By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Brandt Snedeker seems to be a fixture at the top of leaderboards these days and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is no exception.
The reigning FedExCup champ and current points leader fired a bogey-free 68 at Spyglass Hill on Friday that left him tied with Ted Potter Jr. at 8 under. A scoring error on-site had Snedeker originally making a double bogey at the 11th hole but it was changed to a par when he signed his scorecard.
Snedeker has finished second the last two weeks and also was third to open his season in Maui.
"I played really solid today," Snedeker said. "I didn't really make any mistakes which was nice and made some key par putts but four birdies, no bogeys. .. I didn't make a lot of putts today but look forward to going into the weekend, confidence is very high, and after last week, feel like my game is where I want it to be and two good days to go, should be a lot of fun."
Potter, who played Monterey Peninsula, opened his round by draining a 50-footer for eagle on the 10th hole at the Shore Course on the way to a 67. He gave two shots back by the time he reached the turn but Potter got back on track with four birdies on the front nine.
Potter would have had sole possession of the lead had it not been for a three-putt at No. 9.
"It was a good day today," Potter said. "... Felt good all day. Just glad the weather cleared up. ... A little disappointing finish on the last there with a 3 putt, but all in all, a good day."
Fredrik Jacobson rode a 66 at Pebble Beach, which was the day's low round, into a tie for third at 7 under. John Merrick shot 67 and Hunter Mahan a 69 at the Shore Course to finish at 7 under, as well, while Patrick Reed had a 69 at Pebble Beach to join them.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson couldn't get untracked at Spyglass Hill, making birdie on his 17th hole of the day to shoot 71. He had made three birdies on the back nine, his first of the day, to climb the leaderboard but gave those back with bogeys at Nos. 2, 4 and 5.
Mickelson is bidding to win consecutive events for the third time in his career.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Brandt Snedeker couldn't have asked for a better pairing in the first three rounds of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
The red-hot Snedeker is playing with fellow Vanderbilt alumn, Luke List, who is a PGA TOUR rookie this season. Not to mention, Snedeker's pro-am partner is investor Toby Wilt, who played football at Vandy and makes his home in Nashville, Tenn., as Snedeker does.
And as it that's not enough of a bond both Snedeker and List, who is partnered with NBA International president Heidi Ueberroth, attended Vanderbilt on the Toby S. Wilt Athletic Scholarship.
"We are thick as thieves," Snedeker said. "When we get together, we like to have a good time and it's worked out well that we can play together. We had a lot of fun out there today."
Snedeker probably had more fun than anybody after shooting a 66 at Monterey Peninsula's Shore Course that left him two strokes off the lead. Snedeker made three birdies on the front nine to turn in 31, then added another trio on the back but also dropped two strokes to par.
Not that Snedeker's solid play should come as any surprise. He leads the FedExCup after finishing second the last two weeks and opening the year with a solo third on Maui. Snedeker is the eighth player since 1990 to post runner-up finishes in back-to-back weeks.
"I played really, really solid teed to green," said Snedeker, who hit 10 fairways and 14 greens in regulation. "Made a few putts early to get the momentum going but tough to make a lot of putts over here today. Golf course is in great shape. Greens are a little bumpy but rolled really fast and hard to make a lot of putts on.
"All in all it's good start to the week. Got two more days, don't know where you stand so tough Saturday afternoon, so good start.'
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Defending champion Phil Mickelson, who is bidding for his fifth title at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, has gotten off to a solid start.
He's playing the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club and has made three birdies in his first 11 holes. He's four off the lead being held by Seung-yul Noh, who has completed 16 holes at Pebble Beach.
Mickelson, who is seeking consecutive victories after Sunday's win at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, is driving the ball well again -- hitting six of his first eight fairways while also finding eight off 11 greens in regulation.
Mickelson has won back-to-back weeks twice in his career: 2005 (Waste Management-AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am) & 2006 (BellSouth Classic and Masters).
