Taylor takes 1-shot lead over Mickelson at Pebble Beach

Phil Mickelson chips the ball on to the 14th green for a birdie during the third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am golf tournament on Saturday. (AP)
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Updated 09 February 2020

Taylor takes 1-shot lead over Mickelson at Pebble Beach

  • Mickelson made the impossible look easy from a bunker behind the par-3 seventh green at Pebble Beach

PEBBLE BEACH, California: Phil Mickelson and his sublime short game delivered more entertainment than all the athletes and celebrities for the Saturday show at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Mickelson made the impossible look easy from a bunker behind the par-3 seventh green at Pebble Beach. He holed out from a bunker for birdie on the 13th, and chipped in from 90 feet for birdie on the next hole.

When he rapped in one last birdie, Mickelson had a 5-under 67 and trailed Nick Taylor of Canada by one shot going into the final round. Mickelson will be going for a record sixth title at Pebble Beach, and his first PGA Tour victory since he won this tournament last year.

Taylor had a cold and relatively quiet day, away from all the hits and giggles around the celebrity rotation at Pebble. He teed off at tough Spyglass Hill with a beanie and hand warmers because of the heavy marine layer, warmed up as the sun broke through and made a 25-foot eagle putt late in his round for a 69.

Taylor was at 17-under 198 as he goes for his second PGA Tour victory, and first since he won the Sanderson Farms Championship in his fourth start as a tour rookie.

Mickelson hit a flop shot over the bunker on the par-5 18th — how did that one not go in? — to pull within one shot. They will be in the final group, along with their amateur partners. Mickelson has former San Francisco 49ers quarterback Steve Young, while Taylor has Golf Digest editor-in-chief Jerry Tarde.

Taylor and Mickelson have never played together.

“It's going to be a new experience for that reason, if I am playing with him,” Taylor said. “Obviously, if he makes a putt or great shot, the crowd's going to go wild. I've just got to do my own thing, try to block all that out. Easier said than done, without having to do it before, but I'll do the best I can.”

This is a two-man show; however, Jason Day posted a 70 at Spyglass Hill and was only three shots behind at 14-under 201.

For others, it was a waste opportunity.

Pebble Beach had more wind than earlier in the week, but still gentle enough that low scores were available. Dustin Johnson, a two-time winner at Pebble, was in striking range and could manage only a 72, leaving him eight shots back. Patrick Cantlay, at No. 8 in the world, played the final six holes in 2 over for a 72 and was nine shots back.

Mickelson started with a pair of birdies. He took a share of the lead with a birdie on the par-5 sixth.

And then the fun began.

His wedge on the 110-yard seventh hole that drops down into the Pacific went long and plugged in the back bunker, impossible because of the back pin and a fast green that slopes toward the front. He splashed out so perfectly that it took a few hops in the rough before reaching the green, slow enough to stop 2 feet away for a tap-in par.

Even for Mickelson, it rates among his best.

Then, his 50-foot bunker shot on the tough eighth rolled inches from the cup on No. 8. More trouble supposedly awaited on the 13th when his approach peeled into the left bunker. He raised both arms when that dropped. And on the par-5 14th, he made a mistake by not hitting his punch wedge hard enough. It rolled down the slope, off the green and back into the fairway. Mickelson's long chip from 90 feet banged into the pin and dropped for birdie.

Mickelson missed two birdie putts from inside 10 feet. And while he hit only nine greens in regulation, he usually had a reasonable angle to the pin to save par — or make birdie, as was the case twice for him.

That leaves a Sunday with plenty at stake for the leading three players.


Formula One season starts amid shadow of Black Lives Matter movement

Updated 02 July 2020

Formula One season starts amid shadow of Black Lives Matter movement

  • ‘It is so important that we seize this moment,’ says Lewis Hamilton, the only Black driver to become F1 champion

SPIELBERG, Austria: Four months after the opening race was called off at the last minute, the Formula One season finally gets underway this weekend on another continent and in a different-looking world.
There will be no fans on hand at the remote Spielberg track in Austria, with the coronavirus still creating uncertainty over how many races can actually be held — and where.
That may not be the only unusual sight, as drivers are discussing whether to take the knee together on the grid before Sunday’s race in support of the Black Lives Matter movement. Defending F1 champion Lewis Hamilton has been an outspoken supporter of the movement and will be competing in an all-black Mercedes car — instead of the usual silver — as a statement against racism.
“It is so important that we seize this moment,” said Hamilton, the only Black driver to become F1 champion.
The truncated campaign kicks off with back-to-back races in Austria, as part of a hastily reworked schedule. It was meant to start nearly 10,000 miles (16,000 kilometers) away in the Australian city of Melbourne.
But the fast-spreading impact of the coronavirus pandemic led to the Australian GP being canceled on March 13, two days before the scheduled race, while people were still queuing for the first practice sessions. Several other races, including the showcase Monaco GP, were also canceled.
A rescue package with eight European races squeezed into 10 weeks, culminating with the Italian GP on Sept. 6, was scrambled together. F1 still hopes to rearrange some of the postponed races in order to finish the season with 15-18 of the scheduled 22.
There will also be two consecutive races at the British GP. If the season continues beyond Europe, it will end with races in Bahrain and Abu Dhabi in December.
“We actually don’t even know the amount of races we are going to do,” McLaren and future Ferrari driver Carlos Sainz Jr. said. “It’s an unprecedented scenario.”
Spielberg’s Red Bull Ring, cut off from major towns or cities, offers a reassuringly secluded feel amid coronavirus fears.
But strict health and safety measures have been put into place.
Everyone entering the track, including a greatly reduced number of media representatives, must have tested negative for Covid-19 and further tests will be carried out every five days. F1 teams are not allowed to mingle with each other — on or off the track — and media have no access to F1’s paddock area.
Drivers would normally have faced a barrage of questions in a news conference room, but health requirements dictate that drivers hold news conferences via video link and with questions sent in advance.
And, of course, Spielberg’s 4.3-kilometer (2.7-mile) circuit will be largely empty. It is normally swarming with tents, camper vans, makeshift barbecues and tens of thousands of orange-shirted Max Verstappen fans.
The Red Bull driver, hugely popular back home in the Netherlands, has won the past two races here.
The track is among the shortest in F1 but also one of the most aggressive. Drivers spend about 72% of the time at full throttle, second only to Italy’s Monza track with 77%.
That’s perfectly suited to Verstappen’s bold and abrasive racing style. Last season he chased down the leading trio before making a typically brazen overtaking move on race leader Charles Leclerc’s Ferrari.
The 22-year-old Verstappen showed last season that he is closing the gap to Hamilton in terms of wheel-to-wheel driving. Red Bull’s car also made a considerable jump in speed, while Ferrari’s faded, and Verstappen is emerging as a major title threat to Hamilton.
The 35-year-old British driver is chasing a record-equaling seventh F1 title to equal Michael Schumacher’s record, and only needs to win eight more races to beat Schumacher’s mark of 91.
Aside from Verstappen and possibly Valtteri Bottas — Hamilton’s improving teammate at Mercedes — the other main challenger is Leclerc.
The 22-year-old Monaco driver is extremely quick and impressed observers in his first season at Ferrari with seven pole positions — two more than Hamilton — and two wins.
He is now Ferrari’s No. 1 ahead of four-time F1 champion Sebastian Vettel, whose star has faded after he wasted mid-season leads in 2017 and 2018 and lost those titles to Hamilton.
The German veteran is leaving at the end of the year after failing to agree on a new contract, and his future in F1 is uncertain.
Like so many other things this season.