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Entries in AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am (8)

8:37PM

Ted Potter beats Dustin — and everyone else at the AT&T

By Art Spander

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — Ted Potter is what happens to golf. Which is the great thing about the game. Or, if you’re hoping for a winner who is famous, even familiar, conversely one of the problems.

It doesn’t matter if Potter isn’t one of those handsome young guys like Jordan Spieth or Dustin Johnson. Or one of those famous older guys like Phil Mickelson. He beat everyone, including Spieth, Johnson and Mickelson, to take the annual AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Well, in a way it does matter, because golf, a sport without team loyalty as is tennis, needs instantly recognizable champions, so that those peripherally interested in the game won’t look up and ask, “Who’s he?”

Potter is a portly 34-year-old with thinning hair. You won’t be seeing him in any commercials. But after his three-shot victory Sunday, worth virtually $1.3 million, you will be seeing him high on the money list and, no less significantly, in the field of the Masters in three months.

You’d have thought Johnson, the world's No. 1, a two-time AT&T winner, would be the champion. He began the last round at Pebble Beach tied with Potter at 14 under par, and after two holes he had a one-shot lead.

But Dustin was the one who was stagnant, with a total of four bogies and four birdies, for a 72, while Potter, after a bogey on the first hole, made four birdies and no bogies over the next 17 holes for a 69.

That gave him a 72-hole total of 17-under 270. (Pebble and Spyglass Hill are par 72; the third course in the rotation, where Potter shot 62 Saturday, is Monterey Peninsula, par 71).

Tied for second at 273 were the 47-year-old Mickelson, who shot 67; Chez Reavie, 68; Day, 70, and Johnson. 

Potter, who turned pro out of high school in Florida, probably needed the victory more than Dustin and Phil, or Spieth and Day, major winners all. Nearly four years ago, in July 2014, after missing the cut in the Canadian Open, Potter, flip-flops on his feet, slipped off a curb near his Montreal hotel and broke his right ankle.

He was off the Tour for three years. Even at the AT&T, he entered as a Web.com Tour member and was unsure of getting into the coming week’s Genesis Open at Riviera in Southern California. But now he’s fully exempt, if still not fully known — by the public or some of his fellow competitors.

“There’s a lot of new guys I haven’t met in the last couple of years,” he conceded. ”It’s still an individual game.”

A game in which Potter, who six years ago won his only other Tour event, the 2012 Greenbrier Classic, struggled after his injury, at one point missing 24 cuts in a row. But fellow pro Russell Knox has said Potter is the most talented player he’s ever battled.

Talented, yes, but as Potter admits, a trifle lackadaisical. “I’ve never been a hard worker, I guess,” he said. “I mean, I’m probably better than I think I am.”

He and Johnson were in the final group Sunday, and even if it wasn’t match play there was a feeling of head-to-head. “I had a great day today,” Potter agreed. “Dustin wasn’t, I guess, on his game.”

Johnson said as much. He thought he was prepared, but shots just flew over Pebble’s small greens. They also did for Potter, but on the short par-3 7th, the signature hole, he chipped in for a birdie. “That was one of those moments,” said Potter, who hadn’t had many of late.

Mickelson, a four-time AT&T winner, made a strong run, an indication that although he doesn’t have a victory since the 2015 British Open, Phil might break through again.

“I’ve played similarly all four weeks,” Mickelson said of his rounds this year. “I’ve had much better results the last two weeks (he tied for fifth at the Waste Management Phoenix Open). I’m going to try and take the momentum and carry it to Riviera.”

As is Ted Potter, a Mr. Nobody who now very much is somebody.

6:34PM

Is Dustin a lock to win the AT&T? Unpredictable

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?

 

7:30PM

Rory comes roaring out at the AT&T

By Art Spander

PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. — This isn’t football. You don’t try to win one for the Gipper in golf. The game is one of control, of direction. Sometimes the more you practice, or play, the worse you perform.

Something else about big-time golf: It’s lonely. There are no teammates to lend support, physical — that skulled wedge can’t be saved by, say, a diving catch — or mental. There seem to be as many sports psychologists around the Tour as there are teaching pros.

