Pebble Beach, California – Brandt Snedeker played bogey-free at tough Spyglass Hill on Friday for a 4-under 68, giving him a share of the lead with Ted Potter Jr. in the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Hunter Mahan was among those one shot behind. With one more round before everyone has played all three courses, the leaderboard was a big traffic jam.
Snedeker, who was at 8-under 134, felt he was at an advantage because he goes to the relatively benign Pebble Beach course for the final two rounds.
And there's one other edge for his psyche - Tiger Woods isn't playing, and defending champion Phil Mickelson is six shots behind.
Snedeker has played so well this year that he is leading the FedEx Cup standings without having won. He was runner-up the past two weeks: four shots behind Woods at Torrey Pines, and then four shots behind Mickelson in the Phoenix Open.
“Keep running into guys who are or who are going to be in the Hall of Fame,” Snedeker said at the start of the week.
Mickelson, going after a record-tying fifth win in the event, was easing his way into contention until he made three bogeys in a four-hole stretch along the ocean at Spyglass Hill for a 71.
Snedeker made it look easy at Spyglass, even though the day began in rugged conditions with a light rain and low temperatures. He hit a towering 8-iron on the downhill, par-3 12th hole that plopped 3 feet next to the cup for his first birdie. He added a pair of simple up-and-down birdies on the par 5s and then closed out a solid day with an 8-iron to 5 feet on the eighth hole.
Snedeker sees the upside of his two second-place finishes: At least he's giving himself a chance.
“That's how you win out here,” he said. “You keep putting yourself in position, and the more times you do, the more success you're going to have. ... I'm doing a better job this week of making my way around the golf courses and not putting myself in bad spots and getting out of tough situations very quickly.”
His goal for the last two days?
“Not do anything stupid,” he said. “Unfortunately, I don't do it very often.”
Potter won last year in his rookie season at The Greenbrier Classic to claim a peculiar footnote in history - the only player to win a PGA Tour event in which Woods and Mickelson missed the cut. Still, his performance has been spotty. Potter missed nine out of the 12 cuts going into The Greenbrier, and then missed four out of nine cuts after his win.
“It's just a funny game like that,” Potter said. “Some weeks you play really well and you get the right kicks and everything goes well. And then there are weeks you can still hit the ball well and get the bad kicks.”
Fredrik Jacobson had the low round of the day, a 66 at Pebble Beach that put him in the group at 7 under with Mahan, John Merrick and Patrick Reed.
Five days after a Super Bowl loss, San Francisco 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh had reason to smile. He was leading the pro-am portion of the tournament. Harbaugh is playing with Jason Day of Australia, who made a late string of birdies for a 68 at Spyglass Hill and was two shots behind.
Mahan lost a stroke on the spongy greens. He went to knock in a short bogey putt on the par-3 seventh hole when the ball moved on him.
“It just rolled over in like a heel print or something,” Mahan said. “I didn't feel like I moved it. I didn't feel like I had anything much to do with it moving. It's just a rub of the green, so had to go back and take a penalty. That was frustrating, because I was hitting it so good.”
Mickelson was equally frustrated by throwing away some careless shots. While he was tied for 39th, Mickelson didn't feel out of contention.
“I love Pebble Beach. I've played well there and I'm only one good round away,” he said. “If I can shoot something in the mid-60s, I'll be right there for Sunday's round, which is what I care about.”
Mickelson was six shots behind going into the final round last year when he won. – Sapa-AP