Ted Potter, Jr. outlasted Troy Kelly in a three-hole playoff to secure his first-career win on TOUR at The Greenbrier Classic at The Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson missed the cut and reigning U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson couldn’t hold the 54-hole lead but that didn’t seem to bother a couple of guys who weren’t even ranked in the top 200 in the world. Potter, Jr., ranked 218th in the world, began the day four shots behind Simpson after posting six-under-par 64 on Saturday, which included seven birdies and just one bogey. Potter, Jr. picked up Sunday right where he left off on Saturday as he birdied his opening two holes and eight to go out in three-under-par 31. A bogey on 11 should have been the end of his day but the 28-year-old Floridian didn’t blink. He steadied himself with three-straight pars before closing birdie, par, eagle, birdie to post his second-consecutive 64 for 16-under (264) and the clubhouse lead. Troy Kelly, ranked 464th in the world, didn’t have a shabby weekend either. Kelly tied the tournament-best round eight-under 62 on Saturday and finished Sunday with 66 for his 16-under par 264. Kelly had the opportunity to win the event outright in regulation but his approach shots on 17 and 18 didn’t provide any easy birdie chances so it was off to the playoff where Potter, Jr. would prevail on the third playoff hole. Charlie Wi and Charlie Beljan, who also fired a 62 (Friday) tied for third. Dainel Summerhays finished fifth.
In a week where the big name players were supposed to be the stars of the show, the TOUR showed us again why it’s the toughest and deepest league in the world. When the week started the names of Woods, Johnson, Furyk, Simspon, Mickelson and Stricker were being kicked around as favorites for this week. When the dust settled and the playoff ended, only Webb Simpson found himself in the top 10. So much for riding the chalk. It simply reinforces one thing to me: It’s really hard to win on TOUR. I rated over 100 players this week in my lead up to my preview column and these two (Charlie Beljan as well) were nowhere in sight. That is the definition of depth when THREE players in the top four are in the bottom 30 percent of the field entering the week. I believe all three of those players were in The Golf Channel’s fantasy game in the fourth category of four. Ted Potter, Jr. becomes the sixth first-time winner and the second rookie (John Huh, Mayakoba) winner on TOUR this year.
Ted Potter, Jr. now has eligibility on TOUR for the next two years plus invitations to The Open Championship in two weeks and Augusta National next spring for the Masters. I’d say that’s pretty cool. For the second time in three weeks we have a first-time winner on TOUR. Sandwiched in between those wins was Tiger Woods passing Jack Nicklaus for second on the all-time victory list with his victory last week at Congressional. An accurate driver and above-average putter (35th in total putting), Potter won twice in 2011 on the web.com TOUR. The year before that, Potter, Jr. made just over $18,000. Congratulations to Ted Potter, Jr.!
Déjà vu All Over Again?
This is third tournament at The Greenbrier Classic and each time it has had a unbelievable finish. In 2010, Stuart Appleby came from behind on the heels of a 59 to beat Jeff Overton. In 2011, Scott Stallings defeated Bill Haas and Bob Estes on the first playoff hole for his first-career win. Now, in 2012, another non-star player, similar to Stallings, wins in a playoff for his first-career victory. Gamers, next year, we’re going to have to dig deep to find our winner!
Twenty of 28 (no 54-hole leader in WGC-Match Play) players who held the 54-hole lead have NOT gone on to win as Webb Simpson faded on Sunday to fire 73 and finish T7. The U.S. Open champion began the day four shots ahead of Potter, Jr. and two shots ahead of Kelly. Simpson came from six shots behind to win the U.S. Open so he’ll agree turnabout is fair play.
Ted Potter, Jr.’s victory this season sees the U.S.A win for the 24th time in 29 events on TOUR in 2012. The only foreign-born players to win in 2012 are Rory McIlroy (Honda), Justin Rose (WGC-CC) Luke Donald (Transitions), Carl Pettersson (RBC Heritage) and Marc Leishman (the Travelers). One could argue that since Carl Pettersson is now a U.S. citizen, it’s really 25 of 29 times. He was a Swedish citizen when the season started so we’ll stick with that for 2012, but NEXT year, he’s red, white and blue!
With this victory, Potter, Jr. collects $1,098,000 and 500 FedExCup points. Potter, Jr. jumps 122 places in the FedExCup standings to 51st. Tiger Woods is the current leader and is trailed by Jason Dufner, Hunter Mahan, Bubba Watson and Matt Kuchar in the top five.
