PEBBLE BEACH Brandt Snedeker came to the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am having shot an aggregate 34 under par in his last two tournaments, yet somehow he didn't come away with a victory in either event.
The reason? A couple of guys named Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson. Snedeker shot 10 under par in the Farmers Insurance Open at Torrey Pines two weeks ago but lost by four shots to Woods. Last week, he posted a remarkable 24-under total at the Phoenix Open at TPC Scottsdale shooting 64-66-65-65 yet again lost by four, this time to Mickelson.
Undaunted, 2013's early PGA Tour money and FedExCup points leader is knocking on the door again. The 32-year-old is tied for the lead at the midway point of the Pebble Beach tournament with Ted Potter Jr. at 8 under par.
"That's how you win out here; you just keep putting yourself in position," Snedeker said after shooting a bogey-free 4-under 68 at Spyglass Hill on Friday for a 36-hole total of 134. "The more times you do that, the more success you're going to have."
Snedeker, who won two events including the Tour Championship the FedExCup and nearly $5 million on the PGA Tour last year, said he has played conservatively through the first two rounds, particularly at Spyglass, where wind and wet conditions made the course a long, laborious slog.
"I just kind of dinked it around, kept it in play, didn't do anything too stupid," he said. "(Spyglass) typically plays the toughest of the (tournament's three courses). But that being said, guys still go low over here, so you need to take advantage of the par 5s, and if you drive it well, you can play pretty well. I did that today and didn't put myself in too many bad spots."
Snedeker's odds for victory improve by the simple fact that Woods isn't here this week. As for Mickelson, the defending champion and four-time winner here, he's six shots back after a 1-under 71 at Spyglass, tied for 39th.
With two rounds to go for Mickelson, both of them at the Pebble Beach Golf Links layout that he decimated last year with a final-round 64, he believes he's still very much in the hunt. Considering he made up six shots on the final day last year, no one should doubt him. But it could be a tougher climb this time with Snedeker perched atop the leaderboard.
Snedeker said winning on one of Mickelson's favorite layouts just to even things up for Scottsdale would be extra-special. "But I've got two more tough days, and you never know what the weather's going to do here," Snedeker said.
Mickelson was 3 under for his round through nine holes at Spyglass on Friday, which briefly put him in a tie for 11th. But he hit a rough patch, bogeying three of four holes at the start of his second nine before picking up a late birdie to remain in red figures.
"Both days, the first and second round, I was 3 under through 10 and I finished 1 under, so I have not finished off the round. Otherwise, I'd be right up there in contention," Mickelson said. "But I love Pebble Beach, I've played well there, and I'm only one good round away."
There are plenty of other players who could have a say in the outcome. Co-leader Potter, while a relative unknown, claimed his first victory last year in his rookie season on tour in the Greenbriar Classic. But he is definitely no stranger to the winner's circle as a pro, having won 16 times on satellite tours, including twice on the Nationwide circuit in 2011.
The 29-year-old left-handed player had an eagle on his first hole of the day at the Monterey Peninsula Country Club and briefly got to 9 under for the tournament before a bogey on his final hole gave him a 3-under 67.
"I feel good about my game right now," Potter said.
Hunter Mahan had another solid day, shooting a 1-under 69 at Monterey Peninsula to trail by one stroke.
Jason Day and his amateur partner, 49ers coach Jim Harbaugh, were leading the pro-am portion of the tournament by a shot over two other teams at 18 under par.