Echoes of his beatdown of Tiger 6 years ago: Lefty leaves Rory — 4-putt and all — in his dust at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Phil Mickelson-Rory McIlroy may not have raised the hype level to defcon 1 the way Lefty’s head-to-head matchup with Tiger Woods at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am did six years ago, but this week’s pairing between two of the most popular players on the PGA Tour promised some fireworks.
Much like the highly anticipated Mickelson-Woods showdown, however, Friday’s second day of a potential three-day shootout fizzled like a defective Roman candle as the 47-year-old Mickelson blew by his 28-year-old playing partner by nine strokes.
While it was only the second round and not exactly the 11 shots that separated Tiger from Phil in the finale of the 2012 tourney, it was still quite the thrashing.
Indeed, Phil fired a flawless second-round 6-under 65 to leap into contention and a six-way tie for fifth place, at 9-under for the week, while Rory flailed away on the greens and elsewhere to fall into a share of 87th place after carding a 74 at Monterrey Peninsula Country Club.
McIlroy’s forgettable day included a head-scratching four-putt from within 10 feet on the par-4 fifth hole. The only reason the struggling former world No. 1 did not record an official five-jack was because he made his first jab with the short stick from off the green.
— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 9, 2018
Not surprisingly, including the misadventure on No. 5, McIlroy needed 38 putts to make his way around Monterey. In his defense, the Ulsterman, who’s making his 2018 PGA Tour debut this week, had never played the Pro-Am until this week so he certainly does not have the institutional memory of the three course in rotation in a tournament Mickelson has won four times.
Friday’s mishap, however, was not the first time the two-time major champion has needed more than three putts on a green on the PGA Tour; he’s done the same 10 times in 8,462 holes, according to Golf Channel.
Rory’s unforced errors stood in stark contrast to his remarkable chip-in for birdie on the par-5 seventh hole on Thursday after a wayward drive that went way right followed a brief tongue-lashing to his father, Gerry, his pro-am partner for the week, for distracting him on the tee.
“There’s a few shadows out there,” McIlroy told reporters after a first-round 68 that included that errant tee shot and a subsequent water ball. “I was about to take my driver away … and I saw his shadow move. So, I backed off it … I said, ‘Fine, stand still.’”
All was forgiven after the chip-in and the father-son duo moved into contention at just three shots back of 18-hole co-leaders Kevin Streelman and Beau Hossler.
Then came Friday, and if Mickelson’s post-game comments are any indication, the challenge for McIlroy will only get tougher.
“Monterey Peninsula here, that, it’s probably the easiest to go low on,” Mickelson said after his stellar second round. “I think Pebble’s a little bit tougher because the greens are a little firmer and smaller.”
While McIlroy may have some trepidation about navigating those more difficult putting surfaces, Mickelson could not wait to get out to Pebble for the final two rounds (assuming he makes Saturday’s cut, which he appeared to be well on his way to accomplishing; Rory, at 1-under and T87, maybe not so much).
“I just love the feeling and the ambience of playing Pebble,” gushed Mickelson, who heads into Saturday just three shots back of 36-hole co-leaders Dustin Johnson and Beau Hossler. “I love being in the hunt playing that golf course and I get to play two rounds now it’s fun.”
We’re guessing Rory, who will have the pleasure of Phil’s company again on Saturday, may not share his elder’s opinion about what constitutes fun.
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