As you may have heard from the media or those in attendance at Pebble Beach today, Tiger Woods roared back into contention for the 2012 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am firing a 5 under par 67 at the famed Pebble Beach itself. But as the media and fans fawned over Tiger’s presence at the tournament, they both failed to see the greatness that was unfolding over at Spyglass Hill, as the tournament’s leader Charlie Wi quietly and efficiently made his way around the most difficult of the tournament’s three courses.
With scant crowds and only one photographer on hand for the majority of his round, Wi shot a 3 under par 69 at Spyglass to take a 3 shot lead over Ken Duke and 4 shot lead over Tiger heading into the Sunday’s final round (Charlie is currently at 15 under par overall).
However, the fact that Wi would remaining the tournament’s leader for the third straight day was anything but a given on Saturday.
To the surprise of competitors and spectators, Round 2 had introduced cold and damp playing conditions to the courses, and the third round continued the unpredictable weather trends surrounding the tournament. As I followed the Wi/Blanks group today, the weather ebbed from calm overcast conditions to swirling gusts of wind to fleeting sheets of rain. Thus a player’s chance of scoring well on any given hole could be entirely dependent on the changing weather conditions.
Not that this is any different than other tournament conditions, but on Saturday at Spyglass a mere four minutes could be the difference between hitting in calm conditions or into a head wind with cascading water drops hitting one’s face.
Wi handled the varying weather conditions brilliantly throughout his round on Saturday, missing only three fairways all day, displaying a great calm and patience when recovering from minor mistakes, and most importantly making timely putts.
And while Wi’s performance on Saturday might have lacked the flamboyancy and energy of Woods’, the University of California grad played consistent bogey free golf that guaranteed him a spot in the final pairing on Sunday and a chance for his first win on the PGA Tour.
The legitimate question going forward is whether or not Wi will be able to handle the pressure of leading a tournament heading into the final round and the atmosphere that will surround him on Sunday at Pebble Beach.
Wi has played the first three rounds of the Pebble Beach Pro Am with little to no attention. On Saturday the crowds following him averaged no more than 30-40 people and a scant amount of photographers.
Tomorrow, Wi will be following Tiger and will have to contend with the huge galleries that have accompanied the world’s former #1 golfer all week as well as the attention of the media. He will be confronted with the pressures of winning a tournament and having to fend off a possible surge by Woods that would be unfolding right in front of him.
So far during his professional career Wi hasn’t proven capable of finishing atop the leaderboard. Yet, if Charlie’s performance on the 12th hole at Spyglass on Saturday is any indication, Sunday at Pebble might just be the day Wi has been striving for since turning pro in 1995.
The 12th at Spyglass is tricky downhill 178 yards Par 3, and while Wi was standing on the tee box waiting to hit, the weather shifted from calm to unfortunate. In spite of having to hit into a shifting cross wind and sheets of rain, Wi’s tee shot landing on the green 25 feet from the hole, from where the tournament’s leader calmly drained his birdie putt. It was a tournament defining moment…and one that most people never saw.
A scorecard speaks only to the fact that Wi birdied the 12th and not to the bad luck and adversity which he overcame on that hole. But when facing the challenges that will certainly confront him on Sunday, in his mind Wi must already know that he can endure and emerge victorious.
Best of luck on your quest tomorrow Charlie.
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