Planet Golf — 03 February 2023 by GW staff and news services
Rose, 42, wins first title in four years

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Spectacular is a word that comes to mind when you stand on the green at the par-3 ninth on Monterey Peninsula Country Club’s Shore Course and scan the landscape.

Courtesy of an architectural visionary named Mike Strantz, who reversed the direction of holes 5 through 15 on the Shore Course so you could “dance among the Cypress,” awe-inspiring windswept views come at you with every step. From the ninth green, you can gaze across 17-Mile Drive and get lost in the splendor of a Pacific Ocean that seemingly stretches to infinity and beyond.

But even as undisturbed as that view is, could Justin Rose from that green Sunday morning see himself holding up the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am crystal?

Waves crashing into rocks, deer meandering in and out of sand dunes, people strolling the famed 17-Mile Drive. The Englishman could see all that.

But storming from six shots off the lead with just 28 holes remaining? Rose wasn’t going to commit to an answer in the affirmative, but he did think he saw an opening.

“I realized the opportunity I had,” he said Monday morning, after he had indeed nailed down a three-stroke win in a legendary tournament on an iconic stage. “The way the wind had shifted and the way Monterey Peninsula was playing (Sunday morning). I knew there were birdies to be had. From a mentality point of view, that wasn’t lost on me.”

How the 42-year-old Rose cleaned up that deficit and rode into the winner’s circle for the first time since the Farmers Insurance Open four years ago – a stretch covering 67 PGA TOUR tournaments and 80 worldwide – started innocently enough and only built improbable steam.

He rolled in a 7-foot birdie putt when he played that ninth hole at MPCC Sunday morning, then blitzed the back nine in 5-under 32. From six behind, he was 12-under and in the lead by one over Peter Malnati and Kurt Kitayama when he moved back to Pebble Beach for the fourth round late Sunday.

Little did Rose realize what floodgates that birdie roll at MPCC’s ninth green would unleash.

Buoyed by a burst of energy Sunday evening – an eagle at the par-5 sixth, birdie at the par-3 seventh – Rose regained a lead that he would not relinquish. Not that others didn’t make charges, because Denny McCarthy did go out in 29 in Sunday’s fourth round and Brendon Todd played 12 holes in 5-under Sunday, then returned Monday morning to knock down birdie putts at Nos. 13 and 14 to momentarily get within one of Rose.

Ah, but the Englishman flashed the form that had been so consistent with him from 2010-19, a time during which he won 10 times over a stretch of 165 PGA TOUR tournaments.

He reached No. 1 in the world during those days but should you think that Rose had two negatives to hang his disappointment on – he had gone four years without a win and had dropped to No. 71 in the world – think again.

“Neither,” he said, when asked which one bothered him more. “Just not feeling like I’ve been hitting solid golf shots . . . actually the feeling of how I’ve played. Those have been the frustrating parts.”

What he did over the final 28 holes – two eagles and nine birdies against just one bogey – got him home in 18-under 269 to finish three ahead of Todd (65) and Brandon Wu (66). His tidy 66 to close at Pebble required two days, yes, but it was the product of endless patience and perseverance given how significantly he had fallen off his game.

He had gotten to a point where he hadn’t been in years – contemplating how to get back into an environment where he was penciled into the major championships at the start of the year. Getting back to the Masters, for instance, weighed on his mind at the beginning of the 2022-23 season.

Rose conceded that he had set his GPS to get within the Top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking. That was the route that he had focused on, but crazy how this golf business works, the win at Pebble Beach takes care of the Augusta matter. (Rose also moves from 71st to 35th in the world order, and from No. 77 to No. 10 on the FedExCup.)

It serves as a reminder, he said, that he’s gone about his duties in a proper fashion. Rose didn’t push to be No. 1 in the world. He is not stressed about making Ryder Cup teams, nor does he put pressure on himself to improve statistically in specific categories.

