PEBBLE BEACH — The best break for Steve Marino might have come moments after he finished his round Saturday at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, nowhere near where he had just three-putted from 4 feet for a bogey.
Across the Del Monte Forest, where the crowds gathered in sunshine to watch the celebrity show at Pebble Beach, D.A. Points had a chance to catch Marino atop the leaderboard with a birdie on the par-5 18th. Instead, he couldn’t escape a fairway bunker and took bogey, which made a difference in the today pairings.
A big difference.
That final hole is what kept Points and his amateur partner — Bill Murray — from joining Marino in the final group.
“That would have been a trip,” Marino said. “I don’t know about that.”
Those two weren’t the only players to struggle on Saturday as Davis High graduate Nick Watney fell from fifth place down to 29th by shooting a 3-over 75 at the tough Spyglass Hill course.
After posting rounds of 4-under and 3-under to start the tournament, the former Blue Devil was in a group of players that were six shots off the lead entering the day. Watney is now eight strokes back at 4-under 210.
UC Davis graduate Scott Gordon missed the cut on Saturday despite good performances the past two days. Gordon’s 75 in the first round was the too much to overcome, even with rounds of 1-under on Friday and even par on Saturday.
Despite his struggles on the green, Marino had a 1-over 71 at Monterey Peninsula and had a one-shot lead over Jimmy Walker, who had a 63 at Monterey Peninsula, and Bryce Molder, who had a 68 at Spyglass Hill while playing before a gallery of about a dozen.
Points shot 71 and was another shot behind.
Marino couldn’t imagine trying to win his first PGA Tour event while playing alongside the assistant head greenskeeper at Bushwood, the famous role Murray played in “Caddyshack.”
What’s there to worry about?
All Murray did Saturday was wear an Elmer Fudd hat (to signal that he and Points were in the hunt). As Points faced a short birdie putt on the second hole, Murray offered him a bite of his doughnut if he made it.
Late in the round on the par-3 17th, Murray playfully tossed it to a young girl in the bunker. And after Points made a birdie, Murray and Points held hands and jumped into the bunker.
Welcome to the PGA Tour, Pebble style.
“He gave everybody Ben and Jerry’s ice cream bars on 17,” Points said. “He did plenty of stuff. It doesn’t really bother me. I hope he does it (today). I’ll be interested to see what the guys we play with (today) feel about it, but it doesn’t bother me.”
Marino doesn’t have to worry about it.
He was at 12-under 202 and will be in the final group with his partner, Irish amateur Dermot Desmond, and Walker.
Molder and amateur Harry You, who have a one-shot lead in the pro-am portion of the tournament, will be in the second-to-last group with Points and Murray, who are one shot behind.
The four players atop the leaderboard have as many PGA Tour victories as Murray, which would be none.
Marino might be the most tested, having lost in a playoff at Colonial a year ago and finishing with one of the best shots of the young season at the Sony Open last month in Honolulu to finish second.
“I felt like I’ve had the game to win out here for a while,” Marino said. “It just hasn’t happened. I’m not going to say that I’m due. But I feel like I’m good enough to win on this tour.”
Marino was not too bothered by a round that featured a trio of three-putt bogeys, an unplayable lie from a bush and an eagle. He said he hit the ball better than he has all week, but could not get used to the pace of the greens on the Shore course.
“A strange round,” he said.
Alex Cejka and Tom Gillis were at 9-under 205, while the group another shot back included J.J. Henry, Kevin Sutherland and Aaron Baddeley. They were the only players in the top 10 on the leaderboard who have won on tour.
Molder has some experience being in contention, although he is trying to bury part of that memory. A year ago at Pebble Beach, he was closing in on the lead when he took a quintuple-bogey 9 on the 14th hole. Two other players also made 9 on that hole, which is quickly growing a reputation as one of the toughest par 5s on tour without a water hazard.
“I don’t remember what you’re talking about,” Molder said with a grin. “You know, all you can do is laugh. I got there this year (on Thursday) and made a mess of it, had a good up-and-down for bogey.”
Phil Mickelson moved into contention for a fourth title at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am by making three birdies over his final five holes for a 69. That moved him to 7-under 207, only five shots back going into the final round.
“I thought that the round could have been a lot better, but toward the end … I probably got as much out of the round as I could have,” Mickelson said. “But throughout the course of the day, I had many opportunities to go low and I didn’t take advantage of them. I’ve got to go really low (today) to give myself a chance.”
That was all Mickelson had time to say. He rushed off to the airport to fly home to San Diego for daughter Sophia’s dance recital.
Only three times in the last 20 years has a player won the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am for this first PGA Tour victory, the last one being Arron Oberholser in 2006.
They might not be rookies, but not many of them have been tested.
“I was talking to my coach, and he says, ‘Don’t do anything different tonight than if you were 50th or missing the cut,'” Walker said.
Marino isn’t sure that matters.
“All these guys are good,” he said. “Everybody is going to get their experience somewhere, and for some people, it might be tomorrow.”
It figures to be crowded Sunday, inside and outside the ropes.
Because the top 20 pro-am teams play the final round, the cut is top 60 and ties. However, 73 players finished at 2-under 212. That includes two-time defending champion Dustin Johnson, who had to make a 3-foot par putt on the 18th at Pebble to make the cut.
David Duval opened his tournament with no birdies and a 77 at Pebble Beach, but he rallies with rounds of 65 and 70 to make it on the number. Perhaps even more impressive was Jeff Maggert, who opened with 75-74 and shot 62 at Monterey Peninsula.