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Potter holds off big names for Pebble Beach victory

By Will GrayFebruary 11, 2018, 11:22 pm

There was plenty of starpower on the final leaderboard at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, but in the end Ted Potter, Jr. remained steady en route to a surprising victory. Here's how things ended up on the Monterey Peninsula, where Potter held on for a three-shot win:

Leaderboard: Ted Potter, Jr. (-17), Phil Mickelson (-14), Chez Reavie (-14), Dustin Johnson (-14), Jason Day (-14)

What it means: While Potter started the day with a share of the lead, he was still seen as an underdog standing alongside the world No. 1. But despite a three-putt bogey on the opening hole, it was Potter who steadied himself with four front-nine birdies to take the lead. He closed with a string of 11 straight pars for his first win since the 2012 Greenbrier Classic. It's a momentous victory for Potter, a veteran who missed several months after breaking his ankle stepping off a curb in 2014 and had to return to the Tour to regain his playing privileges.

Round of the day: Scott Stallings' scores got progressively better this week, capping off with a bogey-free 66 in the final round on the host course. Stallings started on the back nine and made five birdies in his first nine holes, helping him jump more than 20 spots in the standings into sole possession of seventh place at 12 under.

Best of the rest: It's another close call for Mickelson, who had an outside shot to win this event for the fifth time. Mickelson shot a 5-under 67 that featured three birdies in four holes from Nos. 14-17, but he wasn't able to birdie the home hole to put additional pressure on Potter. At age 47, Lefty now has back-to-back top-5 finishes for the first time since 2013.

Biggest disappointment: Add this to the list of near-misses for DJ at Pebble Beach. The world No. 1 appeared ready to open the year with back-to-back wins on the PGA Tour, but he could never garner much momentum and struggled all day into the tiny greens even with a wedge in hand. It was a mixed-bag 72 for Johnson, who birdied the last to snag a share of second place but couldn't keep pace with the journeyman down the stretch.

Shot of the day: Potter flew the green on the short par-3 seventh hole, but he turned a difficult up-and-down into a surprising birdie. After watching Johnson hit a similar pitch past the hole, Potter took dead aim and holed his shot from the rough for a two, evoking memories of Tom Kite's famous chip on the same hole en route to winning the 1992 U.S. Open.

Quote of the day: "It's definitely pleasing. I mean, it was a bit of a struggle there for a while." - Potter

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Bubba holes birdie from bunker after caddie calls it

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 10:31 pm

Bubba Watson started the final round of the Genesis Open with the lead, but quickly squandered it with three bogeys on the front nine.

That didn't crush the two-time tournament champion's (or his caddie's) confidence though, as evidenced by his birdie on the par-3 14th hole, which he made from the greenside bunker.

Watson regained the final-round lead by finding the bottom of the cup with this splash-out from the sand, a shot his caddie, Ted Scott, apparently called before he hit it:

Hey, when you caddie for a guy who has two green jackets hanging in the closet at home, sometimes you just know.

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Watch: Daly makes an ace at the Chubb Classic

By Golf Channel DigitalFebruary 18, 2018, 9:01 pm

John Daly won't walk from the Chubb Classic with the trophy, but he certainly deserves recogition for his Sunday scorecard, which came complete with a hole-in-one.

Daly aced the 154-yard par-3 16th on the Talon Course at TwinEagles, when his ball carried the froont bunker and tracked right to the hole.

Two holes later, Daly signed for a final-round 67 that included four birdies, three bogeys and two eagles, which both in the span of four holes on the back nine.

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Gustafson shares stuttering success video

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 8:31 pm

Sophie Gustafson shared a breakthrough Sunday morning on YouTube.

Gustafson, a five-time LPGA winner and 16-time Ladies European Tour winner, shared her news in a 4-minute and 15-second video.

She did so without stuttering.

And that’s the nature of her breakthrough, something she is sharing in hopes that it will help others who stutter.

“I’m certainly not perfect, and the next time you see me, I am going to stutter, there is no question about that,” she says in the video. “But I am excited, because I am going in the right direction, and I believe I have found the solution that works for me.”

For someone who has struggled with stuttering all of her life, Gustafson has touched so many with her ability to communicate. She has entertained her legion of Twitter followers with her sense of humor. She also has written articles.

Back in 2011, Gustafson touched Golf Channel viewers when she opened up about her stuttering in an interview that was aired during the Solheim Cup. Her courage in sharing her challenges was recognized the following year, when the Golf Writers Association of American presented her its Ben Hogan Award, an honor bestowed to someone who has persevered through physical ailment. She also won the LPGA’s Heather Farr Perseverance Award that year.

Gustafson, 44, left the game as a player three years ago to become Beth Allen’s full-time caddie on the Ladies European Tour. She explains in the YouTube video that she is making her breakthrough with the help of Steve Gill, a team member with Tony Robbins’ life and business strategy group.

Gustafson said Gill led her to breathing, meditation and incantation exercises that have helped her since they began working together eight months ago.

“If you know anyone who stutters, tell them to breathe in and then speak,” Gustafson said. “I tried it the other way for 44 years, and it's just not working.” 

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J.Y. Ko wins her first start as an official LPGA member

By Randall MellFebruary 18, 2018, 4:09 pm

Make way for Jin Young Ko.

The South Koreans keep delivering one new star after another to the LPGA ranks, and they aren’t going to disappoint this year.

Ko made some history Sunday winning the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open, closing with a 3-under-par 69 to claim a wire-to-wire victory. She became the first player in 67 years to win her LPGA debut as a tour member. Beverly Hanson (1951) is the only other player to do so.

Hyejin Choi, an 18-year-old who just turned pro, is yet another emerging South Korean star looking to crack the LPGA ranks. She finished second Sunday, three shots back after closing with a 67. She played on a sponsor exemption. She is already No. 11 in the Rolex Women’s World Rankings and likely to move up when the newest rankings are released. Had Choi won Sunday, she could have claimed LPGA membership for the rest of this season.

Full-field scores from the ISPS Handa Women’s Australian Open

Ko, 22, moved herself into early position to try to follow in Sung Hyun Park’s footsteps. Park won the Rolex Player of the Year and Rolex Rookie of the Year awards last year. She joined Nancy Lopez as the only players to do so. Lopez did it in 1978. Park shared the Player of the Year honor with So Yeon Ryu.

Ko said winning the Louise Suggs Rookie of the Year Award is a goal, but she didn’t come into the year setting her sights on Player of the Year.

“I haven’t thought about that yet,” she said.

Ko finished at 14 under overall.

It was a good week for rookies. Australia’s Hannah Green (69) finished third.

Ko claimed LPGA membership this year based on her victory as a non-member at the KEB Hana Bank Championship in South Korea last fall. She’s already a star in South Korea, having won 10 times on the Korean LPGA Tour. She is No. 20 in the world and, like Choi, poised to move up when the newest world rankings are released.

Former world No. 1 Lydia Ko closed with an even par 72, finishing tied for 19th in her 2018 debut. She is in next week’s field at the Honda LPGA Thailand.