Pebble Beach Pro-Am grades: Ted Potter Jr. stuns Dustin Johnson, wins by three strokes
The No. 1 player in the world got thumped on Sunday by the No. 246 player in the world at Pebble Beach
Dustin Johnson swings a golf club as if somebody stuck a Greek god on a perfect pendulum. Ted Potter Jr. swings a golf club like he's trying to kill a pesky hornet he might be able to see. Johnson has six top-five finishes at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Potter has six top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour -- ever. The two were tied at 14 under after 54 holes at this event.
Guess which one shot 69 on Sunday to win the 2018 Pebble Beach Pro-Am by three strokes?
Yeah, it wasn't Johnson. Potter somehow stared down the No. 1 player in the world on Sunday and left him empty-handed. Potter hit 12 of 14 fairways, rarely missed greens by more than a few yards, made every putt he needed to and parred his way in from the eighth hole to the end of the day. It may have made for some boring television, but the win was clearly a thrill for him.
"It's definitely pleasing," Potter told Peter Kostis of CBS Sports after the victory as his voice cracked. "It was a struggle there [Potter broke his ankle a few years ago and took a while to come back]. It's unbelievable right now. To get my second career win after five years away from it. Going back to the Masters is going to be another dream come true. This has just been a blast this week."
To call Potter, age 34, a journeyman is to offend journeymen. This was his 84th career start on the PGA Tour (he has had 110 on the Web.com Tour). He missed every cut in all 24 tournaments he entered on the Web.com Tour in 2004. His only PGA Tour victory came at the 2012 Greenbrier Classic, and he has only nine top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour since that season.
And yet, he closed out the weekend with a 62 on Saturday and that 69 on Sunday. He now finds himself in the 2018 Masters and with a PGA Tour card for another two years. Professional golf is great because the top players in the world are magical. Professional golf is special because, in theory, Potter can win every tournament he plays in (and sometimes does).
On a Sunday when nobody -- including yours truly -- gave him even a prayer of galloping with a thoroughbred like D.J., Potter did everything right, made only one bogey (at the first hole) and achieved a lifelong dream of winning on the PGA Tour (again). The most unlikely champion topped not only Johnson but also Phil Mickelson, Jon Rahm and Jordan Spieth on Sunday at one of the most famous courses in the world.
Golf, it's the best. And for one week, so was Potter.
Here are the rest of our grades for the 2018 Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
Rory McIlroy (MC): It was a disappointing week for McIlroy, especially after he sniffed the lead following a 4-under 68 in Round 1. As he noted in his post-round interview with CBS Sports' Dottie Pepper on Saturday, you can't hit 16 greens in regulation in Round 2 and shoot 3 over.
Still, he seemed unfazed by it all, as you should be when you get to spend a week with your pops playing some of the best golf courses in the world. Based on his first two starts on the European Tour, which resulted in top-five finishes, I'm not going to get too fired up about two poor rounds at Pebble. A better test, to me, will come next week when McIlroy visits Riviera. Grade: D-
Jordan Spieth (T20): He didn't defend, but Spieth did have a pretty solid week. He putted far better than he has in recent weeks, which is a trend that has been showing itself during the past few years with Spieth and this event. Spieth stumbled home a bit on Sunday and made bogeys on three of his final nine holes before ending with a birdie. After a front-nine 33 on Sunday, his poor play down the stretch was the only thing between him and a top-10 finish.
"I made a lot of progress this week," Spieth told Peter Kostis of CBS Sports on Saturday. "Last week in Phoenix, I missed the cut and came up here kind of searching. I seemed to kind of found some answers to some problem areas." He reiterated the same trope on Sunday. Grade: B-
Phil Mickelson (T2): Mickelson oddly finished in the top five in bogey avoidance this week. He made 48 pars, which is like a normal human making 71 in a 72-hole event.
Despite that un-Mickelsonian four-round display, Lefty touched off his second top-five finish in as many weeks. And just like last week, Mickelson came to the 72nd hole trying to hole out an impossible shot. If him being in contention but not winning results in bonkers attempts to hole ridiculous shots, then I'm here for the near-misses. Also, a thought I had this week that I shouldn't share: How good would Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the final pairing on Sunday at the Masters be? Grade: A
Dustin Johnson (T2): He just didn't have his stuff on Sunday. D.J. shot a 1-over 73 and hit his irons as poorly as he has in many, many years. Still, he has three top-five finishes in his three starts on the PGA Tour during the 2017-18 season (only Justin Rose and Potter have beaten him), and he'll be in the spotlight as the defending champion next week at the Genesis Open. Buy stock while you can. Grade: A-
Jason Day (T2): I might have been catastrophically wrong in my prediction last year that Day would never win again. Not only did he already win again (at the), but he looks poised to do so multiple times on the PGA Tour this year.
The funniest part of his week was in the pre-tournament presser when he said he loves this event because you can "take your time, take more time than you likely would have. You don't have to feel like you're rushed." This from a guy who played for eight hours on a Sunday only two weeks ago! Grade: A
Larry Fitzgerald (Win): Life isn't fair sometimes. Not only was Fitzgerald blessed with a set of some of the greatest hands of all time, but he's apparently good at golf, too. OK, the 13 handicap might have been a little, uh, questionable. But he ran away with the amateur title with shots like this one. Grade: A+
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