Could Phil Mickelson finally clear his final career grand slam hurdle and pull off a rare double in the process?
Only two golfers have managed to win twice at Pebble Beach (Calif.) Golf Links in the same calendar year, and they are arguably the game’s greatest players – Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods. Nicklaus won the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and U.S. Open in 1972, and Woods matched the feat in 2000, claiming the U.S. Open by a record 15 strokes.
Dustin Johnson, the 2016 U.S. Open champion, had a chance for the double in 2010, but faltered in the final round after holding the 54-hole lead.
After Monday’s three-stroke victory over Paul Casey in the weather-delayed AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Mickelson, the 1990 U.S. Amateur champion, will have an opportunity to join that illustrious twosome.
In four months, the U.S. Open Championship returns to iconic Pebble Beach for a sixth time. Mickelson, a six-time runner-up who needs this major title to complete the career grand slam, has once again thrust himself into the conversation. He also turns 49 the day of the final round (Father’s Day), which only adds to the storyline.
Of course, conditions will be much different in mid-June. Heavy rains and even a Sunday hailstorm saturated Pebble Beach for the annual February PGA Tour stop. The course will be considerably firmer and faster for the U.S. Open, the second hole will play as a par 4 (a par 5 for the AT&T and resort guests), and the rough likely will be more penal.
“I don’t think there’s any carryover from here to the U.S. Open,” said Mickelson. “It’s a totally different golf course [in June]. The greens will be firm, the rough will be high … so there’s really no carryover other than I really just enjoy this place, and I tend to play some of my best golf here.”
Nevertheless, Mickelson, who nearly won his first start of 2019 three weeks ago in La Quinta, Calif., at the Desert Classic (T-2), has an affinity for a place celebrating its centennial in 2019. His triumph on Monday morning gave him five AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am titles, tying him with fellow U.S. Amateur champion Mark O’Meara for the most in tournament history. Mickelson’s maternal grandfather, Al Santos, was one of the resort’s original caddies when it opened in 1919. When Mickelson plays the course, he uses a silver dollar that once belonged to Santos as a ball marker.
“It's been a very special week. This is a special place for me," said Mickelson, who now owns 44 PGA Tour victories. “Every time I get here, I have such feelings of gratitude for what this place has done for my family. I have such great memories here that I would love to add to it … and I would love nothing more to add to it four months from now, but that is so far down the road.”
Mickelson started the delayed final round three strokes behind Casey, but he zoomed past the affable Englishman with a bogey-free, 7-under 65 that was punctuated with a 6-foot birdie on the par-5 18th hole. Sunday’s round was halted due to darkness after Mickelson made par on the 16th hole. CBS lead golf announcer Jim Nantz explained during Sunday’s telecast that Santos used to rub the coin in hopes of a better life for him and his family.
Santos’ grandson has enjoyed quite the career, especially at the sanctuary known as Pebble Beach. Perhaps there is one more memorable week in store for the left-hander on the Monterey Peninsula.