Brandt Snedeker, who has finished second the last two weeks to Tiger Woods and Mickelson, is also at 3 under after playing 10 holes at Monterey Peninsula.
Dustin Johnson, who won at Pebble Beach in 2008 and 2009, is having a difficult time at the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula on Thursday. He's 4 over through 14 holes on the par-70 layout.
Johnson's highest score ever in this tournament is a 74 -- shot twice, both times in the final round at Pebble Beach.
Brandt Snedeker looks to continue his hot play this week in Pebble Beach. (Dunn/Getty Images)
By Brian Wacker, PGATOUR.COM
Over the last eight starts on the PGA TOUR no one has been better than Brandt Snedeker.
A bold statement yes, but golf is all about numbers and Snedeker’s don’t lie: One win, three runner-up finishes (most of any player; two of them coming in his last two starts), five top-5 finishes (most of any player), one finish outside the top 25.
Not enough for you?
Snedeker has the lowest stroke average on TOUR since the start of last year’s FedExCup Playoffs at 68.29 with 28 of his 31 rounds under par for a combined 98-under par.
Of his last 13 rounds this season, 12 of them have been south of 70. He’s first in birdie average, first in the FedExCup standings and second in scoring average to Charles Howell III by a tenth of a stroke. (Howell, by the way, has enjoyed his own fantastic start to the season, but Snedeker’s case runs a little deeper).
It’s hard to say this could be a breakout year for a guy who won twice in 2012, captured the FedExCup and is currently sixth in the world. But we would also be remiss to chalk him up as just another good player on a hot streak.
Six years ago, Snedeker was named Rookie of the Year. Now the 32-year-old looks to be on the verge of something special in a progression not all that different from, say, Baltimore Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco’s.
Much like Flacco's prior failures in the playoffs before an MVP performance in the Super Bowl, Snedeker has endured his own share of major heartbreak, first at the 2008 Masters then the 2012 British Open. Each was ripe for Snedeker's taking before he shot a final-round 77 at Augusta National and closed with rounds of 73-74 at Royal Lytham & St. Annes.
Flacco went from good to very good to elite, and Snedeker could be on a similar path. This year, he hasn’t even hit full stride because the strongest part of his game -- putting -- has in fact not been that. He ranks 25th in strokes gained-putting, compared to No. 1 last season and in the top four in two of the last four.
But Snedeker has improved in other areas this year -- he moved from 109th in driving accuracy to 19th and from 132nd in greens in regulation to 11th.
In 2012, he ranked 121st in approach shots from 125-150 yards; 167th from 100-125 yards; and 111th from 75-100 yards. In the season-opener at Kapalua, he was eighth, fourth and 15th, respectively.
Most of the latter was because Snedeker worked hard on his distance control and even harder to stick to the old addage of if it ain't broke, don't fix it. “I just had the best year of my career and feel like I'm doing everything the right way, so why would I want to change anything?” Snedeker told me. “I think my golf swing is as good as it's ever been.”
As one coach described him, Snedeker swings the club and plays golf like a kid but has an underlying determination to win every time he tees it up. Which is to say he oozes natural talent and has a burning desire to be great.
As his own coach of the last seven years, Todd Anderson, described him, Snedeker has had a steady improvement and maturation from a physical and mental standpoint.
"He practices a lot smarter than he used to and knows what he needs to work on," Anderson said. "He's done a very good job at balancing everything and has a lot of talent and a great work ethic."
Not that Snedeker considers himself in the class of the elite, and there is some merit to his point.
“You have to win majors and win tournaments to be recognized as an elite player,” Snedeker said. “I haven't done nearly enough of that.”
Not yet, anyway.
Brandt Snedeker was his usual self again on the greens, moving up 60 spots in strokes gained-putting.
