Drama in the dark
The weather was biblical at Pebble Beach on Sunday. Making it fitting that golf's Methuselah stood atop the leader board at round's end.
Phil Mickelson, months away from turning 49 years old, owns a three-shot lead with two holes remaining as the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was suspended due to darkness.
Mickelson, who began the day three shots back of Paul Casey, made the turn in 33 and tied the Englishman with a birdie at the 10th. Back-to-back bogeys from Casey gave the advantage to the five-time major winner, and Mickelson seized the opening with consecutive red figures at the 14th and 15th, reshaping the final three holes from competition into Mickelson's fifth crowning at the Clambake.
Except that coronation will have to wait until Monday. Even by Crosby standards, Mother Nature was a fickle beast on Sunday, with heavy rains and hail causing a series of delays. Mickelson and Casey didn't tee off until 1:09 p.m., almost three-and-a-half hours behind their scheduled time, leaving the duo to fight the fading light on the second nine. Though Mickelson wanted to continue—more on this in a moment—play was called with Casey looking at a three-footer for par on the 16th green.
Pebble's closing holes lend themselves to theater, and Mickelson's past is littered with, ahem, interesting finishes. Nevertheless, weeks after letting one go at the Desert Classic, Mickelson is on the precipice of career PGA Tour win No. 44. At an age where professional golfers have historically been sent to pasture, Mickelson continues to scorn Father Time.
“I know a lot can happen in these two holes,” he said, “and they have happened in the past, so I want to stay focused and just come out tomorrow and try to finish it off. I wish we could do it tonight.”
Phil goes full Phil
Phil wanted to keep going. Needed to, tried his damnedest to. But while Mickelson attempted to Pass Go, Casey and officials raised a stop sign.
And … well, let's just say transparency is the residue of disappointment.
Just as delicious was what preceded it. As microphones picked up Casey saying he couldn't see his putt, Mickelson was heard chirping back, "I can see just fine." A more Mickelsonian response, there is not.
“I genuinely couldn’t see my putt there on 16,” Casey said. “[PGA Tour official] Mark Russell gave us the option to finish, which is why I marked it. So, hopefully, I can see what I’ve got for par, knock that one in, and then I’m going to smash it straight at it. Be aggressive on 17. And I played 18 beautifully on Thursday, good drive and hit a 3-iron into 20 feet, 15 feet. I’m going to try and do the same. And really I need to go kind of minimum birdie, birdie or birdie, eagle, and that might not be good enough, but that’s the plan.”
To Mickelson's credit, he was diplomatic afterwards, refusing to put more fuel on the fire. That Casey is one of the more respected players on the tour didn't hurt, or the fact, that, you know, it was so dark it appeared someone forgot to pay the electric bills.
That said, if Phil wins on Monday, you better believe we're in for a discourse of how the group could have finished if they would have taken his lead. It will be a thing of beauty.