Phil Mickelson's confidence continues at AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
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Written by Jim McCabe @PGATOUR
Phil Mickelson Round 2 highlights at AT&T Pebble Beach
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – If there was a blanket of familiarity that settled over the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in Friday’s second round, it was owed to more than the infamous “Pebble weather” that came roaring in, as forecast. The presence of Phil Mickelson’s name atop the leaderboard had plenty to do with it, too.
Clearly in love with a tournament that he has won more than any other – four times – Mickelson plays more like he’s 18 than 48 when on the Monterey Peninsula, and while he credits his California roots for understanding poa greens, there’s far more to his success than that. His good play here has traveled a wide victory path – from the August finish in 1998 when he was 28, to an epic closing 64 in 2012 when he was 41 – and what has accompanied that success is a remarkable presence at the top of the leaderboard.
Mickelson has owned a share of the lead after 12 rounds in six different AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Ams and depending on how things unfold when the second round is completed Saturday morning, that total may increase by one. That’s because Mickelson coaxed in a birdie putt on his final hole at Spyglass Hills Golf Club, the par-4 ninth, to shoot 4-under 68 and get into a tie at 10-under with Lucas Glover (66 at Pebble Beach), Paul Casey (64 at Monterey Peninsula) and Scott Langley (69 at Spyglass).
MUST READS: Round 2, AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am
A fifth player at 10-under, the esteemed Jordan Spieth, was chased from the course on his 17th hole, the par-4 eighth, when play was halted because of torrential rain. Jason Day, at 9-under, and Scott Piercy, at 8-under, will also finish Round 2 Saturday morning, so it remains to be seen whether Mickelson will share a lead for a 13th time in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. But regardless, his stature in this iconic tournament is forever cemented.
Not that Mickelson was of that mindset when his second round was completed just before pulsating rain hit the peninsula. Instead, he bemoaned the roller-coaster he rode at Spyglass Hill.
Carrying over the momentum from Thursday’s 6-under 65 at Monterey Peninsula, Mickelson scorched the back side in 4-under 32 to push to 10-under and open a two-stroke lead. He then added birdies at the front-side par 3s – the 172-yard third and 197-yard fifth – to maintain a two-stroke cushion, and even when he missed the fairway left and made bogey at the par-4 sixth, the lefthander appeared to have things in control.
After all, he stood on the tee at the short, 529-yard, par-5 seventh knowing he had already birdied six of the par-5s in the tournament. But he pulled his drive into wet rough right of the fairway and faced a quirky shot to try and reach the green in two.
“You’ve got water left,” said Mickelson, “so I just had to be right. I was just trying to chase it up on the right side.” Of course, there was a tree down the right side “and I had to hug it pretty close.”
Unfortunately, he did more than hug it; he crashed his ball into it and the ricochet landed him beneath a pine tree 30 yards right of the fairway. From there, Mickelson made his second straight bogey and then he made it three in a row when he missed the eighth fairway way right.
“I didn’t drive it like I did yesterday,” Mickelson said, which qualifies as a Hall of Fame understatement. After all, he hit all 13 fairways at MPCC Thursday, but only six of 14 at Spyglass. In fact, the only fairway he hit on his last nine came at his 18th, the 431-yard ninth, though Mickelson was faced with a true indicator about the demands of this demanding day.
“That was a long, tough hole that’s usually a driver, 8- or 9-iron,” said Mickelson, “but I had to whistle a 4-iron in (there).”
From about 18 feet, Mickelson curled it in with a sharp left-hand turn at the cup. His seventh birdie of the day and 14th of the tournament was arguably his most crucial thus far – not because it earned him a share of the clubhouse lead, but because it got him off the bogey train.
Oh, and, of course, getting in before the rain was a bonus, just more Mickelson magic here at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Jim McCabe has covered golf since 1995, writing for The Boston Globe, Golfweek Magazine, and PGATOUR.COM. Follow Jim McCabe on Twitter.