Pebble Beach: Potter and Snedeker Lead After Two

The first guy in the clubhouse at 8-under in the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am on Friday was Ted Potter, Jr. He sunk a 50-foot putt for eagle on the 10th (his first) at Monterey Peninsula Country Club.

Yeah, it was a good day today.  Started out really well with a 3 on the first hole on No. 10, so got off to a hot start.  Felt good all day.  Just glad the weather cleared up.  Gave a couple back coming in on the back nine, but got it going again on the front and had four birdies I think.  A little disappointing finish on the last there with a 3‑putt [for bogey], but all in all, a good day.

Potter was the improbable winner of the 2012 Greenbrier Classic. Remember? The stocky left-hander with the home-grown swing who birdied the third playoff hole to beat Troy Kelly? For Potter it was a transformational experience: 

Winning last year definitely helped my confidence coming out here this year on the Tour.  I had good experience on mini‑tours and played well on mini‑tours and Tour.  So going into last year, I felt good about playing last year but I just never could get comfortable I don’t think.  And the Greenbrier, winning there helped me build some confidence.

And I had the opportunity to witness that transformation in person at the Waste Management Phoenix Open. I was on my way to the scoring trailers to snag somebody else for an interview and about twenty-five feet away, I passed Potter, who had recently finished his round. His physical presence snapped my head around and I almost stopped right there to talk to him about it.

He was speaking with other players and had a calm, self-assured bearing about him. He stood tall with a commanding look and it looked like he might have lost a little weight — or maybe television had not been kind to him at the Greenbrier. And he was dressed impeccably. It was remarkable and he went on to finish T24.

The second guy in the clubhouse at 8-under is Brandt Snedeker. He fashioned a bogey-free round of 4-under, 68 at Spyglass Hill Golf Club, generally regarded as the toughest of the three courses in the rotation. Given that he finished 2nd at both Torrey Pines and Phoenix, this was not a big surprise:

Yeah, I feel really good about it.  I take nothing but positives away from the way I’ve played the weekend the last couple events.  I know I’ll have a lot of fun this weekend, so just try to recreate that.  That’s how you win out here; you keep putting yourself in position, and the more times you do, that the more success you’re going to have.

And he seems to have come away with some invaluable lessons in the process:

I realize I’m playing really well and not try to do anything too stupid this week and not wear myself out early in the week, and be patient and keep doing the small stuff I did last week really well.

I’m doing a better job this week of making my way around the golf courses and not putting myself in bad spots and getting out of tough situations very quickly.  It’s been real promising this week the way I’ve taken that momentum from last week into this one.

So the whole thing is to try not to do anything stupid:

Right, try not to.  That’s my M.O., not do anything stupid.  Unfortunately I don’t do it very often. [Said, no doubt with a twinkle in his eye and a grin on his face.]

There were four players tied at T3 after getting to 7-under: Fredrik Jacobson, Hunter Mahan, Patrick Reed and John Merrick.

Jacobson had back issues that swallowed him up towards the end of last year and he’s just now getting back in the saddle:

But it’s getting better and better.  I feel I’m getting some good training in.  But it was certainly long — I was off for a long time.  I didn’t play a lot of tournaments in the last five, six months. Nice to be back on Tour again and to get some rounds under the belt and feel like I’m getting into a rhythm.

Now that he’s healed and rested, he’ll be very interesting to watch. He’s the guy who has the idiosyncratic backward movement of his head when he swings that makes him look gangly and awkward but also possesses a magical short game that allows him to chip and putt with the best of them. At one of last year’s tournaments, Gary McCord described all of this and how Jacobson gets up and down almost every time…and then began to laugh his way through the rest of the broadcast because that’s what Jacobson proceeded to do. It was impressive.

Hunter Mahan would have been a shot better had it not been for a “funky” ruling brought on by the overnight rains softening the greens:

Yeah, I had a putt and it was — the greens are totally — they are just a lot of footprints and everything, and the ball was sitting there fine.  Seemed like I took the putter back and it just rolled over in like a heel print or something.  You know, I didn’t feel like I moved it.  I didn’t feel like I had anything much to do with it moving but you know, it’s kind of just a rub of the green, so had to go back and take a penalty.

But that’s okay because he’s playing well and leads the field in greens in regulation, 33 of 36:

Well, I hit it good.  Hit it solid off the tee and I think I hit every green.  I just couldn’t quite take advantage of the par 5s.  I had plenty of opportunities today.  I just couldn’t make putts…Hit a lot of good quality shots. I feel good about the game right now and what I’m doing.

Which is interesting because in my interview with him last week, he told me that although his swing might look good, it didn’t feel very good:

I don’t know, I guess it’s a work in progress. It feels like it’s not where I want it to be by any means. It’s not — I don’t have the “feels” that I want and I can’t hit some of the shots I want to hit. So, some of it’s natural the way I can move through the ball. And…you know, it’s a work in progress.

I mean it’s not — how it looks and the comfort level of it is always different.

Patrick Reed is very interesting to watch these days. He’s the guy who successfully Monday qualified into something like five Tour events last year, got some sponsors’ exemptions and then got through Q-School at T22. It was the Monday qualifying that was the most exceptional of these exceptional things; it means that you are a player.

Today he was bogey-free on Pebble Beach and recorded the longest drive on the 9th hole at 347 yards…with a 3-wood.

John Merrick is a solid player who made $1 million last year, but doesn’t get a lot of ink because he has steady finishes if not a lot of notable ones. My interest in giving him a little ink here is because he plays out of Virginia Country Club with Paul Goydos, John Mallinger and at one time, John Cook.

Patrick Cantlay, the UCLA freshman who shot 60 at the Travelers Insurance Open in Hartford, gave these guys credit for his ability to seemingly come out of nowhere and have a number of successful outings on the Tour, ultimately turning pro last year:

I think it helped me a lot. More than I know probably. Because growing up in the culture around practicing and playing with Tour pros, you pick up things and, you know, how they practice, how they look at a golf course without even really — you know, before I got to a Tour event I knew how a Tour pro played. So I wasn’t in shock by how they talked or how they acted. So I think that was huge for me and I got a lot of advice from them and I think I owe a lot to those guys for bringing me up in that culture.

And, no surprise, young Mr. Cantlay is just one stroke back of his mentor at 6-under.

The Golf Channel begins the broadcast from 1:00 to 2:30 ET and CBS picks up the conclusion from 3:00 to 6:00.

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