PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – The final group has six holes remaining, and the race has tightened considerably at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Steve Marino just missed the green at the par-3 12th hole, chipped on and missed a 21-footer for par to drop back into a three-way tie for the lead at 12 under. Also in that group at D.A. Points and Hunter Mahan, who is 5 under through 15 holes.
Bryce Molder and Jimmy Walker are one stroke behind while Alex Cejka and Tom Gillis are tied at 10 under. Of the top seven players on the leaderboard only Mahan has won a PGA TOUR event.
The leader in the clubhouse is Nick Watney, who shot 67 on Sunday to finish at 9 under. If there is a playoff, the holes would be Nos. 18, 17 and 18.
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- A surprisingly dry winter, coupled with picture-perfect weather, has spun the meteorological clock forward on the Monterey Peninsula.
The three courses that make up the rotation for the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am are firmer and faster than they normally are in mid-February. Not quite U.S. Open and last June conditions, but the courses are definitely not as soft as usual.
The change is reflected in the scoring averages. The fairways may allow more roll but at the same time, the greens can harder to hold. Pebble Beach, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula are all played over par in the first round compared with under par a year ago.
Thursday's scoring average at Pebble Beach was 72.462 compared with 70.885 a year ago. At Spyglass Hill it was 72.444 compared with 71.519 while the numbers at Monterey Peninsual were 70.712 vs. 68.987.
Tom Gillis, who shot 67 at Pebble Beach, said he's never seen conditions like this in February.
"I knew it was going to be tough," Gillis said. "I played yesterday, and I just thought, these greens are so firm and fast, I mean, they're going to have to be careful. If you get a 10-mph wind out here, you got some issues.
“It's in good shape. Don't get me wrong, it's fun. But we're pushing the envelope, especially with the amateurs, because they can't hold any greens.
"If you get above the hole, you could putt it right off the greens. We're not used to seeing it this way. I didn't play here in June. I'm sure it was very similar."
Steve Marino shot a 65 at Spyglass Hill, generally regarded as the more difficult of the three courses. His round of 7 under put him in the lead with D.A. Points, who had a 63 at Monterey Peninsula, the only par 70 in the rota.
Marino called Spyglass, his favorite course, "the longest 6,900 yard golf course ever." It played significantly shorter, though, due to the firm fairways.
"There were a number of holes where I was hitting irons in, like 9-irons and wedges, where I've hit hybrids and 3-woods in before," said.
Alex Cejka, who opened his round with an albatross on the 10th hole, shot a 64 at Monterey Peninsula. He thought the greens there were still a little soft.
"If it's a little bit firmer you hit the balls a little bit further, you hit shorter clubs into the greens," Cejka said. "I don't want say it's playing easier, but it's playing a little bit shorter. The greens are kind of still soft. They run great, but they're soft.
"What's good is when you hit a 50iron in and you pitch it and you stop it in the next couple feet so you can attack much more flags than normal. Like when we played here for the U.S. Open, it was totally different story.
"I never seen it like this, and I was almost in shock when I get here and played my first practice round, what kind of difference from the tournament that we're playing now in January or February, and then you come in June to the Open.
"So that was a different story. But the weather is nice. It's calm and warm right now, and all three courses are brilliant. We have a couple more rounds to go. We'll see what happens." – Helen Ross
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- That sloppy three-putt of a double bogey on the 11th hole wasn't exactly the kind of start that Tom Gillis was hoping for at Pebble Beach on Thursday.
Not to worry, though. Gillis got back on track with three straight birdies starting at the 13th hole, then added another trio on his second nine en route to a solid 67.
"Other than the double bogey it was pretty flawless," Gillis said. "Probably could have been something a little bit better."
Still, the round was good enough to leave Gillis two strokes off the pace set by Steve Marino and D.A. Points -- and making a trip to the interview room for the second straight Thursday. The well-traveled veteran also shot 65 in the first round of last week's Waste Management Phoenix Open but ended up in a tie for 68th.
Gillis appeared more confident after Thursday's opener, though. That's because he's made an adjustment in his putting stroke that paid dividends with just 26 in the first round.
"It just wasn't allowing me to start the ball on the intended line," Gillis said, adding that his ball-striking carried him through a week ago. "No matter how good I was hitting it in the last week, I couldn't make putts. That just turned into frustration. ..."
Aside from the opening double bogey, there was little frustration on Thursday. Gillis made birdie putts from 13, 9, 15, 19, 4 and 3 feet.
"I like the West Coast," Gillis said. "Some players don't. I've always liked to come out here and play. It's one of my favorite parts of the year. ...
"I would say I obviously thought maybe we would have a little bit better chance to win by now, four, five weeks in. Last week we had a good first round and lost momentum after the break that we had.
