PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – While the celebrity field led by Bill Murray, Ray Romano and Larry The Cable Guy was grabbing all the attention during Saturday’s third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Paul Casey quietly took command of the tournament at Spyglass Hill two miles down 17-mile Drive.
Casey authored a 5-under-par 67 to move three shots clear of the field at 15 under. Through rounds of 69-64-67 and two days of challenging weather that’s included plenty of rain, strong winds and cool temperatures, Casey has made just two bogeys.
Casey’s final round won’t be as peaceful as his opening three – he’ll be in the final group at Pebble Beach with Phil Mickelson, the popular four-time winner here who shot 70 at Pebble Beach to move to 12 under. Scott Piercy (69 at Spyglass Hill) and Lucas Glover (70 at Monterey Peninsula’s Shore Course) are in a tie for third at 11 under.
“I thought anything in the 60s was going to be a heck of a round, and I was one shy,” Mickelson said. “And I’ve got a good chance going into tomorrow. I’m looking forward to it.”
So, too, is Casey, the Englishman who held off Tiger Woods and Patrick Reed to win last year’s Valspar Championship for his second PGA Tour title. He has won 13 times on the European Tour.
“I am having a blast,” Casey said.
Casey was at ease talking about his round, saying he loves Pebble Beach and the state of his game.
“I feel good,” he said. “I feel happy with the game. My ball striking’s not been its usual solid display, but my putting’s been much better considering the surfaces that we get with the amount of traffic.”
Casey wasn’t as comfortable talking about last week. Still, he politely answered questions about his decision not to play in the European Tour’s inaugural event in Saudi Arabia.
The Tour, Saudi Arabia and the tournament, which featured Justin Rose, Dustin Johnson, Brooks Koepka and Bryson DeChambeau, came under intense scrutiny in the wake of the murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi, who was killed in the Saudi consulate in Istanbul.
“There are a lot of places in the world that I have played and continue to go, which you could question … some human rights violations that governments have committed,” Casey, an ambassador for UNICEF, told the Associated Press earlier this year. “I thought I’d sit this one out.”
On an Instagram post, Casey wrote: “As I continue to face questions about my participation I feel it is important to clarify that I will not be playing in next week’s Saudi International. Plus, contrary to reports I had never signed a contract to play.”
“I stand firm on what I said,” Casey said on Saturday.
This week, some players have reached out to Casey, including Nick Watney.
“He came up to me in the players’ lounge this week and he goes – how did he put it? He goes, ‘I think you won last week,’” Casey said. “I wasn’t going to play. I couldn’t, there was no way I could play.”