After driver woes and an opening round on the toughest course in the rota, four-time AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am winner Phil Mickelson found his groove during the second round, on Friday, February 12, carding a 6-under 65 on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club. MPCC Shore, a par-71 layout a couple of miles north of Pebble Beach, is the middle child in terms of distance among the courses in the tournament rota, but is acknowledged as the easiest.
After opening holes that wind down to the coastline through the pines of the Del Monte Forest after starting just below the handsome Spanish-style MPCC clubhouse, the later seaward holes of the Shore Course can play tough when the wind is up, as it was today.
Mickelson experienced issues off the tee in Thursday’s opening round at Spyglass Hill, so he took the new driver he experimented with on Thursday out of the bag, going back to his previous big stick.
Commenting on the change after the rounds, Mickelson said, “I went back to my old driver (and) I drove it great. The only fairways I missed were with my 3-wood, and it looks like I’m going to go back to my old 3-wood too.”
The difference between the two drivers, according to Mickelson?, “One goes straight and one goes the other way.”
Mickelson took advantage of the more sheltered conditions of the woodsy front nine, carding five birdies – including a string of three straight on holes 3 through 5 – to open with a 5-under 29 on the front.
An eagle three on the par-five 10th hole opened his back nine, but two bogeys, at 12 and 18, and a lone birdie, on the par-five 16th, showed how much tougher MPCC’s wind-exposed back nine was playing today.
Mickelson has a tremendous history at this tournament, going two generations back in his family – his grandfather, Al Santos, grew up in Monterey and was among the first group of caddies to work at the new Pebble Beach Golf Links when it opened in 1919. In addition to that family tidbit, Mickelson shares the distinction, with Bay Area golf legend Johnny Miller, of having won at Pebble Beach in three decades, Phil’s wins to date coming in 1998, 2005, 2007, and 2012; Miller’s in 1974, 1987, and 1994.
Another win in this event would put Mickelson in yet another exclusive club, that of 5-time winners of the tournament – a distinction he would share with Mark O’Meara, whose record here has earned him the sobriquet “Prince of Pebble Beach”. Miller’s and O’Meara’s wins share the distinction of bridging the Crosby and AT&T eras in the tournament’s history.
Mickelson’s hot round at Monterey Peninsula Country Club put him in a three-way tie for third, at 10-under, with Swede Freddie Jacobson and 1st-round leader Chez Reavie, but an even hotter round, a tournament course-record 60 at MPCC, by Korean Sung Kang, ruled the day. The record-setting round put the 28-year-old native of Jeju, South Korea into 1st place at the end of the day. Kang shares the 36-hole lead with Hiroshi Iwata, of Japan, who posted a 6-under 66 on Pebble Beach today after shooting 5-under 66 at MPCC on Thursday. Kang will play Pebble Beach on Saturday, while Iwata goes to the notoriously tough Spyglass Hill course in Round 3.
Among players with Northern California connections, former San Jose State golfer Mark Hubbard, a native of Denver, shot a 6-under 66 at Spyglass Hill to move to T-7 at 8-under. In contrast to many of the players in the field at the AT&T, Spyglass is Hubbard’s favorite of the three courses in the tournament rota.
“I feel like I have an advantage out on this course because I played it probably 40, 50 times playing at San Jose State,” he said, “So, it’s actually my favorite course down here while I think it’s a lot of guys’ least favorite, so I think that gives me a big advantage.”
Hubbard shares the seventh spot with Stockton native Ricky Barnes, who shot a 2-under 70 at Pebble in an up-and-down round that featured five birdies, a bogey and a triple-bogey in the first nine holes, with a lone birdie on the back side. Elk Groves’ Spencer Levin, who had a share of fifth place, along with Ricky Barnes, after the opening round, stumbled at the last, carding double-bogey, bogey at Spyglass Hill’s 8th and 9th holes, the last two holes in his round, to drop to T-13 at 6-under.