Young Guns versus Middle Guns versus Old Guns
In 29 events on TOUR in 2012, the “Young” folks have regained first place on the back of Leishman and Potter, Jr. in two of the last three weeks and four of the last five weeks in the season-long battle with the “Middle” guys on Tour at 14-13-2. The “Old” folks are woefully behind.
For the “Young”, age during their victory in ( ), Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29) Rory McIlroy (22), Justin Rose (31), Rickie Fowler (23), Dustin Johnson (27), Webb Simpson (26), Marc Leishman (29) and now Ted Potter, Jr. (28) are your winners.
The “Middle” guys are Mark Wilson (37), George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods THRICE (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34), Matt Kuchar (33), Jason Dufner TWICE (35) and Zach Johnson (36).
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are the only “Old” guys to hit the board in 2012.
Troy Kelly: So close, yet so far. Kelly had two chances on 17 and 18 to win the tournament outright but couldn’t pull them off. Kelly played fantastically on the weekend firing 62-66 and only carding one bogey. Not bad from a guy who’s best finish in 2012 was T37 (Mayakoba). Kelly showed a little something at the Travelers as he backed up a 75 with 66 on Friday but missed the cut by a shot. In his last full season on TOUR in 2009, Kelly made just over $25,000. This is a great story but I can’t tell you how it’s going to play out over the next few weeks. His worst round in his last five is 69.
Charlie Wi: Welcome to the “Charlie” daily double in the top five. I bet this bet would have paid something sublimely ridiculous this week if you could have gotten it down. Wi, who’s final round scoring average is 134th on TOUR, could have finished even better than his 65 on Sunday if he would have made a five-footer on 18. His putt flew by and instead of staking claim to third place he was forced to share it. That putt also made matters easier down the stretch for Potter and Kelly as they knew they had wiggle room coming in. Wi is the new Charles Howell III as he constantly makes cuts and cashes decent checks. In 2012 Wi has now cashed 15 of 18 events and is 28th on the FedExCup playoff leaderboard. That’s seven cuts in a row for Wi!
Charlie Beljan: The second half of the “Charlie” daily double, Beljan’s best finish before The Greenbrier Classic was T29 his last time out at the Travelers. Beljan had made just over $62,000 heading into this week in his 12 events of 2012. Beljan is long off the tee and is 54th in total driving. He’s 107th in ball-striking and 124th in putting. He might be worth a shot in deep drafts coming up this week but I’ll need to see just a little more consistency before I get too excited. This week’s T3 is obviously his best career-finish on TOUR.
Daniel Summerhays: Summerhays was one of my two sleeper picks that found the top 10 this week as he finished fifth alone this week. Summerhays has now hit the top five twice in his last four events as his finish here almost matched his best finish of 2012 where he finished T4 at the Memorial. His other two finishes in those four starts were MC at the Travelers and T17 at the AT&T. Summerhays found his way back into the top five as he only made three bogeys (T2) all week and was T5 in pars made. He also finished T15 in strokes gained-putting which is not his strength. Summerhays usually is a GIR machine (13th in 2012) but struggled this week as he only finished T28. His 64 on Sunday was the second best round of the day. He played the weekend in eight-under-par and bogey-free.
Martin Flores: I haven’t typed his name on Sunday since his T8 finish at FIO in San Diego at the end of January. Flores, known for his putting and length of the tee, didn’t disappoint this week as he finished second in putts per round and was sixth in driving distance. Flores only made five bogeys on the week which is strong because he finished T52 GIR. That’s some excellent putting right there. This was Flores’ best career-finish on TOUR and only his third trip to the top 10 in his career.
Roberto Castro: Castro was on the sleeper list in my preview column because I thought, based on his ball-striking, he could sneak up this week. Castro finished the week T1 GIR, T3 Driving Accuracy and fifth in strokes gained-putting. Castro made the move of the day on Sunday with the low round of the day, 63, to see him move up 30 places on the leaderboard to finish T7. He had an interesting week as he fired 71, 64, 71 and 63. Castro has now made the cut in seven of his last eight events and his T7 is his best career-finish on TOUR. Castro qualified for the PGA TOUR after finishing T13 in Q-School last winter.
Kevin Na: Na hits the top 10 for the sixth time in 18 outings in 2012 as his 65 on Sunday vaulted him up the leaderboard to finish T7. This was Na’s first outing since his T29 performance at the U.S. Open and he showed little rust as he was T1 in pars and was second in the field in bogeys made (three). His last five events have resulted in T7, T13, MC, T29 and now T7.
Sean O’Hair: Five birdies coming in, including three straight to finish, on Sunday vaulted O’Hair into the top 10 for the first time since his season-best T2 at the Sony Open back in January. He led the tournament in birdies made and was T8 GIR. O’Hair now has posted back-to-back top 25 finishes for the first time in 16 events in 2012 after his T22 performance last week at AT&T National. He’s now made 14 cuts in 16 tries this seaon.