Instead, “my only goal is to really play well enough where I can win majors,” he said. “And the No. 1 rule is, you’ve got to be in them.”

Cognizant of the constant changes that are in anyone’s life, Rose doesn’t make a big deal of his move back to England with wife Kate and children Leo, 13, and Charlotte, 10. “We just felt like education was important to us. Putting them first is the reason (for the move from the Bahamas).”

But he does emphasize that the magnitude of his victory hit him as he played Pebble’s iconic par-5 18th hole. “I feel like I have been fortunate enough to win at some great venues,” he said. “But Pebble’s right up there.

“Just that walk up 18 to sort of be able to build a bit of a lead and be able to enjoy it was a very special moment. I think when you’re a bit starved for a win as well, the fact that it came on a weather day like we had (glorious sunshine after two days of blustery wind and heavy downpours) and a venue we had was just worth waiting for.”


PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Justin Rose was a steady presence on a day of weather that changed by the minute, playing 19 holes in 9-under par and leaving the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am in the dark Sunday with a two-shot lead.

The final round of the wind-delayed tournament was to be completed Monday morning, and the 42-year-old Rose was in position to win for the first time in four years.

He was at 15-under par through nine holes — his shot safely in the 10th fairway — when the final round was stopped as the sun dipped behind the Pacific horizon.

Denny McCarthy, who started the final round six shots behind, shot 29 on the front nine at Pebble Beach to soar into contention. He chose to continue the 16th hole, hitting his approach to 15 feet and then choosing to mark his ball and stop for the night.

He was at 13-under par, along with Brendon Todd (through 12 holes) and Peter Malnati, who was in the final group with Rose.

The only winner Sunday was Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, who with Ben Silverman of Canada won the pro-am. Because of the wind and other weather delays, the pro-am was cut to 54 holes, leaving only professionals for the final round.

Rodgers and Silverman won by one shot.

He gets his name on the Wall of Champions in front of the first tee at Pebble Beach, which Rodgers called a “bucket list” item for him.

Rose would love to be on an adjoining plaque for tournament winners.

He was around the middle of the pack when he returned to Monterey Peninsula on Sunday morning to resume the third round. It was his golf ball blowing some 4 feet on the ninth green that led officials to stop play a day earlier.

Rose had hit 5-wood to 7 feet on Saturday. He made the 7-foot putt Sunday morning, and he was on his way, playing 10 holes in 6 under for a 66 that gave him a one-shot lead.

After a slow start to the final round — a bogey at the start, even par through some of the scorable sections of the front nine — Rose drilled a long iron from the fairway bunker up the hill to 8 feet on the par-5 sixth hole for eagle, and followed that with an 18-foot birdie putt on the seventh to expand his lead.

Sunday featured wind, rain, briefly some hail and sunshine, and that was all in the three hours to complete the third round in the morning. By late afternoon, players went from umbrellas to seeing shadows in a span of 15 minutes.

The toughest stretch for Rose could await Monday, depending on the wind. If the forecast holds true — that’s a big if at Pebble — the final stretch of holes has proven the most difficult. Six of the final seven holes have ranked among the eight hardest for the final round.

Taylor Pendrith of Canada was among 20 players who finished. He went out in 31 and played bogey-free for a 64 to post at 12-under 275. That was three shots behind Rose, but worth sticking around to see how it unfolded.

Rodgers did his share of heavy lifting. Silverman, coming off a Korn Ferry Tour win, finished at 1-over 216 and missed the cut. Rodgers, playing off a 10 handicap, said he had not played golf since training camp until last Monday.

They finished at 26-under par.

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and Keith Mitchell were four behind. Minus the weather, the leading 25 pro-am teams would have played Sunday afternoon.

“Josh Allen was telling me there’s going to be an asterisk by this win because there was only three rounds,” Rodgers said. “But I think our names are going to be up there for a long time.”


