All hail Phil Mickelson, the iceman of Pebble
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Bing Crosby must be smiling up there someplace. They can take his name off the tournament. They can take some of the historic plaques off the wall near the pro shop. But they can’t change that central California mid-winter climate known as Crosby Weather.
Which is the reason the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am isn’t over, officially that is. But really, after a Sunday of rain, hail — yes, that was different — sunshine, wind and three hours of delays, it is over, and Phil Mickelson will be the winner, again.
Mickelson, who started the fourth round three behind, finished the part that was possible, 16 holes, three ahead.
He and several others, including Paul Casey, who was in front after three rounds, were to come back at 8 a.m. Monday for the end, depending on the weather, Crosby Weather, of course.
The way it stood at 5:54 p.m. PST, 12 minutes after sunset, with Mickelson wanting to continue into the darkness and his playing partner Casey successfully refusing, Phil was at 18 under par, three in front of Scott Stallings (who did finish, shooting a 6-under-par 66 for 272) and Casey.
Phil was six under for his 16 holes, very much en route to his fifth Crosby/AT&T triumph, while Casey was even-par for his 16 holes.
When in the gloaming, PGA Tour official Mark Russell decided Mickelson and Casey would have to return the next morning, Phil protested, saying, “I can see fine.”
Casey insisted, “We weren’t going to get anything done.” But he added, “I can understand why Phil would want to keep going. The guy was on a hot streak.”
In very cold (at times a wind chill in the low 40s) bizarre weather.
They’d had snow over the years. In 1962 Jimmy Demaret, a champion pro, cracked, “I know I had a lot to drink last night, but how did I wake up at Squaw Valley?”
They’d had rain many times. But no one could remember hail, which fell in the late morning and forced officials — who had delayed the start an hour because of flooded greens — to suspend play while workers used squeegees and leaf blowers to clear the stuff.
And no, even though we were at Pebble Beach, none of the hail was the size of golf balls.
“I’ve never seen hail on a golf course,” said Stallings. At least not while playing,
Said Russell, the Tour official, “It was clear, play was going along, and the next thing you knew the greens were covered with hailstones.”
No golf, but a lot of activity. Sam Saunders, whose grandfather, the late great Arnold Palmer, was among the group that several years ago purchased Pebble, grabbed a handful of hail and tossed it at his fellow pros like a snowball. The brother of Masters champ Patrick Reed lay on his back and tried to make a snow angel. Uh, a hail angel.
Mickelson, who over the years in the tournament had been through almost everything other than hail, was undeterred. He went out and birdied two, four, nine, 10 and 13. He used to be a ski champion. What’s a little cold to him?
“I was a on a hot streak,” Mickelson said, “and I wanted to keep going.”
Mark O’Meara won the tournament five times, Sam Snead and Mickelson four. Phil’s first win was the 1998 AT&T, when rain suspended play after two rounds and the PGA Tour decided to bring back anyone eligible for a third round some six months later, in August the day after the PGA Championship in Washington state.
Some of the players, including Tiger Woods, decided not to return, but Mickelson did come back and got the win.
He feels a special kinship to Pebble, where his grandfather was a caddy in the 1930s. And now he’s about to win here one more time. All hail.