Nick Watney celebrates his ace on the ninth hole with Webb Simpson and Jason Day on Wednesday.
By PGATOUR.COM wire services
AUGUSTA, Ga. -- Ted Potter Jr. won the Par 3 Contest at Augusta National, the light-hearted precursor to the first major of the year.
Potter won on the second playoff hole Wednesday, making a birdie at No. 9 to beat Matt Kuchar. Phil Mickelson was eliminated on the first extra hole. Ernie Els and Nick Watney also shot 23, but they had already left the course and didn't take part in the playoff.
Lee Westwood's mum walked away from the ninth hole, waving her hand in front of her face on a balmy spring day.
"I feel sorry for the caddies," Trish Westwood said with a flushed smile.
At least she wasn't wearing white coveralls and hauling around heavy bags as the mercury climbed into the mid-80s. Still, there was nowhere else she wanted to be.
Such is the appeal of the Par 3 Contest, one of those Masters traditions like no other.
Everyone from moms to small children -- some barely old enough to walk -- take on caddying duties. The greats of the game, long past their prime, thrill the patrons with a few more swings. Technically, they're keeping score, but everyone knows it's all for fun. No need to get worked up about these nine holes. That's for Thursday, after everyone moves over to "the big course."
"It's a good way to unwind before the stress of the tournament starts," Brandt Snedeker said after finishing up. "This is a great way to relax and spend time with your family."
This picturesque spot -- nine exquisite little holes tucked into the northeast edge of Augusta National Golf Club -- provides another of those quirky trademarks that sets the first major of the year apart from the next three.
Where else can you see a threesome that includes Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Palmer and Gary Player? Where else can you see former top-ranked tennis player Caroline Wozniacki on the bag for her boyfriend, Rory McIlroy? Where else can you find 91-year-old Jack Fleck, who won the 1955 U.S. Open in one of golf's greatest upsets, taking a few whacks?
"It's fun down here," Fred Couples said. "It's a good little spot."
Especially when Nicklaus, Palmer and Player -- with 34 major championships among them -- stroll around the "little course" for an hour or so, providing a running commentary on the deteriorating state of their once-mighty games.
After the 83-year-old Palmer sliced one into the water, he joked, "That was my last ball."
"I can loan you one," the 73-year-old Nicklaus quipped, as he hunched over to tee up his ball.
"Is my credit good?" Palmer asked.
"Good with me," Nicklaus said.
The Par 3 Contest was first played at Augusta in 1960, on a course designed by architect George Cobb and club founder Clifford Roberts. There are nine holes covering a tidy 1,060 yards, ranging from the 70-yard second to the 140-yard sixth. As Palmer can attest, there are two bodies of water that can come into play, DeSoto Springs Pond and Ike's Pond -- named after former president and club member Dwight Eisenhower.
No one has ever won the Par 3 Contest and gone on to win the Masters. Fred Couples was asked about the Par 3 jinx. He just shrugged it off.
"I wouldn't mind winning this once. But I've never been close," he said.
Augusta awards a prize to the winner, as well as those finishing closest to each hole. Or for going in the hole.
Like 61-year-old Ben Crenshaw, who aced the 115-yard seventh -- holding out his arms, grinning from ear to ear, and soaking in the applause.
Nick Watney broke into a much more demonstrative celebration when he made a hole-in-one at the 135-yard ninth, running around the tee box chest-bumping with his playing partners and the caddies.
"I'm not sure what that was," Watney said. "I'm sure we looked like fools, but it was fun."
He feigned a leap into the pond, but thought better of it.
"I guess I chickened out," Watney said sheepishly.
Wozniacki, on the other hand, didn't come close to a hole-in-one when McIlroy handed her a club at the ninth.
She wound up, took a mighty swing -- and sent the ball dribbling into the water, just a few yards away.
Better stick to a tennis racquet.
For those with families, the Par 3 Contest provides a chance to spend the day with their children -- young and grown-up.
"It's really cool," said three-time Masters champion Nick Faldo. "Fortunately, my big kids wanted to caddie. Georgia, my daughter, is 20 and she hasn't been back to Augusta in moons. She booked the bag, which is really nice.
"I'm living on memories here," he added.
And, really, that's what the Par 3 Contest is all about.
Luke Donald will always remember when he turned the putter over to his 3-year-old daughter, Elle, as is the custom on the final hole.
She whacked the ball hard -- a little too hard -- and sent it zipping past the cup. She rolled in the next one, however, then sprinted off the course with her parents in pursuit.
"She hit it a little hard, but she made the comeback," her dad said. "I like the aggressive stroke."
