The old British racetrack saying goes, “there are horses for courses.” It refers to certain performers matching up perfectly to a certain track. As the PGA Tour arrives on the Monterey Peninsula for the 2013 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Phil Mickelson hopes to be the right horse on the right course for the second consecutive week.
Mickelson gave a pretty good impression of Secretariat at times in his dominating performance in last week’ s Waste Management Phoenix Open. His four round total of 256 matched the second lowest 72-hole total in Tour history (shared with mark Calcavecchia, also set at the Phoenix Open), and sent a message that the No. 10-ranked Mickelson could be ready to challenge Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy for golf’s top spot.
Mickelson had a new driver in his bag in Phoenix, and he appeared to be quite comfortable with it. And while the Pebble Beach layout will be shorter and tighter than TPC Scottsdale, Mickelson will not hesitate to use his new weapon to gain a distance advantage on the field. Observers also noticed that Phil seemed to be swinging more athletically last week, with excellent weight transfer and a full release of the club. A healthy and confident Mickelson will be hard to beat at Pebble Beach, where he has won four times in his illustrious career, including the 2012 classic when he lapped Woods in the final round for the victory. Woods and World No. 1 McIlroy will not be in the field this week.
Also among the favorites will be reigning FedExCup champion Brandt Snedeker. Snedeker has two runner-up finishes in a row, finishing behind Mickelson in Phoenix and Woods at Torrey Pines the previous week.
“I have to get these hall of Famers out of the way somehow,” said a bemused Snedeker.
Indeed, his 24-under par performance in Phoenix would have won virtually every event on the 2012 schedule, but he was denied last week by a red-hot Mickelson. Regardless, Snedeker sits atop the 2013 FedEx Cup standings and appears to have the all-around game to compete head to head with the top players in the world. Another player to watch will be Dustin Johnson. Johnson already has one win this year in Kapalua and has great success at this venue, with back-to-back wins in 2009 and 2010. in 2010, he held a three-shot final-round lead at the U.S. Open over eventual champion Graeme McDowell, but imploded with an 82 to finish T8.
The competition will be graced with 13 players who have won major championships. One is Padraig Harington, who played very well at TPC Scottsdale and hopes to win for the first time on Tour since 2008. Also in the field will be Vijay Singh. Singh will be playing or the first time since admitting that he used a substance that is banned under the PGA Tour’s anti-doping policy. Singh’s case is currently under investigation by Tour officials, who will determine if sanctions and/or a suspension are warranted.
As always, the tournament will include a Pro-Am component, with celebrities and business leaders teeing it up alongside their heroes. Gene Littler holds a unique record in this event. When he won in 1975, it marked the only time that a player had won as a professional after having previously won the pro-amateur portion. Littler won as a 23-year-old amateur in 1954.