Pebble Beach National Pro-Am 2016
Round 4 - Vaughn Taylor wins again after a decade
February 15, 2016
Vaughn Taylor doesn't know how he lost his game. Even more mystifying was the way it returned.
His goal Sunday when he teed off in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, trailing Phil Mickelson by six shots, was to finish in the top 10 so he wouldn't have to rush down to Los Angeles and try to qualify for the next PGA Tour event.
It had been more than a decade since he won. It had been three years since he had a full PGA Tour card. And just 10 days ago, Taylor was throwing up in his hotel room in Bogota, Colombia, so sick that he withdrew from a Web.com Tour event and flew to Pebble Beach as an alternate. The one-time Ryder Cup player only had a carry bag with him to save money on baggage fees.
Taylor ran off four straight birdies on the back nine at Pebble Beach to close with a 7-under 65, and he wasn't sure it was enough when Mickelson stood over a 5-foot birdie putt to force a playoff. And then Taylor got one last surprise.
''Just absolutely amazing,'' Taylor said. ''Didn't know if it would ever happen again, to be honest. Just lost a lot of confidence, lost a good bit of my game. I just kept working, grinding and kept at it. And I can't believe it actually happened today.''
Neither could Mickelson.
Lefty was going for his record-tying fifth victory at Pebble Beach, and the 43rd title of his Hall of Fame career. He had a two-shot lead to start the final round, lost the lead after five holes, rallied with a birdie on the 17th hole and then delivered two good shots to within 60 feet of the hole, just short of the green on the par-5 18th.
''It never crossed my mind that I wouldn't make that one,'' Mickelson said after his 72.
Taylor had never given up on his career, though he was starting to rule out another victory, and he never imagined returning home to Augusta, Georgia, to play in the Masters. He is the first player this year to qualify by winning.
''Playing in the Masters is my Super Bowl,'' Taylor said.
Taylor was No. 447 in the world and had never won a tournament against the best players. His previous two victories were the Reno-Tahoe Open (2004 and 2005), which is held opposite a World Golf Championship. He had a scare two years ago when his aluminum fishing boat capsized in a strong current, leading to a few moment of panic with cold water up his chin and a park ranger guiding him to shore.
He finished at 17-under 270 and earned $1.26 million, which is about $165,000 more than he made the last three years combined.
Jonas Blixt, the first player to catch Mickelson, made bogey on the par-5 14th to fall back and closed with four pars for a 69 to finish third. Hiroshi Iwata of Japan, who played with Mickelson in the final group, was one shot behind until he missed the 16th green and made bogey. He closed with a 72 to tie for fourth with Freddie Jacobson (71).
Taylor didn't look like much of a threat when he went out in 34, but he poured it on the back nine. He hit his approach to 3 feet on the 13th and to 12 feet on the dangerous par-5 14th. Coming out of the rough on the 15th, his ball hit the golf ball of Matt Jones and settled 2 feet away for a third straight birdie.
The real blow came at the 16th, a 30-foot birdie putt on one of the toughest greens at Pebble. He rammed it hard enough and watched it break back into the cup, and Taylor ran around the green to celebrate.
''I've had that putt before. It's a hard putt,'' Taylor said. ''I wasn't even thinking about making that putt. I knew it broke a lot, and it's a little uphill at the end. It's really easy to leave that putt short. I just flushed it. It was kind of going in from the start.''
He missed two good birdie chances on the last two holes, but still wound up a winner.
Taylor didn't even realize he was in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am - he still has limited status as a past PGA Tour winner - until Monday when he was learned Cal Pettersen had withdrawn. That no longer is a problem. He's in the Masters and PGA Championship, and he gets to set his own schedule for the next two years.
Jordan Spieth, the world's No. 1 player, closed with a 66 and tied for 21st, ending his streak of seven straight top 10s dating to September.
Mickelson at least left Pebble believing he was closer to ending the longest victory drought of his pro career that dates to the 2013 British Open.
''It's certainly disappointing, but it makes me more determined to get back to work and get this thing right,'' he said. ''I know that I'm close to being where I want to be. But if I was there, I would have been able to finish it off.''
Round 3 - Phil Mickelson moves two ahead
February 14, 2016
Far away from the commotion of the celebrities Saturday at Pebble Beach, the most accomplished star among golfers quietly went about his business.