Palmer was too aggressive on the final hole, striking the ball with that low, whipping swing that served him so well in his day. He was trying to take aim at the flag tucked in the front of the green. Instead, he came up short, the ball rolling down the bank and into Ike's Pond.
Nicklaus and Player got safely across the water, playing to the back of the green, then all three of the legends strolled slowly around the pond, accompanied by the roars of an appreciative crowd.
Palmer didn't quite make it the green. He plopped down in a marshal's seat off the side, signing a few autographs but looking downright pooped.
"I think I'm done playing," he said, managing a weak smile.
Until next year, that is.
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- The 2013 season has already been an eventful one for Ted Potter Jr., who got engaged in Hawaii when he went to play in the Hyundai Tournament of Champions last month.
"Definitely, life's good," Potter said.
The proposal was typically low-key, just like the quiet Floridian.
"She knows me," Potter said with a sheepish grin. "I'm shy. It was more like, here, you want this?"
If Potter keeps playing like he has the first two rounds of the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, he'll have something a little larger than a diamond to hand to his fiancee. He's currently tied for the lead with Brandt Snedeker at 8 under, one stroke ahead of the field, after shooting a second-straight 67 this time at Monterey Peninsula
Potter picked up his first PGA TOUR victory at The Greenbrier Classic last year, shooting consecutive 64s on the weekend to overtake Webb Simpson and eventually beat Troy Kelly on the third playoff hole. He had missed five straight cuts prior to the victory at TPC Old White.
"I think it's just golf," Potter said. "It's just a funny game like that. Some weeks you play really well and you get the right kicks and everything goes well. And then there's weeks you can still hit the ball well and get the bad kicks. It just came around that week.
The win remains Potter's only top-10 finish -- but he could make it 2-for-2 this weekend. He said the win gave him much-needed confidence after struggling to get comfortable in his rookie year on TOUR.
"I (had) never played a lot of the courses out here," Potter explained. "And the surroundings, too. I mean, I'm not used to being in front of a camera too often on min- tours, so definitely different that way, but trying to get used to that."
The cameras will be rolling on the weekend, too. But Potter plays at Spyglass Hill so he can stay out of the spotlight a bit while the celebrity rotation will take center stage at Pebble Beach.
"Hoping it dries out because I'm not a long hitter and it's a pretty tough course" Potter said. "It's a little longer than the other two and in general, I guess the scores are usually higher there. So I've definitely got my work cut out for tomorrow and hopefully stay on top where I have a chance to go into Sunday at Pebble."
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Brandt Snedeker seems to be a fixture at the top of leaderboards these days and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is no exception.
The reigning FedExCup champ and current points leader fired a bogey-free 68 at Spyglass Hill on Friday that left him tied with Ted Potter Jr. at 8 under. A scoring error on-site had Snedeker originally making a double bogey at the 11th hole but it was changed to a par when he signed his scorecard.
Snedeker has finished second the last two weeks and also was third to open his season in Maui.
"I played really solid today," Snedeker said. "I didn't really make any mistakes which was nice and made some key par putts but four birdies, no bogeys. .. I didn't make a lot of putts today but look forward to going into the weekend, confidence is very high, and after last week, feel like my game is where I want it to be and two good days to go, should be a lot of fun."
Potter, who played Monterey Peninsula, opened his round by draining a 50-footer for eagle on the 10th hole at the Shore Course on the way to a 67. He gave two shots back by the time he reached the turn but Potter got back on track with four birdies on the front nine.
Potter would have had sole possession of the lead had it not been for a three-putt at No. 9.
"It was a good day today," Potter said. "... Felt good all day. Just glad the weather cleared up. ... A little disappointing finish on the last there with a 3 putt, but all in all, a good day."
Fredrik Jacobson rode a 66 at Pebble Beach, which was the day's low round, into a tie for third at 7 under. John Merrick shot 67 and Hunter Mahan a 69 at the Shore Course to finish at 7 under, as well, while Patrick Reed had a 69 at Pebble Beach to join them.
Defending champion Phil Mickelson couldn't get untracked at Spyglass Hill, making birdie on his 17th hole of the day to shoot 71. He had made three birdies on the back nine, his first of the day, to climb the leaderboard but gave those back with bogeys at Nos. 2, 4 and 5.
Mickelson is bidding to win consecutive events for the third time in his career.
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. -- Ted Potter probably had an inkling Friday would be a good day when he eagled the 10th hole at Monterey Peninsula Country Club with his third shot of the round.
