PEBBLE BEACH, Calif.—For one day at Pebble Beach, Ted Potter Jr. was better than the best in the world.
Look back even further and his three-shot victory in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am is even more remarkable.
He played so many mini-tour events that he lost track of how many he won—some of them only two-day tournaments that paid enough for a week's worth of food and gas.
His biggest paycheque was $33,000.
More recently, Potter was out of golf for two years recovering from a broken ankle that required two surgeries—one to insert 12 screws and two plates, another to remove all that hardware.
There was no guarantee he would make it back.
Potter started the final round yeterday tied with Dustin Johnson, the No. 1 player in the world for the last year.
Throughout the day, Phil Mickelson and Jason Day each made a run at the 34-year-old Floridian who had 46 missed cuts and only four top 10s in his previous 83 starts on the PGA Tour.
Yet Potter beat them all.
He was the one chatting with Clint Eastwood and posing with the crystal trophy that comes with a $1,332,000 cheque and a return to the Masters.
“I'm so happy right now to get it done today, especially against the world No. 1, playing with him today,” Potter noted.
“The win here at Pebble is just unbelievable.”
Just don't call it a fluke.
Potter closed with a three-under 69 and didn't drop a shot after a three-putt bogey on the opening hole.
Making it tougher was playing in a threesome behind a foursome in the pro-am format—having too much time to think about the stage, the contenders, and the opportunity.
He never flinched.
The key moment came behind the green on the par-three seventh, the most picturesque at Pebble Beach.
He and Johnson were side-by-side in light rough to a firm green that ran away from them. Johnson chipped nicely to four feet.
Potter, meanwhile, put a little more loft on his shot and holed it for a birdie and a two-shot lead.
No one got closer the rest of the way.
He wound up winning by three shots over Johnson (72), Mickelson (67), Day (70), and Chez Reavie (68).
Day, trying to make eagle for his only chance at winning, hooked a driver off the deck over the sea wall.
He found the ball on a mixture of sand and pebbles and played it off the beach—over the sea wall, over the green, and into a bunker.
Troy Merritt, meanwhile, hit his shot into a cypress tree in front of the 18th green and it stayed up there, meaning he had to go back and play another shot.
Potter waited patiently, tapped in for a par to finish at 17-under 270, and only then did he show how much it meant.
His voice choked with emotion.
“It's been a struggle," he admitted. ”You break your ankle and you don't know what's going to happen with your swing, with your career.
“It's unbelievable right now. . . . This has been a blast this week.”
Mickelson had his highest finish since he was runner-up to Henrik Stenson in the 2016 British Open.
Coming off a tie for fifth at the Phoenix Open, this is the first time he has put together consecutive top-fives since he won back-to-back in 2013 at the Scottish Open and British Open.
“I made a few good birdies coming down the stretch there to feel the nerves again,” Mickelson said.
“Unfortunately, it's not enough, but it was a great week, a lot of fun, perfect weather, and really had a great time.”