Rich Cardillo is pretty sure that among the star entertainers, corporate big shots and high-profile zillionaires who teed it up in last week's AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, he was the only Xerox copier salesman. Still, fame eluded him by only inches. Cardillo was playing Pebble's 4th hole, a short par-4, during a practice round when he skulled a 90-yard wedge shot. As Cardillo stood transfixed, the line drive—"I prefer to call it low heat," he says—veered toward the nearby 5th tee. A split second after hearing Cardillo's caddie scream, "Fore? Vijay Singh ducked and the ball whizzed past his head. Singh wheeled and yelled back, "Why did you try to kill me?"
"But he was laughing," says Cardillo, relieved that he hadn't dropped the reigning Masters champion. Two days later Cardillo bumped into Singh again, on the practice green, and once more apologized. "That's O.K.," Singh said. "Did you fix that hook?" Actually, Cardillo replied, it was a skulled shot. "Work on that, too," Singh said.
The latest edition of America's favorite celebrity pro-am was much like Singh's reaction to Cardillo's wayward wedge—we never saw it coming. This pro-am was full of surprises, from an overzealous autograph hound who almost knocked Tiger Woods out of the tournament before it began, to the beer-truck driver who found himself near the top of the leader board after the first round. From a scorching 28 on the front nine on Sunday by victory-starved Davis Love III, to a debatable piece of strategy on the 72nd hole by the man everyone expected to win, Phil Mickelson. Here's what we never saw coming:
Would you believe...that Love is the Tour's new terminator? When last seen, he was still getting great mileage out of his '97 convertible—that rainbow-framed PGA Championship at Winged Foot. Love, 36, hadn't won a Tour event since Harbour Town back in 1998, although he came in second or third 10 times since then. When he admitted to being intimidated by Woods at Bay Hill last year, after Woods had rolled to one of his nine wins, Love was written off as a big softie. No longer. In December he closed with a 64 to win the unofficial Williams World Challenge, and on Sunday he looked Tiger-like at Pebble Beach. He went eight under on the first seven holes, thanks to six birdies and an eagle (from 104 yards with a wedge at the par-5 2nd) and turned in that 28, tying Pebble Beach's front-nine record.
In a tight battle with Mickelson, Singh and Olin Browne, Love went for their throats. Tied with Singh and in the middle of the fairway on the famed par-5 18th, Love ripped a risky three-wood approach that flew 250 yards and stopped pin-high, 30 feet left of the hole. He narrowly missed the eagle putt for 62, the course record, but tapped in for the birdie that proved to be his margin of victory.
"I've been where Phil and Vijay are right now countless times in the last two years, and it's not a lot of fun," Love said after the 14th victory of his career. "I played pretty damn good the last two years and was very close. I wasn't frustrated; I was disappointed. Obviously, I've let a whole lot of opportunities get away in my 15 years. It's a thrill to win on this course at this stage of my career."
Would you believe...that Mickelson, considered the most likely challenger to Woods, fumbled in the red zone? A third-round 66 put Mickelson in a tie for the lead with Browne, two shots ahead of Singh, and he looked like the man to beat. Then Mickelson missed three-footers for birdie at the 5th and 7th holes. "Those are the putts you really need to make," he said.
When Mickelson missed the 15th green, stubbed his chip and made bogey, he trailed Love by three with three to play. Then things got fun. Mickelson hit a wedge close at the 16th and rolled in a dicey downhill slider from six feet. Two behind. He struck a seven-iron shot to seven feet at the next hole and holed another slippery putt. One back. "When that one went in, I knew I was going to birdie 18," Mickelson said. "I thought it was a done deal—maybe even a three for the win."
After a good drive at the 18th, he faced a shot similar to Love's, except that the wind had strengthened. Mickelson had 257 yards to the green and chose to hit driver, which he faded into the ocean. That shot led to a double bogey and left him open to serious second-guessing. "I don't think I've ever laid up on that hole," Mickelson said. "I had been having trouble all day spinning the ball too much on those greens. I would rather have been in the left bunker by the ocean than lay up and have a 70-or 80-yard shot, because I'm going to spin it back 25 feet and it's too hard to judge mat to get it close. My best chance was to hit driver and run the ball into the right front bunker or the gap short of the green. I came out of the shot, and when it started moving left with the wind, it didn't have a chance."
Mickelson's gamble surprised Love, who watched the proceedings from the range. "I was thinking, I hope for his sake he doesn't try to hit driver off the deck. I hope his caddie talks him out of it," Love said. "That's a dangerous play, but that's the way Phil plays. The wind was really tough on 18. When I was out there, the two U.S. flags on the roof of the Lodge were waving in different directions."