Is Dustin a lock to win the AT&T? Unpredictable
6:34 PM
Art Spander in AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, Dustin Johnson, articles, golf

By Art Spander

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — So there’s Dustin Johnson, No. 1 in the world rankings, tied for first three rounds into the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which he’s already won twice.

Meaning? Absolutely nothing, and then again a great deal.

The guy sharing first place with Johnson is Ted Potter Jr. That’s Ted Potter, not Harry, and you’d probably think Dustin is a lock to win. But if there’s anything more unpredictable than golf it hasn’t been invented yet, although maybe the weather is a distant second.

Who would have thought that Potter, 34, a one-time winner on Tour, would go out Saturday and shoot a nine-under-par 62 at Monterey Peninsula, where Friday Johnson shot a 64? So MPCC isn’t Augusta National, or even Pebble Beach, where Saturday Johnson had a two-under 70, It still has 18 holes and can be tricky.

As three-time major champion Rory McIlroy knows all too well. He shot a 74 there Friday, which is the reason he missed the cut. Would you have imagined that Rory would be 13 shots worse than Potter on a relatively easy course — keyword, relatively?

Johnson and Potter both were at 14-under-par for 54 holes, a round on each of the courses used for the first three days of the tournament, Pebble, Monterey and Spyglass Hill. Everyone who made the cut, low 60 and ties for the pros, low 25 for the amateurs, plays Pebble for Sunday’s final round.

Making the cut was four-time AT&T champion Phil Mickelson, who at Pebble had a three-putt par on the par-five sixth and a three-putt bogey on 18. His even-par 72 left him five shots back at 206. Missing the cut by three shots at 211 was Gary Woodland, who seven days earlier won the Waste Management Phoenix Open. Did I mention golf was unpredictable?

Or that Potter, who started at 10, bogied his last two holes — after making birdies on his first four (10 through 13) and six of his first seven? Or that Potter is a righthander who plays lefthanded, as is Mickelson? Or that while conditions still were pleasant enough, people and dogs packing the beach at Pebble, a cool breeze arrived for the first time in days?

“The wind out there on the point made the last three holes pretty tough,” said Potter. “But it was a great round today. I’ll go out (Sunday) and feel good about my game. As long as I can keep the nerves under control, I’ll be fine.”

Johnson figured out to do that a couple of years ago. He became infamous for falling apart in the final round of the 2010 U.S, Open at Pebble and missing a playoff by a shot in the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay. Then he turned into a terror, winning event after event, including the 2016 U.S. Open.

“I was playing solid,” Johnson said of his third round. "I feel like it’s in really good form going into (Sunday). I’m going to be in good position, but I’m going to have to go out and play really well if I want a chance to win.”

He has a chance, an excellent one. So does Potter. So do Jason Day and Troy Merritt, tied for third at 203.

Asked if the vibe changes for the final round of any tournament, Johnson said, “Yeah, it does for sure. Sunday you start focusing a little bit more. Probably should have focused more today. But yeah, on Sunday, we’re trying to win the golf tournament.”

Isn’t that the whole idea any day?

 

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