Phil Mick­el­son on cusp of vic­tory at Peb­ble Beach

Texarkana Gazette - - SPORTS - By Doug Fer­gu­son

PEB­BLE BEACH, Calif.—Phil Mick­el­son put him­self on the brink of a fifth vic­tory in the AT&T Peb­ble Beach pro-am by turn­ing a three-shot deficit into a three-shot lead when a wild day of weather kept him from fin­ish­ing Sun­day.

Mick­el­son was bo­gey-free with six birdies, and he 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 five-hole stretch when Mick­el­son made three birdies and Paul Casey had two bo­geys.

About the only thing that didn’t go Mick­el­son’s way was the tim­ing.

The fi­nal round started an hour late be­cause of rain, and then it was de­layed two more hours when sun­shine gave way to a hail storm in a mat­ter of min­utes, cov­er­ing the putting greens in a sheet of white.

Mick­el­son was at 18-un­der par through 16 holes. Casey had a 3-foot par putt on the same hole when Mick­el­son tried to lobby for them to fin­ish, even in the dark.

“I can see fine,” Mick­el­son told a rules of­fi­cial. “I don’t want to put Paul in a bad spot.”

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.

“I don’t see how we can fin­ish,” Casey said as they walked up the 16th fair­way. “We can’t fin­ish two holes in six min­utes. I’d like to.”

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 ap­proach shot from the fourth fair­way of the Peb­ble Beach Golf Links on Sun­day dur­ing the fi­nal round of the AT&T Peb­ble Beach Pro-Am golf tour­na­ment in Peb­ble Beach, Calif.

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