Even so, the second-year TOUR pro didn't really get going things going until his final nine holes after giving those two early strokes gained back with bogeys on Nos. 14 and 15. That 31 on the front side, though, moved Potter into a one-stroke lead at 8 under when he polished off that 67.
Potter only had one top-10 in his rookie season -- but it was a big one when he won the 2012 Greenbrier Classic. He's coming off his best finish in three starts this year, a tie for 24th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open.
Fredrik Jacobsen had the low round of the day when he finished, though. The 66 he shot at Pebble Beach propelled the Swede to 7 under and tied wih John Merrick, Nick O'Hern and Hunter Mahan. All three are playing their final nine holes at Monterey Peninsula.
To preview the 2013 PGA TOUR season, PGATOUR.COM is counting down the Top 100 Players to Watch in 2013. For an archive page with the top 100 players and for an explanation on how the list was compiled, click here .
MORE TOP 100: Back to No. 95 | Forward to No. 93 | Top 100 archive
2013 PREVIEW: After posting just one top-10 and only one other finish among the top 25, Ted Potter Jr. will probably take a hard look at his performance stats during the offseason. He was fairly accurate off the tee but didn't parlay that into opportunities -- he ranked 142nd in greens in regulation, 170th in snad save percentage and 132nd in scrambling.
2012 DEFINING MOMENT: If you're going to post just one top-10, you might as well make it a victory. The rookie made up a four-stroke deficit on Sunday at The Greenbrier Classic with a 64 that included a birdie-eagle finish and left him tied with Troy Kelly. A birdie on the third playoff hole then gave Potter his first TOUR win. –- Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
ALBERS’ QUICK TAKE: You have to rank his win as one of the pleasant surprises of the season. Against a field that included Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods, Potter won a playoff at the Greenbrier Classic after missing the five previous cuts. He did not finish inside the top 50 in any of the remaining tournaments but is headed to the Hyundai Tournament of Champions. I don't think of his win as a fluke and expect a solid year out of the wizard in 2013.-- Fred Albers, SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio
BOLTON’S FANTASY OUTLOOK: He's a walking validation that winning breeds winning. After four victories in a 39-day period on the Hooters Tour in early 2011, he added two on the Web.com Tour to earn his PGA TOUR card, and then won as a rookie in a playoff at The Greenbrier Classic in 2012. However, that title was his only top 10 of the year (and one of only two top 25s). Furthermore, he failed to back it up with a top-55 finish in any of his last nine starts. Will he win another title in 2013 or finish outside the top 150 on the money list? Tough to say right now. -- Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy expert
2012 QUICK REVIEW
Regular Season ranking
Final Playoffs ranking
|Best finishes||1st||The Greenbrier Classic|
|By the Numbers
Starts: 25 Cuts made: 13 Rounds played: 77 Top-10 finishes: 1 Money List rank: 62nd
Driving distance: 148th Driving accuracy: 52nd Greens in regulation: 142nd Strokes gained-putting: 78th Scoring average: 169th
NOW IT’S YOUR TURN What is your prediction for Ted Potter Jr. in 2013? Fill out the form below and let us know
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. – The nominees for 2012 PGA TOUR Rookie of the Year were released on Monday -- Charlie Beljan, Jonas Blixt, Bud Cauley, John Huh and Ted Potter Jr.
Players were nominated by the PGA TOUR Player Directors and members of the Player Advisory Council (PAC). The awards are determined by a member vote, with PGA TOUR members who played in at least 15 official money events in 2012 eligible to vote. The balloting process ends on Nov. 30, with the winner to be announced in early December.
A quick look at each Rookie of the Year nominee:
CHARLIE BELJAN: Won one event (Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals Classic), posted three-top-10 finishes, finished 63rd on official money list and 160th in FedExCup points
JONAS BLIXT: Won one event (Frys.com Open), posted five top-10 finishes, finished 34th on the official money list and 71st in FedExCup points
BUD CAULEY: Posted six-top 10 finishes, finished 44th on official money list and 38th in FedExCup points
JOHN HUH: Won one event (Mayakoba Golf Classic), posted four top-10 finishes, finished 28th on official money list and 29th in FedExCup points
TED POTTER JR.: Won one event (The Greenbrier Classic) for his only top-10 finish, finished 62nd on official money list and 93rd in FedExCup points
Now it’s your turn: Who do you think will win this year’s Rookie of the Year?
|Events||1st||2nd||3rd||Top 10||Top 25||Made cut||Money||FEC points||FEC standing|
Ricky Barnes has not had a lot of success at the John Deere Classic. He’s played in the event in three times previously and never made a cut.