That won't be the case for Phil Mickelson on Sunday.
Mickelson efficiently pieced together a 6-under 66 in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, though it only looked easy on the card. He made birdie on all but one of the par 3s, scrambled for par on half of his holes and wound up with his first 54-hole lead since the 2013 U.S. Open.
The spotlight will be all his in the final round.
It's a chance to end the longest victory drought of his career - 52 events worldwide since he last won at Muirfield in the 2013 British Open. He was two shots clear of Hiroshi Iwata, a 35-year-old with two victories on the Japan Golf Tour. And he was poised to join Mark O'Meara with his fifth victory at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
The next six players on the leaderboard have combined for a whopping four PGA Tour victories. The 45-year-old Mickelson will be going for No. 43.
And yet he left the magnificent sunshine with a mixture of excitement and concern, along with his typical fill of optimism.
It was hard work.
''I was very pleased to shoot that round, obviously, but there were a lot of holes I just had to fight for pars,'' Mickelson said. ''It wasn't a pushover by any means.''
He planned on bringing in Andrew Getson, his new swing coach, to sharpen his game ahead of the final round.
Mickelson was at 16-under 199
Iwata, who tied a major championship record with a 63 at Whistling Straits in the PGA Championship last year, had six birdies in his round of 69 at Spyglass Hill.
He has yet to finish in the top 20 in America.
''I haven't felt any nerves or I haven't felt any pressure quite yet, but whether it's going to be regardless of tonight or tomorrow morning, I just want to make sure I go out there and in a good mental condition,'' Iwata said.
Freddie Jacobson had a 68 at Monterey Peninsula, which for the first time this week played the toughest of the three courses because of the brisk wind. He was three shots behind, along with Sung Kang, who had a 70 at Pebble Beach.
Jordan Spieth, the world's No. 1 player, was happy to have a tee time on Sunday.
Spieth struggled on the par 5s for the third straight round, playing them at 1 over at Pebble Beach. He had to get up-and-down for par on the par-5 18th for a 74 to make the cut on the number. He has played the par 5s in even par for the week.
''I'm not in contention. It will be the first stress-free round that I've really had in quite a while where I've played a Sunday not having a chance to win,'' Spieth said. ''It's not good, but at the same time, I think I can get into a groove and not lose any hair over the back nine. I'm going to fire at some pins.''
Jason Day had a 68 at Pebble Beach, though he was still six shots behind. Jimmy Walker made a pair of eagles on the front nine at Pebble for a 63 and was seven behind.
Mickelson got as much as he could out of his 66.
He played at Pebble Beach with the rest of the celebrities, who are the main attraction on Saturday, except that Lefty teed off on the back nine away from all the commotion of clowning, dancing and even lifting CBS Sports reporter Dottie Pepper into the crowd near the 15th tee.
Mickelson's pitch to the 18th went through the green, and he chipped in for a birdie to make the turn in 3 under. He had to scramble for par out of a bunker on No. 1. On the third hole, he drove into a fairway bunker and purposely played away from the flag, chipping just short of the green for a good angle at the pin.
He also had to get up-and-down for par on the short par-4 fourth hole. Those typically are the scoring holes, but he took off from there with three straight birdies, including a 20-foot putt on the 112-yard seventh hole, tougher than usual because of a firm green and a breeze at the back.
Even his birdie at the par-5 sixth was no picnic. Mickelson short-sided himself on his second shot and had to hit a flop shot over the bunker to about 4 feet. He closed with two solid pars (one from the front bunker on No. 8) and is trying not to look too far ahead to Sunday.
''It's been awhile since I've been in contention and it would mean a lot to me to be able to play a good final round tomorrow,'' he said. ''And as well as I've been hitting the ball, the score was great, but the ball striking wasn't indicative of how I've been hitting it. So I would like to get that dialed in for tomorrow's round.''
Round 2 - Kang Sung shoots a 60
February 13, 2016
South Korea's Kang Sung fired a scintillating 60 to seize a share of the second-round lead in the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Friday, never realizing how close he was to golf's magic number of 59.
Kang had nine birdies and an eagle in his 11-under effort on the Monterey Peninsula course, one of three in use over the first three rounds of the PGA Tour event.
He shared the lead with Japan's Hiroshi Iwata, who carded a 66 at Pebble Beach Golf Links to reach 11 under.
