In between the Jim Harbaugh interviews and Ray Romano shanks, a couple pros decided to make the Pebble Beach Pro-Am dramatic at the final moment on Sunday night. Phil Mickelson started the day with a two-shot lead, trying to end an almost 950-day winless streak. But the lefty gave it away early, could get nothing going on the back, and then blew a chance at a playoff on his final green. Phil is playing really well and is close to getting that win, but the blown chance delivered the win to a long shot and a name that this sport had forgotten.
1. The underdog random can still be fun
Vaughn Taylor, even for the diehards who follow golf each and every week, is primarily known for being an unknown Ryder Cup participant. Any time Taylor's name comes up, it's usually in the context of that awful, horrible, 2006 U.S. Ryder Cup roster that was bludgeoned by the Euros. Taylor and Brett Wetterich are the poster boys for the forgotten members of that despairing U.S. era, guys who never did much after that fleeting appearance in the game's most intense event and most prestigious team setting.
It's been a grind for Taylor since that 2006 Ryder Cup appearance. He's been on and off the Tour, struggled to hold on to even the minor league Tours, and nearly died in a boating accident two years ago. It did not seem he'd have another significant moment of relevance in golf. A week ago, he was so sick he had to be hospitalized in Columbia on the Web.com Tour. He got a spot in this field because of a couple respectable finishes at what is arguably the Tour's least notable tournament.
Taylor was beyond a longshot. He was a longshot to make the cut. And while the networks, the Tour, the media, and most of the fans would have preferred a higher-profile winner, those underdog out-of-nowhere stories are fun too. Mickelson's drought ending would have been a fabulous story, but seeing Taylor and his family afterwards, it's clear that the perks and status benefits of this win obviously mean more to them. It had been 11 years since he won and after withdrawing last week sick in Columbia, Taylor now has playing privileges and an invite to the Masters in his hometown of Augusta. That's cool.
How much did that win mean? Hear it straight from Vaughn Taylor. https://t.co/Pc8GBXCzfQ— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 14, 2016
2. Phil Mickelson -- still close, really really close
The broadcast just had to flash the stat that Mickelson was perfect from inside six feet the entire weekend before this ultimate putt on the 18th.
Phil to force a playoff... #QuickHits https://t.co/tOX6E8Gm6i— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 14, 2016
In a different time, Phil with a two-shot lead at Pebble Beach against a much, much less-decorated leaderboard would have been automatic. He started this Sunday up two on Hiroshi Iwata, and the entire round was going to be a referendum on all the changes and tinkering done coming into this season that, as he put it a few weeks ago, had him "close" to ending that winless drought.
But Phil, who has not won in 938 days -- that legendary 2013 British Open at Muirfield, did not have it all day. He's still close, no doubt, and we saw that this week when he momentarily threatened to break 60 on Friday and then got around Pebble on Saturday with a bogey-free 66. Sunday was not the same smooth ride. Mickelson's swing was not quite there and he squandered chance after chance, particularly on Pebble's easier opening stretch. He threw away shots, quickly lost his lead, and then stalled out on the back nine as Taylor went on his run.
But because this is Phil, he decided to make it interesting right at the moment you thought this was all over. He went to the 17th two down with two to play, needing a wild birdie-birdie finish or a miracle eagle at the par-5 18th. In Mickelson form, he made the birdie at the much more difficult par-3 17th but then missed the five-foot birdie putt at the 18th to force the playoff.
Step 1: ✅— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) February 14, 2016
Phil needs a birdie at 18 to force a playoff. #QuickHits https://t.co/LqEZX4Kl6b
Mickelson is in a good spot and that winless streak is probably going to end soon. But this was a deflating Sunday for 45-year-old who was perfectly set up to match a record with his fifth career win at this Pebble Beach event.
3. Stay off Twitter, CBS
Aside from Mickelson, the weekend at Pebble was largely characterized by vitriolic and angry tweets toward CBS' coverage. This event puts them in a tough spot. They have to promote the amateur aspect and it's just one week of the year. So you're going to get interviews with Huey Lewis and Jake Owen, and then see a bunch of wealthy important businessmen hack it around this beautiful scene. That was the entire Saturday broadcast. Jim Nantz and Nick Faldo posted up on the 17th tee and interviewed all the executives and celebrities that rolled through. But both days, the golf from the actual pros seemed be a minimal part of the broadcast, interrupting the amateur interviews, booth interviews with Clint Eastwood and the AT&T CEO, amateur shots, lots and lots of commercials, and footage of the local wildlife and scenery.
Twitter is an angry place where people go to complain, but the sentiment seemed unanimous and it was at an all-time frenzy, especially on Sunday. They savaged the CBS coverage. The good thing is this kind of event with amateurs and celebrities happens only once a year. The bad thing is that's probably why CBS isn't going to change how they approach it, regardless of how angry you get.
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The Tour is now off to Riviera, one of the best courses on the circuit and both Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy, making his PGA Tour debut, will be there. That's spicy. Here are your final results from Pebble:
|Place||Player||Score||Round 1||Round 2||Round 3||Round 4||Total|
|T26||Dawie Van Der Walt||-6||66||76||69||70||281|
|T35||Si Woo Kim||-3||70||70||72||72||284|
|T51||Billy Hurley III||-1||68||71||73||74||286|
|T60||Tyrone van Aswegen||1||75||69||70||74||288|
|T66||Davis Love III||2||74||68||71||76||289|