Underdog Ted Potter Jr. rocks Pebble Beach with victory

Tahoe Onstage / Michael Smyth

Ted Potter Jr. holds the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am title, trophy and $1.3 million.
Tahoe Onstage photos by Michael Smyth

The “David vs Goliath” analogy is way over-used, but given the circumstances of the combatants paired together in the final round of the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am, it’s a reasonable label. Ted Potter Jr. could safely be described as a talented, but journeyman pro with one PGA Tour win.

After missing nearly two years due to a broken ankle suffered in 2014 and a pair of surgeries, the most notable check he’s made since returning was a $10,000 shopping spree at Bass Pro Shops for making an ace at last year’s RSM Classic. He added $1.3 million to that total this weekend.

Entering Sunday tied for the lead with the world’s No. 1 ranked player and two-time Pebble Beach Pro Am champion, didn’t exactly read on paper like a great comeback opportunity.

“I’m sure everybody knew probably going into this, Dustin’s probably going to win the golf tournament, so I knew I’m the underdog there,” said Potter. who entered the tournament ranked 246th. “What do I have to lose, really? Just go out there and try to play the best golf I could today and see what happens.”

Dustin Johnson wasn’t the only big name in pursuit. Jason Day, Phil Mickelson, and Phoenix Open runner-up Chez Reavie all made charges up the leaderboard, but Potter Jr. bested them all with rock-solid play after a 3-putt bogey on the day’s opening hole.

“I think the way I finished the tournament coming down the stretch on the back nine. I struck the ball well and hit a lot of my targets out there coming in with the pressure on me,” Potter Jr. said.  “Knowing that — I knew I had probably a two-shot lead, but you never know what could happen out there. I just hit a lot of quality golf shots coming down the stretch knowing I had to.”

Turned out the guy who played a little shaky was the guy no one expected to. Johnson didn’t play poorly, but in a game that can be determined by being in the wrong place a few inches, he often found himself playing defense.

“It was just kind of one of those days. It felt like all day I was in between clubs, so I was either trying to hit one hard or take something off of one and it just never … ,” Johnson said

Despite having played 27 straight holes at Pebble Beach Golf Links in a pedestrian 2 under par, a win for Johnson was still in reach. “I knew even still making the turn going into the back nine I was right there, I had a good chance.

“The bogey on 11 really cost me when I felt like I hit a really good shot into 11. It went what, six inches too far, hung up in the rough there. It was just one of those days where nothing went my way and it is what it is. Ted played well.”

Ted Potter Jr. hasn’t spent the $10,000 at Bass Pro Shops yet. He became a millionaire after staring down some of the best players in the game on a wonky ankle. “It still gets sore at the end of the day, but I can swing the golf club and can get around all 18 holes, so I feel good about that,” he said.  “But it’s still going to be awhile before it’s like 100 percent.”

Most likely, Potter Jr. will not notice his ankle being sore anymore. Instead, it will just be a reminder of what being the 2018 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am champion feels like.

-Michael Smyth

Tahoe Onstage

Ted Potter Jr. is congratulated on the green.

Tahoe Onstage

Justin Day reacts to missing a putt. The Australian finished in a four-way tie for second place.

Tahoe Onstage

Chez Reavie rallied to tie-for second-place finish.

Tahoe Onstage

Phil Mickelson was among the second-place finishers.

About Michael Smyth

Michael Smyth moved to Reno in 2007 after living more than 40 years in the Bay Area. In addition to going to live shows, he enjoys golf, skiing and fly-fishing. Check out his website www.bombilations.com

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