PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Brandt Snedeker had his ninth straight round in the 60s on Saturday. One more like that and he might really have reason to celebrate.
Snedeker ran off four straight birdies along the prettiest part of Pebble Beach for a 4-under 68, giving him a share of the lead with 31-year-old rookie James Hahn going into the final round of the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
A runner-up in consecutive weeks to Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, this time the spotlight belongs to Snedeker.
“You never know what tomorrow holds, but I feel like I’m in great position, and I’m going to be surely more prepared, no matter who is around me in the last group,” Snedeker said. “I’m probably going to have the most experience of anybody in those last couple groups of winning a golf tournament.”
Hahn had a 66 at Spyglass Hill, making birdie on the last three holes to join Snedeker at 12-under 202. Chris Kirk birdied his last hole at Monterey Peninsula for a 64 and was one shot behind the leaders.
For all the celebrity antics that are part of the Saturday show at Pebble Beach, the video most likely to go viral belonged to Mickelson. The defending champion took a spill on the rocks below the 18th fairway. Mickelson was looking to see if his tee shot could be found – and played – when his right foot gave way and he landed hard on his back side, bracing the fall with his hands.
“I got lucky,” Mickelson said. “I didn’t get hurt.”
Not physically, anyway. Mickelson hit his next shot into the Pacific Ocean and had to scramble for a triple bogey, leaving him 11 shots behind and ending his hopes of a record-tying fifth win at Pebble Beach.
Snedeker hasn’t had a better chance to win all year. He was seven shots behind Woods and six shots behind Mickelson going into the final round. Now he is tied with Hahn, who until now was best known for “Gangnam” celebration of his birdie on the 16th hole at the Phoenix Open.
“He’s been playing great golf these last couple of weeks ... and it looks like this could be his week,” Mickelson said of Snedeker. “But final round at Pebble Beach, a lot of things happen and he has to play one more good round. I know he has it in him, but he still has to go do it.”
Pebble Beach was simply majestic on Saturday, with a blazing sun shining across the Pacific coast and temperatures in the upper 50s.
Snedeker, who missed a pair of birdie putts inside 10 feet early in the round, began his big run with a 3-wood up the hill and onto the green at the par-5 sixth for a two-putt birdie. He followed with a 10-foot birdie on the seventh, and then hit two of his best shots on two of the toughest holes at Pebble – a 7-iron over a corner of the ocean to about 5 feet below the hole on the eighth, and a baby cut with an 8-iron that plopped down 4 feet away for a birdie on the ninth.
He didn’t make many putts the rest of the way, however, and had to settle for a 68.
Hahn seems to be thriving.
If he was secure enough to do the “Gangnam Style” dance before the rowdiest gallery in golf, then he should be OK playing in the final group at Pebble Beach with a round that could severely change his career path. At stake are a two-year exemption and a trip to the Masters.
Hahn is not one to allow himself to think too far ahead.
“I’m not even in next week’s tournament, so to me, a top-10 finish would be great,” Hahn said. “So if you want to compare the Northern Trust Open to Augusta, we can. I would love to play another week out on tour, but just to learn from Brandt Snedeker, he’s one of the hottest golfers on the planet right now.”
Mediate leads Allianz Championship by three
BOCA RATON, Fla. — Rocco Mediate shot an 11-under 61, setting a course record and building a three-shot lead over Tom Pernice Jr. heading into the final round.
Mediate is trying to become the 16th player to win his first start on the Champions Tour. He won six times on the PGA Tour and is probably best remembered for losing a playoff to Tiger Woods in the 2008 U.S. Open.
Sterne, Fisher lead by 5 shots in Johannesburg
JOHANNESBURG — South African duo Richard Sterne and Trevor Fisher Jr. each shot a 4-under 68 to move five shots ahead of the field at the Joburg Open. Charl Schwartzel (68) is one of three players at 14-under.