Brandt Snedeker goes into the weekend at Pebble Beach with another chance to win, this time without golf’s biggest stars in his way.
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 in Pebble Beach, Calif. Potter three-putted his final hole at Monterey Peninsula for a 67.
Hunter Mahan was among those 1 shot behind. With one more round before everyone has played all three courses in the rotation, the leaderboard was a big traffic jam. Three-dozen players were within 5 shots of the lead.
Snedeker, who was at 8-under 134, felt he was at an advantage because he goes to Pebble Beach 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 6 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 last two weeks — 4 shots behind Woods at Torrey Pines, and then 4 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 temperatures in the low 40s. 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 two 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.
Potter remains somewhat of a mystery. He 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.”
It’s been good so far on the Monterey Peninsula, which has been graced with surprisingly good weather. Even though the cold rain finally arrived, it didn’t last long. The sun broke through about three hours into the round, and by late afternoon, the Pacific was gleaming.
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 2 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 I 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 6 shots behind going into the final round last year when he won.
That was against Charlie Wi, still searching for his first tour win. At the top now is Snedeker, the second-highest ranked American behind Woods who is averaging 66.5 in his last eight rounds.