 12-under 202 . . . Bill Belichick and Ricky Barnes were at 10-under 204 . . . And marquee athletes Aaron Rodgers, Andy Roddick, Justin Verlander and Matt Cain all left early, too.
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OLD RELIABLE: Rust may settle on Jim Furyk’s game, but never at his heart. Be it the last tournament of the year or the first, he’s got that part of his game dialed in.
When he doubled the first hole at Monterey Peninsula, Furyk was 2 over and three outside what would eventually be the cut. Not to worry, Furyk ran off three straight birdies, added another at the par-5 10th, and played the final 17 holes bogey-free to shoot 2-under 70.
Playing this tournament for the 17th time, Furyk made the cut for the 15th time.
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OLD STORY, NEW STORIES: Snedeker has finished second each of the last two weeks and is getting accustomed to the top of the leaderboard, having won twice a year ago and four times in his career. But when you factor in the guy who is tied with him at 12 under, James Hahn, and the next eight names on the leaderboard, well, it’s safe to say Snedeker would have to be the overwhelming favorite entering the final round.
He and Hahn lead Chris Kirk by one, while Patrick Reed is two back.
Of the nine players who are chasing Snedeker, only four have won, but three of them – Chris Kirk, Robert Garrigus and Jason Day – have just one apiece. Retief Goosen has seven.
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SHORT SHOTS: Webb Simpson had the day’s best round at Pebble Beach, a 7-under 65 – and that included a bogey at 18 . . . . . Ted Potter Jr., who owned a share of the 36-hole lead, shot 73 at Spyglass Hill and fell into a share of 11th, now five back . . . . . Sunday’s 9:05 group will be football-heavy. That’s because both San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh (with Day) and Notre Dame’s Brian Kelly (with James Driscoll) made the cut . . . . . Driscoll, the 1999 U.S. Amateur semifinalist at Pebble Beach, shot a 5-under 67 at Pebble Beach to hurdle 24 players and get into joint sixth, just four back . . . . . An annual quirkiness to this tournament: Players who miss the 54-hole cut but get to play the last day strictly for team purposes. Those who will be doing that in Round 4 – Todd Hamilton, Steven Bowditch, Ryan Palmer, Vaughn Taylor, and Letzig.