PEBBLE BEACH — It figures. Sustained sunshine finally breaks through at Pebble Beach Golf Links on Sunday and it gets spoiled by that thing known as the Earth’s rotation.
Granted, another squall soaked the seaside links late in the day—because of course it just had to this week—but before the clouds reappeared, a glorious afternoon gave way to some glorious scoring, setting up a shootout when play resumes in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am at 8 a.m. PST on Monday.
An eagle-birdie burst on the par-5 sixth and par-3 seventh holes, respectively, helped third-round leader Justin Rose reassert his place atop the leaderboard when the final round was suspended at 5:33 p.m.
The 2013 U.S. Open champion completed nine holes of the final round Sunday in three under par, and at 15 under, he holds a two-stroke lead over Denny McCarthy, Brendan Todd and playing partner Peter Malnati.
Rose has to be considered the favorite to win for the first time in four years not just because he is in the lead but also because he knows what to do with one. The 42-year-old Englishman has won 10 PGA Tour titles, and half of those came from converting a 54-hole lead. He arrived at Pebble Beach with some confidence, coming off a T-18 at the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines—the site of his last victory in 2019 when he was ranked World No. 1. Coincidentally, that event also uses multiple courses.
“I felt like my game was trending,” said Rose, who, should he win, would gain entry to this week’s “elevated” WM Phoenix Open with its $20 million purse. Oddly, he didn’t commit to the tournament at TPC Scottsdale—usually a must to compete each week—but a win corrects that oversight.
Here are four other leading contenders to win the Monterey Peninsula marathon:
McCarthy, seeking his first victory, birdied seven holes in his outward nine on the way to surging into the outright lead at one point at 14 under par. His opening 29 was one stroke off the front nine record shared by Davis Love III, Spike McRoy and Brent Schwartzkopf. Only Love’s came in the final round when he collected the first of his two titles in 2001. Tied with Todd at 13 under, McCarthy is the farthest along of the contenders, facing a 14-foot birdie putt on the 16th hole when he returns Monday. McCarthy is one of golf’s best putters, and if he can shake that in and add another birdie, perhaps at the par-5 18th hole, he can post 15 under and then see if someone can beat it.
Remember when Todd got hot at the end of the 2019 with consecutive fall victories? He’s not a flashy player, but the Georgia resident has a solid control game that sets up well for the small greens at Pebble Beach. When he pairs that with putting, he can be a nuisance, and he is ranked second in strokes gained/putting this week. Todd, 37, is five under on his round with six holes remaining. That’s enough to make a move, if one is needed.
Malnati, whose lone win came at the 2015 Sanderson Farms Championship, probably stole two strokes, and maybe three, when he flared his opening tee shot way right to start the final round. He hit a provisional because he thought it might be out of bounds. It wasn’t, and he turned what could have been a double bogey into an unlikely birdie with an obscene recovery. That seemed to spur him the rest of the day, and even though Rose rallied past him, Malnati, 35, ranked 318th in the world, held his own. He also has nine holes remaining and has to feel this is his best chance in ages to get a second victory.
Keith Mitchell got stuck in neutral, playing his opening nine in just two under par to sit three behind Rose, one of four players at 12 under par. He’s playing not only for himself, however, but as a proxy for his amateur partner Josh Allen, the Buffalo Bills’ standout quarterback. The duo finished fourth in the pro-am. Allen had the temerity to throw cold water (as if more was needed?) on the 54-hole victory his QB rival Aaron Rodgers of the Green Bay Packers, scored alongside Canada’s Ben Silverman in the pro-am portion of the event. Rodgers was having none of it, naturally. Mitchell, 31, winner of the 2019 Honda Classic, just might welcome a Monday reset as he completes his final eight holes.