So the premise posited by Jason Day, who’s had his own troubles, that Rory McIlroy lacks desire is a thought based on a premise as judged by a competitor.

“The biggest thing for Rory,” said Day, along with McIlroy, Jordan Spieth, Dustin Johnson and suddenly Jon Rahm, one of golf’s best, “is the desire part. How much does he really want it? Because he has the tools to be Tigeresque.”

As in Tiger Woods, who was one-of-a-kind.

McIlroy, 28, because of a rib injury, and perhaps the distraction of his marriage — there’s life out there beyond the tee boxes — didn’t win a tournament in 2017. On the PGA Tour. On the European Tour. Tumbled in the World Golf Rankings. He was more mystery than history.

But it’s a new year, and McIlroy has a new outlook. On Thursday he shot a 68, four under par, at Spyglass Hill, in the opening round of the historic AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. That left him three shots behind Kevin Streelman, who shot his seven-under 65 at Spyglass and Beau Hossler, who shot his at Pebble Beach.

It was a glorious day on the Monterey Peninsula, wind light, skies blue, golf impressive.

“I was pleased,” said McIlroy. “A couple of really good weeks in the Middle East. But I’m healthy and able to practice. I’m able to do everything I want to do, so I feel good. I’m in a really good frame of mind, and that helps, too.”

Of course. It’s hard enough to challenge the world’s courses, and some of the world’s finest golfers, if you’re not thinking about the job at hand. As Sam Snead once said to Ted Williams when they were debating the relative difficulty of golf vs. baseball, “We have to play our foul balls.”

McIlroy, partnering with his father, Gerry, kept most of his shots on the fairways. “It was awesome,” said Rory. “It was great being out there with him.”

“A couple of messy holes coming in,” said Rory. “I recovered well. In the end I made a good bogey on 16, a great par on 17. It was nice to finish with a birdie on 18.”

Phil Mickelson, now 47, was the other pro in the foursome, shooting a three-under 69. The differential in ages between Rory and Phil is reason that golf is such an appealing game — 19 years — but on Thursday their rounds differed by only one stroke. As Raymond Floyd, a multiple majors winner, told us, “The golf ball doesn’t know how old you are.”

But it does know how effective your swing is. And your putting is. You can be young or old, intense or relaxed. The only thing that matters is how many strokes you take.

A year ago, McIlroy was taking more than he wanted. But in January, in tournaments at Abu Dhabi and Dubai, part of the early events of the European Tour, McIlroy had a second and a third. His confidence was up. His health was back.

“I haven’t played a lot over the past 18 months for various reasons,” he said. “I was sort of ready to call it quits for the year after the Dunhill (in October). I was sort of dejected and wanting to get away from it all.

“Now I’m rejuvenated and optimistic. Now there’s nothing in my way. There’s nothing stopping me from playing a full schedule.”

There doesn't seem to be any lack of desire, especially when McIlroy insists, “I want to be one of the best players to ever have played the game. I have a great opportunity over the next 10, 12 years to play great golf and leave my mark on the game.”

Or, really, to embellish the mark he’s already left.

9:20AM

The Athletic: AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am endures as a singular celebration of golf

By Art Spander
The Athletic

PEBBLE BEACH — You start with arguably one of the game’s three most impressive datelines — St. Andrews and Augusta are the other two — add decades of history, laughs and people named Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Jack Nicklaus, and are blessed with an event that’s as much a treasure as it is a tournament.

The AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am is a mid-winter celebration of sport and, yes, entertainment, when amateurs — some with big names, some with big games — pair up with champions on three courses that are as beautiful as they are testing: Pebble, Spyglass Hill and Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

Read the full story here.

 

©2018 The Athletic Media Company. All rights reserved.

 

8:48AM

Global Golf Post: Golf's Stargazer Playing In Another Galaxy

By Art Spander
Global Golf Post

PACIFIC PALISADES, CALIFORNIA — This is how you're greeted upon entering the most unique website for anyone who plays golf for a living: 

"I love taking something from nothing and turning it into an image that makes you stop and think."

Read the full story here.

Copyright 2014 Global Golf Post