By Bill Cooney, PGATOUR.COM
Phil Mickelson's near-record setting victory at the Waste Management Phoenix Open came down to a pair of statistics: Driving and iron play. Mickelson incresed his distance off the tee and was laser-like with his irons. Mickelson said a lesson with Butch Harmon and a new driver did the trick.
How good was Mickelson with his driver and irons? Well, let's go inside the numbers to find out ...
4 What did the top-four finishers at WM Phoenix have in common? Drive for show, putt for dough right? All four – Mickelson (5th), Brandt Snedeker (4th), Scott Piercy (1st) and Ryan Moore (2nd) rolled their way to a high finish. Combined, the top four picked up nearly 45 strokes on the field average for the week. … James Hahn, who was third in SGP on the week, was T16 – but first in the dance-off portion of the competition.
7 Number of times Mickelson has led a tournament in greens in regulation and won. Mickelson hit 63 of 72 greens at the WM Phoenix, which marked the 15th time he’s led a tournament in GIR. … Mickelson also led the field in GIR and won the 2007 AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, 2006 BellSouth Classic, 2004 Masters, 2000 Buick Invitational, 1997 Bay Hill Invitational and 1993 Buick Invitational of California.
9 under Strokes under par Mickelson was on the par 3s at TPC Scottsdale. ... That’s phenomenal, and it's also the second-best par-3 performance during any tournament on TOUR since 1980. Only Justin Leonard was better – he was 10 under on the par 3s in winning the 1996 Buick Open. Mickelson also birdied all four par 3s in his first-round 60.
14 of 15 Number of times/attempts that David Lingmerth has carded birdie or better when going for the green in two shots on a par 5 or in one on a par 4. Only Robert Allenby is better in 2013, having converted 6 of 6 attempts. … Lingmerth, who also ranks third in strokes gained-putting, is a rookie Web.com Tour grad off to a solid start this season. He had a T31 at the Sony Open in Hawaii and lost a playoff to Brian Gay at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation. Looks like Lingmerth should go for the green as many times as possible.
16 Consecutive cuts made for Ian Poulter, the new TOUR leader after Jason Dufner’s cut streak ended at 22 with a disappointing showing in Phoenix. … Poulter’s streak includes his entire 2012 PGA TOUR season. His last missed cut was the 2011 Deutsche Bank Championship. During the streak, Poulter had four top 10s, including two thirds and a win at the WGC-HSBC Champions. He opened 2013 with a T9 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions.
27 feet, 6 inches Mickelson’s approach shot proximity average, which ranked first at WM Phoenix. … That was 7 feet closer to the hole than the field average of 34 feet, 7 inches. It’s also the fifth time in Mickelson’s career where he led this category (stat first kept in 2003) and second time he led and won (2004 Bob Hope).
32 Consecutive greens in regulation that Charlie Wi hit starting on No. 16 in the first round of the WM Phoenix. ... Not too shabby. It’s no surprise that Wi carded a 63 in Round 2 when he went 18-for-18. But he tailed off, finishing T49. For comparison, Wi’s streak of 32 would have been third-best for the entire 2012 season. Chad Campbell hit 35 greens in a row to lead that category in 2012.
60 The number of spots Snedeker moved up in his 2013 strokes gained-putting ranking following the WM Phoenix. Snedeker – who ranked No. 1 last season -- now ranks 25th and appears to be hitting his stride. He had 35 one-putts and only one three-putt in 72 holes on the week. Sneds also averaged 25 putts per round, No. 1 on the week.
200 Consecutive holes Casey Wittenberg has gone without a three-putt. … That’s tops on TOUR in 2013. So how ironic is it that his streak of 200 started after back-to-back three-putts in Round 2 of the Sony Open in Hawaii?