"And here we are again. Put ourselves in good position at the beginning of the tournament and never know. Keep knocking on the door and maybe something will happen." – Helen Ross
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Tom Gillis had the first tee time of the day but thanks to a series of text messages keeping him informed about the frost delay, the veteran actually had a pretty leisurely morning.
So instead of pacing around in the locker room, Gillis got to sleep in and watch "Dora The Explorer" with his daughter before he headed over to TPC Scottsdale to get down to business.
Four hours after Gillis' original starting time -- in essence, about when he would have normally been finishing his opening round -- he hit the first shot in a round of 65 that gave him a share of the lead at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Gillis is tied with Bill Haas, Tom Lehman and Jason Bohn at 6 under.
Gillis chipped in for his first birdie, which was also the opening one of the tournament, and went on to made three in his first four holes. He got up and down from the greenside bunker on the par-5 third and made a 4-footer for a birdie at the fourth.
Gillis then made three more birdies on the back nine and didn't drop a shot to par. He was extremely solid tee to green -- missing just one fairway and two greens -- and he used just 28 putts.
"(I) just got off to a quick start and built some momentum and was hitting it very solid and had a real good warm-up," Gillis said. "I felt pretty good going out. I was real confident when I went out.
"We had a good group, played fast. I like to play fast. Blake Adams plays fast, Chris Riley is probably the fastest guy on TOUR, one of them, and I'm not far behind. So we moved along. ... It was a good pace, good fun."
Gillis may live in Florida now, but he is from Michigan and he maintains a summer place there. He got a serious dose of winter when he went home over Christmas so Thursday's temperatures that hovered in the mid-40s must have felt almost balmy.
"I was ... up there for the holidays, and we played hockey every day on the lake and it was 15 degrees with no wind," Gillis said. "... And I was wearing the same stuff. It felt a little colder today -- probably because we weren't moving as much as we were when we were playing hockey.
"I don't know, it was 32 or 33 it seemed like when we were getting ready to tee off, maybe a little more than that. But it just seemed colder than 15 degrees up there, that's all I know.” – Helen Ross
Check out Gillis’ bogey-free scorecard here .
After Charley Hoffman, who has had the second-hottest round on Monday?
The answer would be Tom Gillis.
In fact, you could argue that no player the last two days have been any hotter. Gillis posted his second consecutive 6-under 65 and at 16 under is currently tied for third with Geoff Ogilvy, who is playing his last hole.
Gillis is headed for the best finish of his PGA TOUR career. His previous best was a tie for seventh at the 2003 FBR Capital Open.
Gillis entered this week’s event ranked 92nd in FedExCup points, but he’s currently projected to move up to 27th.
Tom Gillis started the final round of the Deutsche Bank Championship on the verge of making the third event of the PGA TOUR Playoffs for the FedExCup. And he’s only adding more security with birdies on two of his first four holes.
Gillis, who spent the last four years on the Nationwide Tour, is 12 under and tied for sixth. He’s currently projected at 53rd in the FedExCup – a jump of 39 spots.
The well-traveled 32-year-old from Michigan has played golf in 26 different countries. On Tuesday, looks like Gillis may be adding a new city to his list – Chicago for the BMW Championship.
In his first 91 starts on the PGA TOUR, Tom Gillis has finished in the top 10 just three times. His best result is a tie for seventh in 2003 at the FBR Capital Open.
But after spending most of the last few years on the Nationwide Tour, Gillis posted his other two top-10 results this year, which helped him get into the Playoffs.
Now he's in position to make a run for another top-10 after a third-round bogey-free 65 left him at 10 under going into Monday's final round.
"Am I surprised my best-ever finish was seventh? Yeah, kind of," Gillis said after his round. "Guess I don't lose any sleep over it. I'm getting comfortable. I'll be out here next year (on TOUR) so I'll get even more comfortable."
Gillis looked comfortable on Sunday, especially on TPC Boston's greens. He made six putts of 10 feet or longer, including two putts of longer than 20 feet.
He needed just 21 putts, which ties Brandt Snedeker's second round for the fewest in any round this week.
"I made a bunch of putts," Willis said. "I haven't done that in a few months.
"Today I hit the ball OK. Wouldn't say it was great. But then I just rolled everything in. I've had that feeling several times the last couple of years. It just hasn't happened much this year."
Gillis came into this week's event ranked 92nd in FedExCup points after missing the cut last week at The Barclays. He knows his Playoffs life will be on the line in the final round. He figures he needs to finish somewhere inside the top 20 to have a shot of advancing to next week's BMW Championship.
But he also says he will be playing with no pressure.
"I wouldn't say I have any expectations," Gillis said. "I'm just going to go out and play. If I get the putter going again, you never know what'll happen."