Every once in a while, the golfer poised to defend his title at an event arrives on the scene having also won the week before. This is Phil Mickelson's reality as the PGA TOUR gets set for the 72nd annual AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-am.
Sitting six strokes back of 54-hole leader Charlie Wi a year ago, Mickelson turned in a bogey-free, 8-under 64 to win by two. It was his 40th career victory on the PGA TOUR. For the week, he ranked T3 in greens in regulation and T10 in putting average to epitomize the formula for success on the trio of tracks in play.
Pebble Beach Golf Links is a par 72. Yet, at 6,816 yards, it's the shortest course on the PGA TOUR. The absence of distance tee to green hasn't prevented long hitters from emerging victorious but length can be ruled out as a necessary means to contend. In 2012, Pebble Beach averaged 71.857 strokes per round. It was just the second time in seven years that the field averaged under par on the famed layout hugging Stillwater Cove.
First introduced into the rotation in 1967, Spyglass Hill Golf Club can stretch to 6,953 yards, longest of the three co-hosts, but it was still the fourth-shortest par 72 of 20 used in non-majors in 2012. For the fourth consecutive year, it registered the lowest average distance off the tee (268.6 yards) of any course. On the scorecard, it averaged 72.581. In the last 14 years, it's checked in under par only once (71.603 in 2010).
Rounding out the rota is Monterey Peninsula Country Club's Shore Course. In play for just the seventh time (1965-66, 1977, 2010-12), it's a par 70 measuring 6,838 yards, thus qualifying it as the second-shortest course on the PGA TOUR. For each of the editions since the late Mike Strantz redesigned it in 2003, the Shore Course has averaged under par. Last year's clip of 69.883 was the highest the modern pros have submitted.
This week's cut is unique. It will fall after 54 holes when all 156 competitors have played each course once. Then, the low 60 and ties will advance to the final round at Pebble Beach. Those finishing 61st-70th will be credited with a cut made and will be rewarded with FedExCup points and official earnings. The low 25 amateurs will also play on Sunday to determine the pro-am title.
Weather could play a factor during the first two days of the tournament. Rain isn't expected to fall until Friday, but winds are already forecast to be moderate through the end of the work week. Scoring conditions could improve on the weekend as sunshine returns and winds abate. However, it'll be chilly as the high temperatures may not reach 60 degrees.
|Power Rankings: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am|