298.9 Driving distance average for Phil Mickelson at the WM Phoenix. That tied for 12th for the week – which included a 358-yard poke. … Last week in Inside the Numbers, we pointed out Mickelson’s decline in driving distance during 2012 and during his first two weeks of the season. He entered Phoenix at 284.6 and 126th on TOUR. But after a switch in equipment – he put the Callaway RAZR Fit Xtreme driver in his bag at Phoenix – and a quick lesson from swing coach Harmon, Mickelson was back up near 300 yards. Will the new driver make all of the difference? Mickelson did say his new club helped keep the spin down off the tee. We’ll have to revisit this stat later in the year.
782 FedExCup points for leader and reigning champ Brandt Snedeker, who has picked up right where he left off. Snedeker has done everything but win this season, carding two runner-ups, a third and a T23 in four starts. … For comparison, Kyle Stanley held the lead last season through the WM Phoenix with 846 points. But Stanley picked up 500 of those points via a victory.
INSIDE THE NUMBERS ARCHIVE
Week 2: Sony Open/Humana Challenge
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brandt Snedeker moved back to first in the FedExCup standings with his second straight runner-up finish at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday.
Snedeker won the 2012 FedExCup and its $10 million bonus when he made the TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola his second win of the season. Snedeker, who came to Phoenix ranked seventh in the season-long competition for 2013, has continued that momentum this year with three finishes of third or better in four starts.
Phil Mickelson, who ended up beating Snedeker by four strokes at TPC Scottsdale, jumped from 91st to third in the FedExCup. Mickelson also moved to 10th in the Official World Golf Ranking while Snedeker rose one spot to a career-high sixth.
It's the first time Mickelson has been back in the top 10 since he tied for seventh at the 2012 HP Byron Nelson Championship. Mickelson started his 2013 campaign at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation ranked No. 22.
Mickelson has been ranked as high as No. 2 in the world.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brandt Snedeker must feel like he's beating his head against the wall.
After all, he's finished second at the last two PGA TOUR events, losing to Tiger Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open in a Monday finish and Phil Mickelson at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday.
"I feel like I'm running into the Hall of Famers every week," Snedeker said with a smile. "It would be nice if they weren't in the field and I could go ahead and go after it. It's just tough, you know. ... It was fun to watch, fun to be part of. You want to win those, and hopefully I will soon."
In each case Snedeker made a spirited bid, most recently closing with consecutive rounds of 65 at TPC Scottsdale but falling four strokes shy of Mickekson, who led wire-to-wire and tied the tournament's 72-hole scoring record. In fact, seven of Snedeker's last eight rounds have been in the 60s for a cumulative total of 34 under.
"I had one bad round last week," Snedeker said. "This week I didn't have a bad round. I played great all four days. Phil just played unbelievable, played like Phil."
Each champ was essentially playing on home turf, too -- Woods winning at Torrey Pines for the eighth time in his career and Mickelson for the third time at TPC Scottdale not far from where he went to college and made his home for 12 years.
Snedeker cut Mickelson's lead in half at the turn when he birdied No. 9 for a 31 to pull within three. But he lost ground when his drive at the par-5 13th landed in a cactus plant and he had to take an unplayable lie. Snedeker pulled within three again with a 5-footer at the signature 16th but when both birdied the driveable 17th hole Mickelson's win was all but assured.
"I had a great putt on 10 I thought was going to go in," Snedeker said. "I thought if I had made that putt, you know, I think I would have gotten within two or three at that time, I thought it's a fair ball game. Because a lot can happen with the next few holes.
"Just couldn't seem to get that putt to get within two or one or whatever it was to make him really think about it. He was playing great, so I knew I needed to make birdies. I just didn't do it early in the back nine."
Snedeker now has three finishes of third or better in his first four starts of 2013. In fact, in his eight PGA TOUR starts dating back to The Barclays, which started his run to the FedExCup title, Snedeker has one win and five finishes of sixth or better.
Asked whether he felt he got the recognition he deserved, though, Snedeker admitted he still needed to fill out his resume.
