WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. — Ted Potter Jr. erased a late three-stroke deficit and outlasted Troy Kelly in a sudden-death playoff on Sunday evening, picking up his first PGA Tour victory with a birdie on the third playoff hole at the Greenbrier Classic.
Here are 5 Things to take away from the week in West Virginia:
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1. TEDDY BALLGAME: Ted Potter Jr., a long-time mini-tour player who earned a promotion to the PGA Tour with his performance on the Nationwide Tour in 2011, earned this victory by going 4 under over his final four holes – including an eagle at the par-5 17th.
Potter, who fired a 6-under 64 on Sunday, had missed nine of 15 cuts coming into the Greenbrier Classic, and had made only $176,904 on the year, mostly due to his T-13 finish at the Sony Open in January.
He won $1,098,000 for his performance at The Old White TPC.
The victory came on the heels of five consecutive missed cuts, and nothing better than a T-30 finish since the Honda Classic in March.
“When you’re missing cuts every week, you get down on yourself,” Potter said. “I mean, it’s hard to pick yourself back up. But the plus side for me is I was still young. I just knew I had plenty of time and just be patient and it will come back around again.”
Potter was tops in strokes gained putting, at 2.016, while finishing second in the field with 1.635 putts per green in regulation. Though he missed a few fairways on Sunday, he was accurate off the tee, hitting 80.4 percent of them, good enough for third in the field.
The win secures a spot in the Open Championship, to be played at Royal Lytham on July 19.
“It was just a big relief,” Potter said. “All the struggles the last few weeks, knowing that now I’ve got a couple years to try to improve on my game and win some more tournaments.”
The left-hander became the sixth first-time winner on the tour this season. He earned $1,098,000 and jumped from 173rd to 51st in the FedEx Cup standings.
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2. TANGLED UP: Webb Simpson was the clear favorite heading into Sunday’s final round, especially with names like Kelly, Potter and Charlie Beljan chasing him. In other words, no one with a win on tour.
But that’s why they play the rounds, and Simpson started to feel the heat on the back nine after making the turn with a one-shot lead over Kelly.
But bogeys at Nos. 12-14, and then another at No. 16, derailed the U.S. Open champion. He fired a final-round, 3-over 73 for the worst score in his past 11 rounds.
“I felt really confident and then just got on a bad run there,” Simpson said. “I’m probably going to learn something from it. Have to learn the hard way.”
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3. A WIN IN A LOSS: Troy Kelly was an unknown to the golfing public until his Saturday run into the final pairing at Greenbrier, and then his subsequent loss in a three-hole, sudden-death playoff on Sunday.
But Kelly won’t disappear from the upcoming spotlight, earning a trip to the Open Championship due to his position on the money list.
Paired with Simpson on Suday, Kelly fired a 4-under 66 and made a clutch, par-saving putt on the second hole to put pressure on Potter to make his 5-footer for birdie, which he missed.
But Kelly’s performance on the course is only part of his story.
Our Alex Miceli caught up with the University of Washington product:
Kelly, 33, also is playing with a replaced left hip.
It all started in 2009, when Kelly, a 2003 Washington graduate from Tacoma, was playing on what was then the Nationwide Tour. His left hip was a constant problem, and after struggling to play through the pain, he was told by a doctor that arthritis had left him with bone-on-bone grinding in the hip.
At only 30, Kelly was a young candidate for hip-replacement surgery, but his doctor told left him with only two options: play with pain or undergo the operation.
Kelly played in pain in his first 10 events on the 2010 Nationwide Tour before scrapping his season and returning to the doctor.
“I told him it hurt so bad that I don’t think I could play feeling like this,” Kelly said earlier this year in San Diego, recalling his conversation with the doctor.
The doctor recommended surgery but didn’t know how fast Kelly might recover, given that previous patients were ages 55 to 70.
Kelly returned 7 1/2 months later when he Monday qualified for the Phoenix Open.
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4. THE DALY SHOW: John Daly fired a 5-under 65 on Sunday, despite a double bogey and bogey on his back nine. Daly managed four birdies to make the turn at 4-under 30, and also posted four on the back to finish at 10 under.
The 65 was Daly’s best round in two years.
Daly was much more than his well-known distance off the tee, also ranking in the top 5 in putts per green in regulation at 1.667.
Daly has played well in his last two starts on the PGA Tour, finishing T-19 at the St. Jude Classic before his start at Greenbrier.
While Daly has only made six starts on tour this season, he has managed to make five cuts.
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Amateur Justin Thomas, a sophomore at Alabama, fired a final-round, 2-over 72, which included five bogeys and three birdies to finish at 4 under for the tournament . . . Greenbrier pro-emeritus Tom Watson made the cut, but didn’t have a great weekend, posting 71-75 to finish T-73, better than only Arjun Atwal . . . Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III recorded four rounds in the 60s to post his second-best finish of the season, with a T-3 at the St. Jude Classic his best . . . Steve Stricker polished off a nice tournament with a 2-under 68, finishing at 8 under in his first tournament after a multi-week break. He’ll head to the John Deere Classic this week, where he has won the title three years in a row.
– The Associated Press contributed to this report