PEBBLE BEACH, Ca. – For some context to the reason Saturday’s third round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am was never completed, we offer these snapshots:

  • At the 570-yard, par-5 sixth, a hole that demands that you stand on the tee and let it rip, Jordan Spieth did just that. He produced a 240-yard drive.
  • At the 113-yard, par-3 seventh – repeat, 113 yards – Ryan Palmer hit 7 iron.
  • Stay at that dainty little seventh hole and digest the fact that 28 players played it to a stroke average of 3.143 with bogeys out numbering birdies, 5-2.
  • Playing beautifully and sitting just one off the lead, Seamus Power from just 83 yards missed the green wildly left and found a greenside bunker at the par-4 fourth. He blasted to 4 ½ feet but three putted for double bogey.

Mind you, all this took place in the gusty winds and intermittent rain at Pebble Beach where conditions were arguably not quite as treacherous as those greens at Monterey Peninsula Country Club, Nos. 9 and 15, that are more exposed and sitting hard against the Pacific along 17 Mile Drive.

All of which explains why “Pebble weather,” which is as much a part of this iconic tournament as Stillwater Cove, Bill Murray’s levity and memories of Johnny Miller’s heroics at the age of 46, has once again dominated the show.

Play in Round 3 was halted at 12:12 p.m. at MPCC, then at 12:20 at Pebble Beach and Spyglass Hills. It never resumed because Gary Young, PGA TOUR vice-president of rules, competition, and administration said the forecast was “for winds to only get much higher.”

Consequently, a number of changes have been made to this storied tournament.

Round 3 play will resume at 8 a.m. Sunday and amateurs are not required to return. (It is expected that only those amateurs in contention will come back and compete in the pro-am, which will be cut to 54 holes.)

Young expects that another 3 ½ hours will be needed to complete Round 3 after which the field will be trimmed to pros only, the low 65 and ties. Normally, only low 60 and ties make the pro cut here but given the circumstances, “we thought it was the right thing to do.”

Assuming all goes as planned – and the forecast for Sunday calls for periods of stead rain – the fourth round would begin at approximately 12:30 p.m. and a Monday finish would be required.

That’s a lot of moving parts, yes, but what is set in place – at least for right now – is a leaderboard that has a trio of players who were on Pebble Beach Saturday. Peter Malnati had three straight birdies early in his round, then added three more at Nos. 1, 2 and 3 to push to 12-under. Joseph Bramlett was 2-under through 13 holes to push to 10-under, tied with Keith Mitchell, who has made just three bogeys in 46 holes but knows his assignment has flipped considerably.

“Definitely pleased with how I played,” said Mitchell, who birdied Nos. 3, 4 and 6 dead into the wind and relished the thoughts of playing a stretch of holes with a more favorable wind. “I felt like I had some good scoring opportunities coming up,” he said.

But after making a bogey at the ninth to fall to 10-under and two off the lead, Mitchell never got that opportunity.

“Wind looks like it’s going to be switched (Sunday) so now I’ll be playing 11 through pretty much almost through 18 straight into the wind.”

Mitchell shrugged. He knows about the infamous “rub of the green.” He also knows that Sunday morning “with the rain and the gusts up to 20 (m.p.h.) is going to be tough, but we’ve got to give it our best.”

Spieth can commiserate with Mitchell. He, too, will resume at Pebble where his fortunes went sideways Saturday. The crowd favorite here had a rough time into the wind at the fifth (bogey), eighth (bogey) and ninth (double) and fell to 1-under. He’s smack on the cutline with nine to play.

For Mitchell, it’s not so much that he started the day just one off of Kurt Kitayama’s 9-under lead and now sits two behind Malnati. It’s more about the environment that has changed dramatically.

The major goal at the start of the week is for “the team” to make the cut and play a fourth round and Mitchell and Buffalos Bills star quarterback Josh Allen seemed destined to do just that. They were 19-under when play stopped but being six behind the leaders (Ben Silverman and Aaron Rodgers are 25-under) and with just eight holes to play “but he won’t be able to play the last round.”

