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.


Setien plays down Messi and Griezmann uncertainty

Updated 04 July 2020

Setien plays down Messi and Griezmann uncertainty

  • Messi’s contract is due to expire next year

MADRID: Barcelona coach Quique Setien moved to ease concerns on Saturday about the futures of Lionel Messi and Antoine Griezmann.

Messi’s contract is due to expire next year and, according to Spanish radio station Cadena Ser, the Argentinian has stopped talks due to frustrations with the direction the club is going in.

Asked about suggestions Messi plans to leave Barcelona, Setien said: “I won’t speculate about this because I haven’t heard from him so I’m not aware of him saying anything.

“I see him well, everything else is speculation that I won’t get involved in. We speak about what we have to speak about and nothing else.”

Griezmann’s position is also in doubt after a disappointing first season since joining from Atletico Madrid.

Barcelona play away at in-form Villarreal on Sunday, with Real Madrid sitting four points clear at the top of the table.

“He’s fine, I exchanged a few words with him. He’s a great professional. He understands the situation because he’s seen it before,” Setien said about Griezmann.

“It will not affect him because he is a very positive person. We can count on him 100 percent.”

Griezmann has started three of Barca’s last four matches on the bench, including the crunch games against Sevilla and Atletico, both of which Barcelona drew.

Setien described Griezmann as “unquestionable” last month.

“I was talking about hierarchies but I haven’t said he is unquestionable. Griezmann is a great player and important to the team,” said Setien.

“When he plays, you ask me about Ansu Fati and vice-versa. Not everyone can play.

“I am not ignorant, every club has its hierarchies but at a club like Barca where there are so many players, not everyone is able to play.”

Barca’s form, as well as suggestions of unrest in the dressing room, have placed scrutiny on Setien’s job.

He has a contract until 2022, with a break clause in 2021, but it remains to be seen if he is in charge for next season, or even the Champions League in August.

“I have experienced it other times,” said Setien, when asked about the uncertainty.

“It is not something I can control. This the circus that we are in and we accept it.

“I don’t exhaust myself by reading or listening to the noise around me.”

Frenkie de Jong is not available to face Villarreal as the midfielder is still nursing a calf injury. Samuel Umtiti and Ousmane Dembele are also out.