PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. – In a sea of stars lighting up the Monterey Peninsula this week, Ted Potter Jr. has been lost in the crowd.
All about him, autograph seekers and amateur photographers armed with their cell phones at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am have been tracking golf luminaries such as Dustin Johnson, Phil Mickelson, Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth. The leading actor among the entertainment icons, Bill Murray, has been a huge draw, as have been sports legends Wayne Gretzky, Aaron Rodgers and Justin Verlander. And then there’s the eye-popping scenery of land and sea.
Potter, meanwhile, has just been going about his business amid all the clamor, an unassuming lefty quietly making a name for himself through 54 holes.
Until Saturday, that is, as Potter loudly made a name for himself with a 9-under-par 62 on the Shore Course at Monterey Peninsula Country Club to move into a tie for first place with world No. 1 Johnson after 54 holes.
After making nine birdies and an eagle in his first 15 holes, Potter needed to play his final three holes 1 under to become the first left-hander to shoot a sub-60 round in PGA Tour history. He made bogeys on his final two holes yet signed for his career-low round. And the man who won 12 times on the Hooters Tour now is in position to win his second PGA Tour title.
“My ball striking has been good,” said the man of few words. “I hit a lot of greens in regulation this week and then seeing the ball go in the hole making some putts, that definitely helps when the hole looks twice as big as opposed to twice as small sometimes.”
A win Sunday would be Potter’s biggest by far, earning him a trip to Augusta National for the Masters and spots in the U.S. Open and British Open, as well as a trip to Hawaii for the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions. He knows he’s playing well enough to win, but with his limited experience in playing late on Sundays with a chance to win, Potter knows he has to handle his emotions.
“I haven’t been in contention too much. I’ve had some good tournaments, but I need to get there more often to get comfortable there. But tomorrow will be a good test for me and to see how it goes,” said Potter, 34. “Today I felt really comfortable out there, didn’t really ever get nervous about the round or where I’m at in the tournament. It’s just something that you just got to get used to, I guess.”
A win would be the latest chapter in a life that has been rather compelling despite its obscurity. He turned pro at 19 because he didn’t want to go to college – “I was just never into schoolwork,” he said.
After winning a bunch of mini-tour events, he earned his way onto the Web.com Tour but in 2004, his first year on the tour, he didn’t cash a check – missing the cut in all 24 starts. He won his only Tour title in the 2012 Greenbrier Classic. Then in 2014, wearing flip-flops early in the morning as he was packing up his car, he slipped off a curb and broke his right ankle. He needed two surgeries and didn’t play in 2015.
“It was a freak accident,” he said. “It still gets sore at the end of the day, but I can swing the golf club and can I get around 18 holes, so I feel good about that. But it’s still going to be awhile before it’s like 100%.
“But it feels good enough to play at this level.”
And last year, he made a hole-in-one at the RSM Classic and won a $10,000 shopping spree at Bass Pro Shops (he hasn’t spent it all yet). But now he can win $1.322 million on Sunday, at a place he loves.
“I’ve played well here in the past and I think that helps, drawing on past experience,” he said. “It’s definitely a fun week, it’s a relaxing week. You got amateur partners and just go out there and talk with them and just kind of enjoy the moment out there and you got beautiful views.
“I mean, it’s just a great place to be.”
Published at Sun, 11 Feb 2018 00:32:46 +0000