Mitchell, who said he hadn’t even talked to Allen to see if he’s coming back Sunday morning, concedes it’s not quite the same even if he does. The wind has blown the picture upside down and the grind to make the cut has been taken away.

That’s Mitchell’s No. 1 weather complaint.

“We’ve had a great group with Kevin Chappell and Eric Church (at 7-under, their team play appears over). We’ve been having a blast,” said Mitchell, who’ll be trying to chase down his second PGA TOUR win.

“I actually was actually pretty bummed because we had such a good time.”

The challenge will be to find more joy in the rain and wind.


PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Kurt Kitayama is starting to feel more comfortable each time he gets in contention on the PGA TOUR, and the Californian can only hope that’s the case going into the weekend at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Kitayama opened with 10 straight pars before getting on track and finished birdie-par on two of the tougher holes at Pebble Beach for a 2-under 70 that gave him a one-shot lead Friday.

Kitayama was at 9-under 134 and led by one over Keith Mitchell, Brandon Wu, Joseph Bramlett and Hank Lebioda.

The way the forecast looks, getting comfortable on the Monterey Peninsula takes on a different meaning.

Katayama’s last shot at his first PGA TOUR win was in the fall in THE CJ CUP in South Carolina at Congaree. He was tied for the lead going into the weekend with Jon Rahm, and he was in the final group and one shot behind Rory McIlroy going to the final round.

He also finished runner-up to Rahm in Mexico last year, and to Xander Schauffele in the Genesis Scottish Open.

“I think the more you put yourself in that position the more you can get comfortable feeling uncomfortable,” Kitayama said. “It’s definitely good experiences to fall back on and use coming Sunday, hopefully.”

The contenders at Pebble don’t have that kind of star power. Of the leading 10 players, only four have won on the PGA TOUR and Scott Stallings is the only multiple winner.

Far more daunting is the fickle weather at this tournament.

Starting times for Saturday were moved up one hour because of strong wind, and it doesn’t take much in these parts for it to be a problem.

Lebioda felt it coming down the stretch Friday at Pebble Beach. He was leading most of the day until a double bogey on the par-3 fifth hole when he went well left of the green, dumped the next shot in a bunker and took three to get down.

He finished with a bogey and had to settle for a 72.

“It was definitely more difficult,” Lebioda said. “I thought there was a little bit more wind during my round than I had yesterday out at Monterey. Course is probably a little bit more difficult, as well. So a combination of those two things made it a challenging round.”

Lebioda moves over to Spyglass Hill and become a unique footnote in history. Saturday will be his 11th consecutive PGA TOUR round on his 11th different course. That’s partially a produce of missing his last five cuts on TOUR.

He played Port Royal in the Bermuda Championship. He played the Plantation and Seaside courses at Sea Island in the RSM Classic. He started this year playing three courses in The American Express. From there he was off to Torrey Pines on the North and South Course. And this week he’s been at Monterey Peninsula, Pebble and Spyglass Hill.

“We do our best to try to approach each round as its own event,” he said.

Mitchell (68), Wu (66) and Bramlett (67) all played at Monterey Peninsula.

Seamus Power of Ireland delivered the low round of a day that began with rain before giving way to steady wind and occasionally chilly weather when the shifting clouds kept the sun away. He had a 64 at Monterey Peninsula to get within two of the lead.

“The first five, six holes kind of rainy and the ball just wasn’t going anywhere. Not much wind,” Power said. “Then we got to the turn and then for like an hour, hour-and-a-half, it really blew like pretty strongly there for awhile. The last few holes was very pleasant.

“It was one of those days kind of like back home in Ireland where you get a lot of seasons in one day.”

Viktor Hovland, who won a U.S. Amateur and was low amateur in the U.S. Open at Pebble Beach, is playing this tournament for the first time. He shot 67 at Monterey Peninsula and was three shots to par behind.

