PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (Feb. 12, 2010) – It was a good second round in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, very good, but the first thing Phil Mickelson said after his post-round autograph session was, “My goodness, that could have been really good.”
Caddie Jim Mackay agreed but he also called it, “One of the five weirdest rounds I’ve ever caddied.”
Mickelson retuned to Spyglass Hill Friday in need of a good round. His opening 68 left him in a share of 42nd place. But he set the tournament course record there, a 62 shot in 2005, is driving it long on the sodden courses and hitting a lot of greens.
Starting on 10, he birdied his first two par-5s, 11 and 14, made a 20-foot putt on 16, a 25-foot downhiller on 17 and a 30-footer on 18 to get to 7-under for the tournament. He also missed three putts of 10 feet or less.
Then came No. 1, the par-5 that rolls downhill and sweeps left leaving a view of the wide green framed by bunkers in front and the ocean in back, as stunning an opening hole as there is on the PGA Tour.
Mickelson has had all sorts of adventures there and another chapter was added on Friday. He blocked his drive right, toward the pines towering over underbrush and deep grass. As the group approached the supposed landing area, Bones asked the three marshals sanding in the middle of the fairway if they had the ball.
No, came the answer, but we heard it over there somewhere. After five fruitless minutes of searching, Mickelson played his provisional ball from the fairway to just off the right edge of the green. It was the second time in three rounds, going back to Sunday at Riviera, that a drive went over marshals’ heads and was declared lost.
As he addressed a long chip from the rough, one of the other caddies in the group rattled his clubs, and apparently Mickelson, and the chip came up well short, leading to a double bogey.
Thirty minutes later the caddie was still so shaken that he didn’t realize until too late that Brian Gay and his amateur partner, Joe Kernan, played each other’s balls from just off the third green, resulting in a penalty on Gay and the team.
The fifth is a par-4 that bends left toward a green that appears buried in the grass-covered dunes. Every single year, sometimes as early as the first hole, Bones suggests a layup off the tee and Mickelson insists on hitting driver. That made for a number of adventures when ice plant stretched along the left side of the fairway. This year Mickelson didn’t wait to start the debate at Spyglass. He brought it up on 18 at Riviera on Sunday.
“That pretty much told me he had his mind made up,” said Bones, although on the tee there was a lot of pointing hither and yon before Mickelson crushed a drive 300 yards to a secondary fairway in front of the green. “And what happens?” said Bones. “We’re in a divot.” Par.
Birdies on the par-3 third and par-5 7th got Mickelson back to 7-under. On the 8th he pushed his drive into the left rough. There was a tree leaning in on his right and Spanish moss dripping of another tree straight ahead. He was in a wet, cuppy lie with mud on the right side of his ball.
A minute later Bones said, “Early leader for shot of the year: 180 yards uphill from the rough, 20-yard slice with a 4-iron to 6 feet, tops.”
But again he missed a birdie putt he very well might have made, as he did on 9 when his 15-foot birdie limped left and low at the end. After two days Mickelson ranked third in driving distance, first on greens in regulation and 102nd in putting average. His next two rounds are at Pebble Beach.
It was a very good round and a very weird one that left Mickelson smiling about being just four shots off the lead but thinking about what might have been.