They were one stroke clear of American Phil Mickelson, Sweden's Freddie Jacobson and overnight leader Chez Reavie.
Kang, who notched two victories in Asia in 2013 -- in the C.J. Invitational and Kolon Korea Open -- said he didn't realize Monterey Peninsula played to par-71, unlike the par-72 layouts of Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hill.
"I still thought par was 72," said Kang, who therefore didn't realize a birdie at his last hole, the par-three ninth, would have given him a 59.
He missed the green with what he called his "worst shot of the day" but confidently rattled in a par putt to claim his share of the lead.
"I made almost every putt inside 15 feet today," said Kang, who said his prior career best round was a 61. He hit 15 of 18 greens in regulation and needed just 24 putts.
Iwata's round also included an eagle, at the par-five sixth, along with six birdies and two bogeys.
The leading duo have plenty of big names chasing them, starting with five-time major winner Mickelson -- a four-time winner at Pebble Beach.
Mickelson carded a six-under 65 at Monterey Peninsula, highlighted by his eagle at the 10th. He had burned up the front nine with five birdies before the turn, but was slowed by two bogeys on the back nine -- including the 18th.
"It was a good day, I really got off to a great start it was a lot of fun," said Mickelson, who went back to his old driver after putting a new one in his bag on Thursday.
"I drove it great, the only fairways I missed was with my three-wood," said Mickelson, who unlike some tour pros says he enjoys the pro-am format that features amateurs and celebrities playing alongside the title contenders.
"I appreciate and enjoy this tournament for what it is," he said of his success in the event. "I have great amateur partners ... we just try to enjoy the day. It's a chance to get to know people and then also to play some of the best golf courses in the world."
Reigning major champions Jordan Spieth and Jason Day were having a bit more fun on Friday.
Australia's PGA Champion Day fired a five-under 66 at Monterey Peninsula to move into a tie for 13th at six-under, while world number one Spieth, the Masters and US Open champion, followed up his one-under first-round with a two-under 69 at Monterey Peninsula.
"I drove the ball spectacular," said Spieth, adding he'd made adjustments after Thursday's erratic round.
"I feel very, very comfortable ball-striking. I just couldn't get it in the hole," added Spieth, who said he hoped for better success on firmer greens at Pebble Beach on Saturday.
Round 1 - Chez Reavie tops first round leaderboard
February 12, 2016
American Chez Reavie rebounded superbly from missed cuts in his last two PGA Tour starts to fire an eight-under-par 63 and grab a one-shot lead in the opening round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Thursday.
While some of the biggest names in the game battled hard to post sub-par scores, Reavie covered his final nine holes in a sizzling seven-under 30 at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, the easiest of the three venues being used for this week's event.
That left Reavie, whose only PGA Tour victory came at the 2008 Canadian Open, one stroke in front of Australian Cameron Smith and American Bronson Burgoon, who also played at Monterey Peninsula, after a picture postcard day of unbroken sunshine.
Swede Freddie Jacobson had the best score at the Pebble Beach host course, a seven-under 65, while Englishman Justin Rose and American J.B. Holmes were best at Spyglass Hill, with six-under 66.
World number one Jordan Spieth, back on the PGA Tour after playing tournaments in Abu Dhabi and Singapore, struggled with his short game as he mixed four birdies with three bogeys for an opening 71 on the challenging Spyglass Hill layout.
"I played the hardest holes on this golf course in four under par and then I played all the easy ones over par," Spieth, 22, told Golf Channel. "It's kind of a bit odd.
"I'm just not quite dialled in with my wedges or with the short game right now. I had three (birdie) chances on par-fives greenside, just little chip shots, basic shots, and I made par as well as bogeying that 115-yard par-three.
"So a little frustrating with that but, all in all, to actually shoot one under with what I felt like I should have shot today is promising, considering we are going to the two easier courses, in my mind."
Australian world number three Jason Day also had to fight hard as he matched Spieth with a 71 at Spyglass Hill.
"It's a little frustrating," said Day, who birdied two of his last six holes to finish the round with something of a flourish.
"I feel like I am hitting the ball pretty good and then I stand over some shots and I just don't quite have the control that I would like to have.
"I feel okay with how I am driving it. I feel like it's really close. Once I start getting that control back in the swing and I start gaining a little bit more confidence, then hopefully from there I will start playing a little better."