Pebble Beach Pro-Am: Dustin Johnson the heavy favorite going into final round
D.J. doesn't lead outright, but he's definitely the man to beat on Sunday at 14 under
On a day when several golfers had a chance to overtake Dustin Johnson at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, nobody did so, and D.J. shares the 54-hole lead at 14 under with Ted Potter Jr. (who had himself an historic third round).
There will be chasers on Sunday, though. There always are. Jason Day and Jon Rahm quietly shot 69 and 70 respectively, and they trail by two and three strokes as they look to upend the No. 1 player in the world in his quest for a second consecutive PGA Tour victory.
Saturday's round was rife with the usual celebrity zaniness and some stellar play from the best golfers on the planet. Bill Murray did Bill Murray things. Tony Romo played with a microphone attached to him. And Aaron Rodgers gave amateur leader Larry Fitzgerald hell for a wayward tee shot at the par-3 17th. It was a fantastic day of golf in Carmel, and here are five takeaways I had from the penultimate round of the 2018 edition of this tournament.
1. Dustin Johnson, extra oily: One of my favorite lines of all time is about the co-leader. "He has the oily gait of a jungle cat," wrote Jim Moriarty about Dustin Johnson for Golf Digest four years ago. Johnson seemed extra oily out of the gate on Saturday as he shot a 32 on the front nine at Pebble on Saturday. His back nine 38 left a little (OK, a lot) to be desired, but he's the favorite at -110 going into Sunday's final round. With good reason, too. He's won here twice and has six top-five finishes in all.
"I got off to a really good start," Johnson told Peter Kostis of CBS Sports. "Played pretty well on the back nine. I had a lot of good looks at some nice birdies. I hit good putts, they just didn't go in. The wind was a little bit tricky, and I just got on the wrong side of holes (on my bogeys). All in all, I feel good about the game. I have a lot of confidence going into tomorrow."
Johnson said he prefers tough conditions on Sunday, and he might get them as the wind is supposed to pick up on Sunday afternoon to complement some nippy 55-degree temperatures. He who hits the most great golf shots will win on Sunday, and there's no reason to think that's going to be anyone other than D.J.
2. The most unlike-Phil round: Lefty made 16 (!) pars on Saturday. I'm not here for 16-par rounds from Mickelson. Where are the ol' three-par 71s from Lefty? As it stands, he's 9 under and five back after 54 holes. He's also looking for his fifth (!) win at this tournament. Another trophy on Sunday would be as improbable as it gets because Mickelson would have to run down D.J. from pretty deep on the board. I don't really see that happening at this point in their careers.
I should say here that this tournament is perfect for somebody like Mickelson, too. It's part competitive event and part absurd show, and nobody plays that role better than Mickelson. At some point he's probably going to try and convince tournament organizers that he's both the pro and the famous amateur, and just contend by himself on both the professional and amateur leaderboards.
3. Slappy Spieth: Somebody on the broadcast -- I believe it was Peter Kostis -- noted that Spieth told him during his round that he was slapping it around. He slapped it all the way to a 2-under 70 with birdies at two of his last four holes. This is sort of just who he is. He goes sideways, hits ridiculously bad shots, looks like he's going to shoot 80 and then shoots 70. It's all part of the persona. It's his most Tiger Woods-like quality. It's also why he has 11 wins in his first few years on the PGA Tour.
Spieth probably doesn't have a legitimate shot at winning on Sunday, but he could easily slide through the back door for another top 10, which is a nice consolation prize following his missed cut at the Phoenix Open. "I made a lot of progress this week," Spieth told Peter Kostis of CBS Sports after his round. As with all the superstars on the PGA Tour, Spieth is already thinking about and preparing for Augusta National in April.
4. Ted Potter Jr.! He almost gave us our first 59 since Adam Hadwin did it at last year's CareerBuilder Challenge. But Potter made bogey at the final two holes at Monterey Peninsula and finished two strokes off of Sung Kang's course record of 60. Still, it was thrilling to have a 59 in the balance on the opposite course from where everyone was paying attention (Pebble is where all the stars were on Saturday).
5. Rory McIlroy misses cut: His first tournament on the PGA Tour was not pretty. McIlroy looked strong on the first day, firing a 4-under 68 and getting to within three of the 18-hole lead. But he came undone on Friday with a 74 that included (are you ready for this number?) 38 putts. Five of them came on the same hole at Monterey Peninsula, where he hit 16 greens in regulation but somehow ended up 3 over on the day.
McIlroy rebounded mildly on Saturday with a 72, but he still missed the Sunday round by two strokes. On Saturday, the issue was less with the flat stick and more with his irons. McIlroy hit just nine of 18 greens in regulation. He did, however, have the shot of the day on the 18th hole on Saturday after hitting it in the hazard off the tee.
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