PEBBLE BEACH: Ted Potter Jr., an unapologetic underdog, held off golf’s household names to win Sunday’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.
“T-Pot” will be a mighty underdog once more in defense of that title next year, when the tournament will be stacked with players previewing the course, four months ahead of the U.S. Open here.
“The (2019) field is going to be strong and hopefully we can have conditions like this week,” Phil Mickelson said, “because this (tournament) was very close to U.S. Open conditions with the firmness of greens.”
Mickelson’s late charge Sunday put him among a quartet that tied for second place. Also finishing three shots back of Potter’s 17-under total were Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and Chez Reavie.
Those names alone should alert you that Potter didn’t topple a weak field for his second PGA Tour win. Five of the world’s top 10 golfers were here, including the top-ranked Johnson, who couldn’t keep pace in the final pairing with Potter after starting the day tied at 14-under.
This certainly wasn’t an encouraging finale for Johnson, who’s had past closing-round woes, including here at the 2010 U.S. Open. Only Sunday’s even-par round (four birdies, four bogeys) wasn’t as cruel and the stakes weren’t as great.
In that 2010 Open, Johnson watched his third-round lead quickly evaporate en route to a 10-over 82, while Graeme McDowell’s 74 was enough to win.
Johnson has won 5 of 12 tournaments when he’s had a 54-hole lead, and five times he went on to post a 73 or worst. He won this tournament in 2009 and ‘10, and he was the favorite to clinch his third Sunday.
“I’m sure everybody knew probably going into this tournament that Dustin’s probably going to win, so I knew I’m the underdog there,” Potter said. “What do I got to lose, really? Just go out there and try to play the best golf I could today and see what happens.”
At the trophy presentation, Potter pinched himself on cue, making sure he wasn’t dreaming. He accepted his ceremonial crystal from Clint Eastwood. His emotions came out in a national-television interview.
He soaked it all in, as he should. As for next year’s title defense, he wasn’t ready to dream about that.
“I don’t know. That’s a year away,” Potter said. “I’m definitely looking forward to coming back here. We had such great weather this year and I’m hoping next year will be similar, but you never know.”
Mickelson, a four-time winner in this tournament, echoed that sentiment in terms of next year’s run up to the U.S. Open.
“Maybe the fairways are a little bit wider than the U.S. Open will be and maybe the rough is a little — not as thick — but the shot value into the greens is what we’ll see,” said Mickelson, who’s still in search of his first U.S. Open win.
“We’ll see a really strong field and probably all the best players will compete.”
— Larry Fitzgerald, the Arizona Cardinals’ long-time star receiver, became this tournament’s first African-American amateur on the winning pro-am team.”It’s great but I’m just hoping moving forward we don’t have to talk about color anymore,” Fitzgerald said. “It’s just about us as one as people. … But that’s quite an accomplishment.”
Fitzgerald and partner Kevin Streelman won the pro-am by four strokes, and Fitzgerald received an accompanying crystal trophy afterward. Only Streelman, as the pro, walked away with a cash prize, $10,000. Tiger Woods is the last African-American pro to win the outright tournament, in 2000.
Fitzgerald also made history as the first pro athlete since Dan Marino in 1988 to win at Pebble Beach. In the 81-year history of the event, only five other pro athletes have won: Lefty O’Doul (1949); Albie Pearson (1963); John Brodie (1970); Jacky Lee (1975); and George Brett (1987).
“He played great today, and this was special,” said Streelman, who finished sixth among the pros. “We’ll remember this for a long time.”
• Defending champion Jordan Spieth tied for 20th, shooting a 71 Sunday and finishing 8-under
• World No. 2 Jon Rahm ballooned to a 4-over 76 Sunday and finished tied for 26th.
• McDowell, the aforementioned 2010 U.S. Open winner, missed Saturday’s cut at plus-10.