Ken Duke: Duke has now made 16 of 20 cuts in 2012 and this week’s T7 is his sixth, top 10. And it’s his sixth, top 25. Since he MC at the Memorial, Duke has now finshed T7 (FESJC), T47 (the Travelers) and T7 this week. Duke had a chance to finish even better than T7 but back-to-back double bogeys on 15 and 16 knocked the wind out of him. Duke’s putter is his saving grace and this week was not any different. He lived by it as he finished fourth in strokes gained-putting and he died by it by missing a couple of short ones to contribute to those double bogeys. Duke is a cut-making machine and when he plays well, it’s “top 10” well!
Webb Simpson: For the second consecutive year Webb Simpson was right in it at the Greenbrier Classic. Last year Simpson finished T9 and this year it was T7. In his first 65 holes, Simpson had made one bogey. In his last seven holes, his four bogeys saw a two-shot lead evaporate into a T7 finish. If you would have told me on Wednesday that Simpson would have finished T7 I wouldn’t have batted an eye. If you would have told me that he finished T7 and been passed on the lead by Ted Potter, Jr., Troy Kelly, Charlie Beljan, etc, I would have not believed you. Simpson heads home to Charlotte to wait on the arrival of his second child and I haven’t read on when exactly he will return to the TOUR. Stay tuned.
“Hey, whatever happened to…”
Tiger Woods: Another week, another story in the on-going saga that is Tiger Woods. Woods was playing The Old White TPC for the first time in tournament play this week and never really looked comfortable. It’s only the second time in his career that he’s MC multiple times in a season (2005) so I’m not too concerned. He’s only MC eight times in his career so that’s not too bad. But, according to PGA TOUR Media, Woods missed four cuts in his first 231 events (really good) yet he’s MC four times in his last 41 events. I’ve learned that Woods is an automatic choice on courses where he’s won and/or dominated in the past. I’ve also learned that he hasn’t backed up any of his successes in 2012. I will remember that moving forward this year. Next stop: Royal Lytham and St. Anne’s.
Phil Mickelson: Mickelson’s 71-71 MC was his sixth and seventh-consecutive rounds-over-par on TOUR. This is the longest stretch of over-par golf in his career. I mentioned in my preview last week that Mickelson rarely plays poorly in three consecutive events. Chalk up another one for Mickelson. He claimed he didn’t hit the ball that poorly this week but that he just wasn’t scoring. Mickelson was in the bottom half in putting and ball striking for the week. He also made two doubles. He has signed up to play the Scottish Open to get in another rep before The Open Championship and gets a chance to play some links golf. His T2 last year at Royal St. George’s was his best finish at The Open since his third-place finish in 2004. Those are Mickelson’s only top 10’s in 17 career events. I might not have Mickelson on board again until the FedExCup playoffs start.
Steve Stricker: Stricker knocked the rust off this week as he gears up for his “four-peat” at the John Deere Classic next week. Stricker fantasy owners will be happy to see that his putter was the reason he played well this week. Entering the week in the mid-90’s in strokes gained-putting, Stricker was 16th or better in all three major putting categories this week. The troubling thought is that he was T63 in driving accuracy and T52 GIR which won’t get it done this coming week. Maybe his wife being on the bag this week helped him sort out his putting issues. Jimmy Johnson will have a tough act to follow this week!
Brandt Snedeker: Returning to the TOUR after missing a few weeks with a rib injury, Snedeker opened with 71 and followed with rounds of 68-69-67. He obviously doesn’t miss a beat when coming back from layoffs and we should all remember that moving forward. He also fought through the trying time of his mentor, Andy Griffith, passing right before the tournament started. Sure, he wasn’t in contention but he would have been a solid, mid-round pick in most drafts.
John Daly: I’ll be honest, as usual, but I never thought I would type those two words EVER in my first year of writing this column. Daly has been playing some decent golf lately and this Sunday was beyond decent. Daly fired 65 to move up 21 spots on the leaderboard and almost (T12) crack the top 10 for the first time since last year’s RBC Canadian Open. This is his second tournament in a row that he’s fired 65 or better (64 FESJC). Daly isn’t doing this with gimmicks either as he finished in the top 28 in all driving, putting and GIR. He still has ugly pants but at least his game doesn’t match those anymore!
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Tuesday at NOON, ET. They will be breaking down the field at the The John Deere Classic and answering your questions. Please note the day-of-the-week change. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.