Barnes’ luck appears to be changing during Thursday’s first round at TPC Deere Run. He’s just made his seventh birdie of the day at the 15th hole to move to 6 under and into a tie for the lead with Lee Janzen.
On the other hand, Janzen’s made seven appearances at the John Deere Classic and cashed checks in his llast four. But he has yet to post a top-10 finish, his best, in fact, is a tie for 23rd in 2009.
Ted Potter Jr., who picked up his first PGA TOUR victory last week at The Greenbrier Classic, is among a big group at 4 under, two strokes off the lead.
By John Schwarb, PGATOUR.COM
Last week’s winner on the PGA TOUR, 173rd in FedExCup points and No. 218 in the world before The Greenbrier Classic, was unusual enough.
But the flatstick Ted Potter Jr. wielded in winning at The Old White TPC was even more of an unknown.
During close-ups in the CBS broadcast on Sunday, you may have noticed the “Piretti” script on the back of Potter’s putter. The center-shafted head looked similar in shape to many other major manufacturers’ offerings, but the script set it apart.
Piretti is a putter company based in Spring, Texas, that has had a few putters show up in pros’ hands – Henrik Stenson used a Piretti at the Masters this year, Golfweek notes – but never in a winner’s hands until Potter.
Potter led the field in Strokes-Gained Putting at 2.016 with a Cortino CS prototype, one of the few lefthanded models the company has made.
The company’s website sells various stock putters for $290-$325, and only four retail outlets are listed in North America – two in Texas, one in California and one in Ontario, Canada. The company says its putters are 15-45 grams heavier than competitors’, to improve accuracy, and that all putters have 2.5 degrees of loft, one to two degrees less than others for golf’s seemingly always faster greens.
Potter’s Piretti isn’t as wild as the Orion Black Hawk putter that Matt Every used in nearly winning the Sony Open in Hawaii, but it’s a winner. Time will tell if more Pirettis find their way into TOUR bags.
‘D’ THEM UP: Four more TOUR players put the new Titleist 913 drivers into play at The Greenbrier, with Greg Chalmers, Harrison Frazar, and Hunter Haas using 913D2s and Matt Jones using the slightly smaller-headed 913D3.
Martin Flores was the top finisher at The Greenbrier with the new driver, finishing sixth with a 913D3.
Check out the Titleist blog for a look at how Rory McIlroy went about having his 913 dialed in at home in Northern Ireland.
SNEDS: Earlier this year Brandt Snedeker won the Farmers Insurance Open with TaylorMade SuperFast metalwoods – among the last non-white TaylorMade models on TOUR.
Six months later, TaylorMade has him seeing white. A long testing session on Wednesday at The Greenbrier included testing the RBZ, RBZ Tour and R11S heads, looking for one to help him turn the ball over easier. The winner? An R11S with the FCT hosel tuned between standard and lower, plus 11 grams of weight in the heel and 1 gram in the toe.
WINNER’S BAG: Ted Potter Jr. at The
Driver: Cleveland Classic Tour (Miyazaki Kusala Black 61X, 10.5 degrees)
Fairway wood: Cleveland Launcher Composite (15 degrees)
Hybrids: Cleveland Mashie (18, 20.5 degrees)
Irons: Cleveland CG1 Tour (4-PW)
Wedges: Cleveland 588 Forged (54, 60 degrees)
Putter: Piretti Cortino CS prototype
Ball: Titleist Pro V1x
SILVIS, Ill. -- Tee times have been released for the first two rounds of this week’s the John Deere Classic. Here’s a look at some of the notable and more intriguing groups.
Which groups are you most interested in following this week? Fill out the form below and let us know.
Scott Piercy, Rory Sabbatini, Charley Hoffman: Piercy is coming off a top 15 finish at Greenbrier. Sabbatini and Hoffman both have top-five finishes recently -- but no wins.
Ted Potter Jr., Zach Johnson, Nick Watney: One week after his unlikely win at The Greenbrier, Potter finds himself paired with a couple of A-listers at TPC Deere Run. Johnson already has a win this season, and the Iowa native badly wants to win this event.
K.J. Choi, Jonathan Byrd, Stewart Cink: These three veterans all have multiple PGA TOUR wins -- but Choi's 2011 PLAYERS win remains the most recent. Byrd won this tournament in 2007.
Kyle Stanley, Steve Stricker, Camilo Villegas: Already with a win this season and three previous John Deere titles, Stricker is the favorite this week. He is paired with Kyle Stanley, whom he beat with a birdie on the 72nd hole last year.