Feb 11, 2018: Last fall, Ted Potter Jr. made an ace at The RSM Classic and won a $10,000 gift card to Bass Pro Shops. He’s yet to cash it in.
“Waiting until August for a new rifle I’m planning on ordering,” he said. “They told me I had to wait, so that’s part of it, and just haven’t had time to really do a lot of shopping with it yet.”
Potter didn’t win a gift card on Saturday, but he put himself in position for a very big payday on Sunday thanks to his 9-under 62 at Monterey Peninsula, his lowest score in 242 career rounds on the PGA TOUR.
That moved him to 14 under and into a tie with two-time champ Dustin Johnson, whom he’ll be paired with in Sunday’s final group at Pebble Beach. Potter, the 246th ranked player in the world, will be seeking his second PGA TOUR win; Johnson, world No. 1, is seeking his 18th.
For most of his round, Potter was on pace for a much lower score. Opening his round with four consecutive birdies (he started off the 10th tee), Potter added another birdie and an eagle at the par-5 16th to make the turn in 30. He quickly added two more birdies after the turn. When he birdied the par-5 sixth, he was 11 under on his round, needing just one birdie in his final three holes to shoot 59 on the par-71 layout.
But 59, he said, was not realistic at that point. Ultimately, he closed with a par followed by two bogeys.
“Once I got to 11 under, I thought that I could get to 60,” Potter said. “The last three holes I knew were going to be par holes basically anyway. I didn’t feel like I hit bad shots coming in there on the last couple making bogeys there. I just knew it was going to be tough coming in.”
Added playing partner Scott Piercy: “Those last three holes are brutal … the face that he made a bogey or two coming down the stretch, I mean, he played awesome. Hat’s off to him. It was a pleasure to watch.”
Other than his T-13 at The RSM Classic, Potter’s recent results did not foretell this week’s performance. He had missed five cuts in his last seven starts and comes of a T-73 at the Farmers Insurance Open when he opened with a 66 but closed with an 82.
Form, he reminded, isn’t the only predictor of success.
“Sometimes it’s just one little swing though that triggers you into the right direction,” Potter said. “Everybody out here has a ton of talent; they just got to figure out what makes them click or what motivates them or whatever that way. Sometimes it’s just something simple. You just never know when it’s going to turn on for you.”
Dustin Johnson is 11 under on the par 5s this week. On Saturday, he eagled the second hole, birdied the sixth and birdied the 18th. “I have attacked the par 5s and I’m going to have to keep doing that,” said the co-leader.
Phil Mickelson hit a beautiful second shot into the par-5 sixth, the ball finishing 7 feet from the pin. But the eagle opportunity became a frustrating par after Mickelson three-putted, and he never mounted a charge in shooting an even-par 72 at Pebble Beach. “I probably let three or four shots slide that would have moved me right up the leaderboard,” said Mickelson, who is at 9 under and five shots off the lead. “But I’m in contention. I have a shot tomorrow with a good, hot round.”
Jason Day had a rollercoaster 3-under 69 at Pebble Beach that left him at 12 under. The good news is that his putter heated up – he rolled in four putts beyond 16 feet, including a 42-foot, 10-inch birdie putt at the eighth hole for his final birdie of the day. Day said he added a half-degree of loft to his putter this week and it’s paying off. “Obviously holing 130 feet is key, especially on a day like this,” he said.
Speaking of putter adjustments, Troy Merritt has a new putter in his bag this week, and he’s tied with Day for third place at 12 under. He’s also trying to putt “with a little bit more feel and that’s kind of been the big difference.” He shot a 2-under 69 at Monterey on Saturday.
Defending champion Jordan Spieth was looking to make a big move just like he did in last year’s third round. It didn’t happen. Spieth shot a 2-under 70 at Pebble Beach and is in a large group at 7 under, tied for 16th. “I thought I actually putted the ball pretty well today, minus one putt, but my swing wasn’t quite there like it was the last couple days,” Spieth said. “… I think a good round’s brewing. It’s close, it’s really close.”
Rory McIlroy, making his first start in this event, failed to make the cut at 1 under. He shot an even-par 72 at Pebble Beach after shooting a 3-over 74 at Monterey in the second round. “I let the greens yesterday get into my head a little bit and it was hard to get out of that mindset,” McIlroy said.