Jordan Spieth had a 68 at Monterey Peninsula and was five behind.

They next face Pebble Beach, the toughest of the three courses in the wind because so many holes are exposed along the ocean.

Spieth was hoping for a little better Friday, but he was mildly pleased that the lead didn’t get too far away from him.

“Still in it,” he said. “But we got what looks like a tough couple days coming up.”


PEBBLE BEACH, Ca. — Changes in weather and fortunes can happen without notice in the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which seems to suit Hank Lebioda just fine these days.

Playing his sixth different course in his last six rounds on the PGA TOUR, Lebioda ran off six birdies in an eight-hole stretch for an 8-under 63 on the Shore course at Monterey Peninsula and a one-shot lead after the opening round Thursday.

His big advantage was finishing before a pleasant day of mostly sunny, relatively calm conditions gave way to wind strong enough to bend flagsticks and force players to remove caps before they putted so they wouldn’t blow off.

Lebioda was among six players from the leading 12 scores who have yet to win on the PGA TOUR. He doesn’t have a good recipe for success in tournaments with multiple courses except to be prepared for anything.

“This would be eight courses in three weeks for us,” said Lebioda, who missed the cut in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines and The American Express. “Three courses in Palm Springs, two last week in San Diego and three this week. So the best thing you can do is take care of yourself, relax and make sure you’re good to go.”

Three of the top four scores to par were at Monterey Peninsula. Kurt Kitayama made four straight birdies around the turn and had a bogey-free 64, while Harry Hall made five straight birdies and was tied for the lead until a late bogey on No. 8. He also had 64.

“The birdie streak on the front was pretty cool because I think I went bogey and then had a par on the second hole and then had five in a row. So it was really good,” Hall said. “Coming down the last two holes it started to blow 45 miles an hour. It was crazy. Happy to get in at 7 under today.”

Chad Ramey had a 7-under 65 at Pebble Beach. He was tied for the lead until going into the front bunker on the par-3 17th and taking bogey.

The best score at Spyglass Hill belonged to Keith Mitchell at 5-under 67. It was the only course where the average score was over par. Mitchell was alongside a pair of NFL quarterbacks. His amateur partner is Josh Allen of the Buffalo Bills, whose caddie for the week is Kyle Allen of the Houston Texans.

The change in weather was not terribly severe — it’s not like it snowed. Even so, it caused havoc among those trying to finish at Pebble Beach, the most exposed of the courses.

Will Gordon was tied for the lead at 8 under with three holes to play. From the middle of the 16th fairway into a strengthening wind, he came up 35 yards short of the back pin and made bogey. Dead into the wind on the par-3 17th to a right pin — the easiest location for three days to account for amateurs — he was some 30 yards short and dropped another shot.

He finished with a triple bogey, driving into the ocean rocks left of the fairway and having to reload. His approach into a strong wind coming off the ocean left him behind a tree, and he hit that over the green into a bunker.

In three holes, he went from tied for the lead to a tie for 24th.

The celebrity rotation was at Spyglass Hill, regarded as the toughest of the three in calm conditions. U.S Open champion Matt Fitzpatrick and three-time major champion Jordan Spieth each managed a 71, while Viktor Hovland had a 70.

Hovland is playing the tournament for the first time, though he won the U.S. Amateur at Pebble Beach and was low amateur at Pebble in the 2019 U.S. Open.

Spieth, who won this event in 2017, was a mixture of birdies and bogeys, and then had to hang on for dear life over the final hour when temperatures plunged and the wind began whipping.

“It was really bizarre the last four holes or so with the wind,” Spieth said. “It went from nothing to flipping and then blowing about 25 out of nowhere the other direction than the forecast. That throws us through a big loop when you’re prepping for something and you got to make the adjustment.

“But I had a good last three holes and that always kind of puts a smile on your face.”

He played them in 1 under, with a tough par save from a flyer lie in the rough, having no idea what the wind was going to do when his ball got in the air.

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