Mick­el­son beats ev­ery foe save for the dark

Santa Fe New Mexican - - SPORTS - By Doug Fer­gu­son

PEB­BLE BEACH, Calif. — Phil Mick­el­son had ev­ery­thing go his way Sun­day in the AT&T Peb­ble Beach Pro-Am. He just couldn’t beat the dark­ness. On a wild day of weather even by Peb­ble Beach stan­dards, sun­shine gave way to a hail storm that cov­ered the greens in a sheet of white in a mat­ter of min­utes. The de­lay kept Mick­el­son from fin­ish­ing off a re­mark­able rally in which he turned a three-shot deficit against Paul Casey into a three-shot lead un­til it was too dark to fin­ish the last two holes. Mick­el­son at least wanted to try. “I can see fine,” he said to a PGA Tour rules of­fi­cial as they walked up the 16th fair­way. “I don’t want to put Paul in a bad spot.”

Casey sim­ply couldn’t see, and we re­al­ized it was not pos­si­ble to fin­ish all 18 holes — “We can’t fin­ish two holes in six min­utes,” he said to the of­fi­cial — he opted to mark his ball on the 16th green.

Mick­el­son al­ready made his par on the 16th and was 6 un­der for the day, with no bo­geys on his card, and 18-un­der par for the tour­na­ment. Casey has a 3-foot par putt to stay three shots be­hind when they re­turn at 8 a.m. Mon­day to play the par-3 17th and the par-5 18th.

Lost in the late start — one hour de­lay from rain, a two-hour sus­pen­sion from hail — was sheer bril­liance from the 48-yearold Mick­el­son who didn’t come re­motely close to mak­ing a bo­gey and was on the brink of a fifth vic­tory in the AT&T Peb­ble Beach Pro-Am.

His first one also was a Mon­day fin­ish, when play­ers re­turned in Au­gust — more than six months later — to fin­ish the third round of the weather-plagued tour­na­ment to make it of­fi­cial.

“We’ve got two tough holes left and I don’t want to jump the gun and get past that,” Mick­el­son said. “I know a lot can hap­pen in these two holes and they have hap­pened in the past, so I want to stay fo­cused and just come out to­mor­row and try to fin­ish it off. I wish we could do it tonight.”

Mick­el­son made his big run start­ing with a 9-iron to a foot be­hind the cup on the par-4 ninth. That was start of a five­hole stretch when Mick­el­son made three birdies and Paul Casey had two bo­geys, tak­ing Lefty from two be­hind to three ahead.

“I didn’t make any­thing. I hit some good golf shots and didn’t get any­thing out of it to­day,” Casey said. “Phil has put to­gether a spec­tac­u­lar round of golf so far — 6 un­der, no dropped shots. Re­mark­able stuff.”

Even as Mick­el­son strongly hinted at want­ing to fin­ish — at one point sug­gest­ing they play the 17th and he could scoot ahead to get a ball in play on the 18th so at least he could fin­ish — Casey stood his ground.

Casey was at 15 un­der, tied with Scott Stallings, who closed with a 66. Along with an out­side chance at forc­ing a play­off, fin­ish­ing alone in sec­ond in­stead of a tie is a dif­fer­ence of $152,000, along with world rank­ing points and FedEx Cup points. Casey and FedEx ex­ec­u­tive Don Colleran had a one-shot lead in the pro-am.

Mick­el­son was stand­ing on the 17th tee when he heard the horn sound to stop play, and he shook his head.

The rest of his day was far bet­ter than the weather.

Mick­el­son is on the verge of win­ning for the 44th time in his ca­reer, and match­ing Mark O’Meara with five vic­to­ries at a tour­na­ment he first played in 1995.

It also would be his first vic­tory on Amer­i­can soil since the Phoenix Open six years ago. He won the Bri­tish Open that sum­mer in Scot­land, and the Mex­ico Cham­pi­onship last year.

His bril­liant play still shared the stage with weather that was bizarre even by Peb­ble stan­dards.

Mick­el­son and Casey were wait­ing to tee off when clouds moved in quickly moved in, and rain turned into hail that pounded um­brel­las, many of them held side­ways to ac­count for the wind.

Greens quickly were cov­ered by the tiny white pel­lets, and work­ers went from us­ing squeegees for ex­cess wa­ter to power blow­ers to re­move the hail.

Sam Saunders, whose grand­fa­ther Arnold Palmer was among the Peb­ble Beach own­ers, scooped up hail and tossed it like a snow­ball. Pa­trick Reed’s brother laid on his back and tried to make a snow an­gel.

There was never a rea­son­able chance to fin­ish in his pro-am for­mat, with mostly four­somes across the golf course.

Casey has never won in three pre­vi­ous times he had a 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour, all of them by two shots or more, and he was hold­ing his own against the re­lent­less pur­suit of Mick­el­son, who missed three straight birdie putts from the 12-foot range by the slimmest mar­gins. Casey had great par saves, and then Mick­el­son took off.

Af­ter his 9-iron into a foot at No. 9 to get within one shot, Mick­el­son holed a 12-foot birdie on the 10th with a drive that hugged the right side of the fair­way and likely would have bounced into the ocean if not for con­di­tions so soft from rain that balls plugged where they landed.

Casey blinked first with a bo­gey on the 11th hole, and an­other on the par-3 12th when his tee shot came up short and into the bunker. Mick­el­son poured it on, show­ing his skills have not de­te­ri­o­rated a bit at age 48, con­trol­ling spin beau­ti­fully to back pin po­si­tions. He just didn’t want to stay an­other day. “I get where Paul is com­ing from,” Mick­el­son said. “We’re go­ing to have a good chance to come out on fresh greens. I have good vi­sion, I can see fine and I wanted to con­tinue. In all hon­esty, it’s a good thing to play the last two holes in fresh con­di­tions.”

Some play­ers fin­ished in the dark with no chance of win­ning, but showed the ef­fect of play­ing with­out light. Scott Piercy had a 15-foot putt that was slightly up­hill, and he still ran it 7 feet by the hole and three-putted for bo­gey.

Ja­son Day closed with a 68 and was tied for fourth at 13-un­der 175 with Si Woo Kim (68).

ERIC RISBERG/AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Phil Mick­el­son fol­lows his drive from the fourth tee of the Peb­ble Beach Golf Links dur­ing the fi­nal round of the AT&T Peb­ble Beach Pro-Am on Sun­day in Peb­ble Beach, Calif.

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