Justin Rose leads by two at AT&T Pebble Beach as players prepare for Monday finish

  • Justin Rose’s impressive fairway bunker shot and eagle at AT&T Pebble Beach

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – Playing golf sunrise to sunset on the Monterey Peninsula sounds like a delectable opportunity, even when the weather comes at you with an assortment of conditions from hail to sunshine and everything in between.

To know that you can have a few more holes on Monday morning with a chance to win $1.62 million is . . . well, it’s this year’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where Justin Rose started his day with some fire at Monterey Peninsula CC and ended it with some early-evening magic at Pebble Beach to put his name atop the leaderboard.

Buoyed by a scintillating 215-yard bunker shot to set up a 6-foot eagle at the par-5 sixth and then a deft 20-foot birdie putt at the par-3 seventh, Rose pushed into a two-shot lead in an effort to win for the first time on the PGA TOUR since the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open.

The 42-year-old Englishman was 3-under in the final round, 15-under for the tournament when he ran out of daylight walking down the 10th fairway. He will return Monday morning to hit a 143-yard approach into the No. 10 green and continue through Pebble’s back nine.

He’ll have plenty of company close behind, because playing competitor Peter Malnati is sitting at 13-under, tied with Brendon Todd and Denny McCarthy, both of whom will return to face birdie putts – Todd from 8 feet at No. 13, McCarthy 14 feet at No. 16.

Taylor Pendrith, one of 20 players to finish their fourth rounds before play was called , closed with a 64 – 275 to have the clubhouse lead at 12-under. But clearly this is not Pendrith’s tournament to win, it’s Rose’s.

And should the Englishman snap a stretch of 67 PGA TOUR tournaments without a victory, he’ll likely give credit to his heroics at the sixth hole.

“No, it’s not comfortable,” said Rose of his position in the bunker down the left side of the fairway. The second shot at the sixth is a blind shot up and over a massive hill that feels like a mountain.

Rose weighed his options – a high 7-iron, perhaps? – before settling on a 4-iron that required him to hit it flush. Rose pulled it off. “I was really focused, just made sure I hit the back of the ball,” he said.

“You’ve got to strike it. You know that if you catch it half-an-inch fat, you could be in the ravine. Obviously, for it to climb up there to 6 feet (was a bit fortunate). But I did my part. I struck it, stayed out of trouble, committed to it.”

That it led to an eagle and ushered him into a birdie at the seventh and a gut-check par at the demanding par-4 eighth was a huge relief to Rose.

He had returned to Pebble Beach for his fourth round after having played 10 holes in 6-under at Monterey Peninsula CC to seize the lead at 12-under, but a sloppy bogey at Pebble’s pedestrian opening hole almost sucked all the air out of his great morning.

The play at the sixth “was a momentum builder,” said Rose, who focuses not on his lengthy skid but his positive play of late (four straight cuts made, a top 10 and two top 20s).

“I’ve been trending,” he said.

Were you to narrow your focus to just Sunday’s partial final round at Pebble, no one was trending quite like McCarthy, a veritable putting machine when he gets it cooking. Surely, he did over Pebble’s front nine as he rolled in seven birdie putts that totaled no more than 27 feet.

“A great day. I felt really comfortable all day,” said McCarthy, who played nine holes at Monterey Peninsula CC to finish Round 3, then came to Pebble and hit five shots inside of 15 feet.

Whether McCarthy can maintain his roll, or whether he has enough holes to catch Rose and win for the first time on the PGA TOUR remains to be seen. But the onetime University of Virginia standout does know this – he has finally seen what all the hoopla is about when people talk about “Pebble weather.”

“I’ve played this tournament three times before and had perfect weather,” he said. “So this is the year, I guess, that I was due to get some bad weather.”