"You have to win majors and win tournaments to be recognized as an elite player," he said. "And I haven't done nearly enough of that, you know. I'm playing great right now. I'm as high as I have ever been in the world ranking and all that kind of stuff, but you have to win tournaments to validate that. I haven't done it.
"I think when you win majors and win multiple times in years, you validate whatever people say about you."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Phil Mickelson didn't get the PGA TOUR's all-time scoring record but he did get the victory he wanted at the Waste Management Phoenix Open on Sunday.
Mickelson started the final round leading by six and ended up beating Brandt Snedeker by four to become the first wire-to-wire winner in Phoenix since Steve Jones' 1997 victory -- and just the second here in 43 years. The last player to lead after each of the first three rounds and go on to victory was Rory McIlroy in the 2011 U.S. Open at Congressional.
Mickelson, who closed with a 67 on Sunday, also earned a share of the tournament's 72-hole scoring record but fell two strokes shy of the PGA TOUR mark. Mark Calcavecchia also shot 28 under in his 2001 victory.
The win was the 41st of Mickelson's World Golf Hall of Fame career and his third at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, tying him with Calcavecchia, Gene Littler and Arnold Palmer for the most all-time. He has now won 19 times in California and Arizona -- and will defend the 18th next week at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Snedeker didn't make it easy on Mickelson, though. He closed to within three strokes for the second time on Sunday when he made a 5-footer for birdie at the 16th hole. He and Mickelson proceeded to match birdies at the driveable 17th but Snedeker bogeyed the 18th.
"It was a ton of fun," Snedeker said. "To be in the last group with Phil and kind of trade birdie for birdie and make up some ground was a lot of fun. It's what we play for. ... I wish I could have put some more pressure on him and got a little closer than I did today, but I think I shot 12 under par on the weekend and made one bogey.
"Sometimes you have to tip your hat and say Phil played unbelievable and deserved to win, and that's kind of what this week was all about."
Snedeker, who closed with a 65, has now finished second the last two weeks -- losing to Tiger Woods at the Farmers Insurance Open and Mickelson in Phoenix. He finished solo third at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions, as well.
How well did Mickelson play at TPC Scottsdale this week? He led the field in greens in regulation and was 10th in putting. He made 29 birdies and one eagle while dropping just three shots to par with one bogey and one double bogey over 72 holes.
The low round of the day belonged to Scott Piercy, who sho 61 and finished alone in third at 23 under. Ryan Moore was another stroke behind after his second straight 65.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brandt Snedeker continues to apply pressure but he may be running out of holes at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Snedeker made a 5-footer for birdie at the par-3 16th, the tournament's wildly entertainly signature hole, to pull within three strokes of Mickelson. The leader, who is 27 under, narrowly missed a 15-footer for his own birdie there.
The group has two holes remaining. The 17th is a driveable par 4 that is playing to 317 yards on Sunday with the pin on the extreme left of the green. The 18th is a 449-yard par 4 with ample water in front of the tee and continuing down the left side of the fairway.
Mickelson is 3 under at the 17th while Snedeker eagled it in the first round and made a birdie there on Saturday.
Mickelson double bogeyed the 18th on Friday but made birdie there on Thursday and Saturday. Snedeker has played it in 1 under.
SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. -- Brandt Snedeker faced quite a challenge at the par-5 13th when his drive landed underneath a branch of a jumping cholla cactus.
Complicating the issue was Phil Mickelson, who played first and put his second shot from 271 yards on the green for a 40-foot eagle try. But Snedeker really didn't have much choice -- and there are birdie holes remaining -- so he opted to take his medicine and the unplayable lie.
Snedeker then hit his third shot into the right greenside bunker. He blasted out to 4 feet and made the putt for par but he lost ground on Mickelson, who two-putted for his fourth birdie of the week on the 13th hole.
Mickelson is now 26 under and four strokes ahead of his playing partner. Scott Piercy and Ryan Moore are 20 under with four and five holes remaining, respectively.