Mick­el­son holds lead at sus­pended Peb­ble Beach Pro-Am.

San Francisco Chronicle Late Edition - - FRONT PAGE - By Ron Kroichick

PEB­BLE BEACH — This one re­ally mat­ters to Phil Mick­el­son.

His grand­fa­ther, Al San­tos, was a cad­die at Peb­ble Beach. Mick­el­son has won the AT&T Pro-Am four times, more than any player not named Mark O’Meara. And the U.S. Open re­turns here in June, the one ti­tle Mick­el­son craves more than all oth­ers.

Oh, and one more not-so-in­ci­den­tal de­tail: He’s 48 years old.

Few play­ers re­main rel­e­vant on the PGA Tour at that age, but Mick­el­son keeps chug­ging along. He won last year’s World Golf Cham­pi­onship event near Mex­ico City, threat­ened to win last month’s Desert Clas­sic (he tied for sec­ond) and put him­self

in great po­si­tion again Sun­day at Peb­ble Beach.

Mick­el­son will re­turn to Peb­ble on Mon­day morn­ing to com­plete this year’s weather-de­layed Pro-Am — with a three­stroke lead over Paul Casey and Scott Stallings. Mick­el­son, who played 16 holes Sun­day in 6-un­der­par, surged past Casey and moved into com­mand­ing po­si­tion with two holes left.

Mick­el­son and Casey will re­sume the fi­nal round at 8 a.m. Mon­day. Ad­mis­sion will be free and no ticket is re­quired for spec­ta­tors.

This would be the most mean­ing­ful of Mick­el­son’s vic­to­ries at Peb­ble, in many ways, given where he stands in his ca­reer. He would be­come the old­est AT&T Pro-Am champ, sup­plant­ing Steve Low­ery (who was 47 when he won in 2008).

Let’s face it: Most play­ers, even great ones, fade into obliv­ion in their late 40s, and usu­ally ear­lier. Mick­el­son turns 49 on June 16, which is Father’s Day this year — and also the same day as the fi­nal round of the U.S. Open at Peb­ble.

Win­ning at Peb­ble in June is still a long shot, given Mick­el­son’s wellchron­i­cled his­tory of fall­ing short in Amer­ica’s na­tional cham­pi­onship (six sec­ond-place fin­ishes). But it’s also a de­li­cious pos­si­bil­ity for Lefty fans to con­tem­plate the next four-plus months.

Mick­el­son tried like crazy to fin­ish this tour­na­ment Sun­day. Af­ter he made par on No. 16 — shortly be­fore 6 p.m, with the course bathed in gath­er­ing dark­ness — he told rules of­fi­cial Mark Rus­sell, “I can see fine.”

But Casey de­cided it was too dark to at­tempt his 3-foot par putt, so he marked his ball and ended his work for the day.

“I’m sur­prised we got this far,” Casey said. “I think if there was an abil­ity to fin­ish all 18, we would keep go­ing . ... But what’s the point in try­ing to play 800 yards or some­thing like that? We just can’t do it.”

Mick­el­son is no fool. He knew they wouldn’t fin­ish the round Sun­day and he knew Casey did the smart thing by in­sist­ing they stop, ab­so­lutely within his rights.

Even so, Mick­el­son made a Phil-be­ing-Phil at­tempt to keep play­ing, march­ing to the 17th tee as if he could see the green with his spe­cial, X-ray vi­sion.

“I get ex­actly where Paul’s com­ing from,” Mick­el­son said. “It’s dark and we’ll have a good chance to come out (Mon­day) with good greens . ... As much as I would like to fin­ish, it’s prob­a­bly a good thing. But I wanted to try to fin­ish tonight be­cause I’m play­ing well.”

Mick­el­son is chas­ing not only his fifth AT&T win and 44th ca­reer vic­tory on the PGA Tour. He’s also seek­ing his first tri­umph on U.S. soil in six years, since the Phoenix Open in Fe­bru­ary 2013. His two wins since then came in the Bri­tish Open in July 2013 and at the WGC-Mex­ico Cham­pi­onship in March 2018.

Play­ers teed off more than three hours later than planned Sun­day, af­ter two sep­a­rate weather de­lays. Mick­el­son and Casey fi­nally started their round at 1:09 p.m. It took them nearly two hours to play their first six holes — a com­mon Pro-Am prob­lem — mak­ing it clear the event was headed for a Mon­day fin­ish.

Mick­el­son trimmed his deficit to two strokes with a birdie on No. 4, the short and pic­turesque par-4 along Still­wa­ter Cove. Soon there­after, he made con­sec­u­tive birdies on Nos. 9 and 10 — two of the hard­est holes on the course — to pull even with Casey at 16-un­der-par.

Mick­el­son picked up an­other stroke on No. 11 (thanks to Casey’s bo­gey), an­other one on No. 12 (Casey’s bo­gey) and one more on No. 13 (where Mick­el­son made birdie). Do the math: Mick­el­son gained a stroke on Casey for five con­sec­u­tive holes, abruptly mov­ing from two down to three up.

Casey re­sponded with a birdie on No. 14, and Mick­el­son promptly matched him to stay three ahead. That should have made it eas­ier for him to sleep Sun­day night, know­ing an­other win at Peb­ble Beach is there for the tak­ing.

Asked about match­ing O’Meara with his fifth Pro-Am ti­tle, Mick­el­son de­murred, say­ing, “We’re jump­ing ahead. I know a lot can hap­pen on these two holes, so I want to stay fo­cused and come out to­mor­row and try to fin­ish it.”

Yep, this mat­ters to him. A lot.

Eric Risberg / As­so­ci­ated Press

Four-time Peb­ble Beach Pro-Am win­ner Phil Mick­el­son, who started his round late, had six birdies in 16 bo­gey-free holes.

Harry How / Getty Im­ages

Phil Mick­el­son plays a shot on No. 10 at Peb­ble Beach. Af­ter his tee time was pushed back more than three hours, he took a three-shot lead through 16 holes. He and Paul Casey will com­plete their rounds Mon­day.

Eric Risberg / As­so­ci­ated Press

Af­ter a brief hail storm, a greenskeeper uses a leaf blower to clear the sec­ond green. Play was sus­pended for about two hours be­cause of the hail.

Harry How / Getty Im­ages

Casey will re­turn to face a 3-foot par putt on No. 16 when he and Mick­el­son re­sume play Mon­day.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.