PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (Feb. 11, 2010) – For years, if it was Wednesday of AT&T Pebble Beach week then Phil Mickelson & Co., were playing Cypress Point. A few handfuls of other pros and the CBS golf team would be over there, too. For good reason. The course lives up to its storied reputation. As much of a dream it is for most amateurs to play Pebble Beach, it’s the same for pros and Cypress Point.
Phil didn’t play there this week. He played Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore course instead, and loved it.
In 2002 architect Michael Strantz undertook a major overhaul of the original 1926 design by scraping out 45 acres of non-native ice plant, rerouting and reshaping the original design, covering the entire place with sand and running 45 miles of drainage pipe under it. This year it replaced Poppy Hills on the tournament rotation.
“I like this course a lot,” said Mickelson, “it’s one my favorites on tour. Mike Strantz did a great job. It’s really a wonderful track and a great addition to the tournament.”
Wednesday there he and Pro-Am partner Bob Diamond, president of Barclays Capital, handled Charles Schwab and KPMG CEO Tim Flynn. Thursday he shot a disappointing 2 under par 68.
Over the last two weeks there had been a lot joking about players looking for Ping Eye 2 wedges on E-Bay. Mickelson might start looking there to buy a putt if things don’t get turned around pretty quickly. He’s striking it really well, hitting plenty of greens but missing so many putts by inches, running over edges, watching them flatten out in the last few rolls after breaking several inches in a 10-foot putt.
If nothing else he could channel his first meeting with CNBC host Joe Kernan, who paired with Brian Gay to round out the foursome for the first three rounds this week.
A couple of days after the 2004 Masters Mickelson was in New York to do a number of guest appearances and his last stop was at the CNBC studio in New Jersey. It was a bright, crisp spring day and before Mickelson arrived Kernan was out front on a synthetic putting green the crew had assembled in hopes of having Mickelson re-create his winning 18-foot putt at Augusta.
When Mickelson walked up, Kernan said his stroke was sour, thought he was going to love the new putter he was using and wondered what Phil thought of it.
“Let’s see you hit a couple of putts,” said Mickelson, who then watched Kernan stab a few in the general direction of the cup.
“Hmm,” he said, “let’s see that thing.”
He took the putter and, right-handed, stroked a ball about 20 feet into the cup.
As the crew went nuts he handed the ball back to an astounded Kernan and, laughing, said, “Well, I guess the problem’s not the putter,”
Kernan cracked up, they went in, did the interview and have been good pals ever since.
For the record, Kernan had another putter in his hands Wednesday, this one anchored in his belly. That’s still not the problem, but Mickelson’s got his own, so there wasn’t a lot of laughing on the greens this time around.