Greenbrier owner Jim Justice (left) walks the course with 2012 Greenbrier Classic winner Ted Potter Jr.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Upon the news that Ted Potter Jr. was engaged, the pitch was made by a Greenbrier official: "Hey, we've got a great place to have a wedding!"The 29-year-old native of Silver Springs, Fla., and his fiancée Cheri were planning their November nuptials in the Jacksonville area, but they surely liked their visit to the resort last summer.Potter loved the trap shooting and the Jeep trails, and he simply loved the mountain scenery.But he liked it even better when he finished his trip as the third champion of the Greenbrier Classic. Appearing at the tournament's media day Tuesday, he affirmed that he will come back."This is a very special place to me," he said. "It jump-started my career on the PGA Tour.""Jump-started" may be a kind term. When the Fourth of July rolled around, Potter's rookie season wasn't going well - he missed his last five cuts and played a Web.com Tour event the week before coming here. He didn't exactly burn it up in the "Triple-A" circuit, finishing 51st.Sinking to 172nd in the FedExCup series, he was running out of tournaments, and out of luck. "I was slipping down the list and I knew I was going to have to do something really special really soon to get my card for the following year."
At the Old White TPC course, Potter indeed did something special - his birdie-par-eagle-birdie finish put him in a playoff with Troy Kelly, and Potter won it on the third hole.Suddenly, he had a two-year exemption, a much higher place in the points standings, a hefty trophy and a heftier check. And the extras seemed to keep coming. "It took me a few days, maybe a week to realize I was going to Augusta National the following year," he said. "When I won the Greenbrier last year, I didn't realize I got to go to the British Open [two weeks later] right away, either."
The day before coming to White Sulphur Springs, Potter earned a spot in his fourth major in dramatic fashion. Playing in the always-loaded U.S. Open qualifier in Columbus, Ohio, he birdied his 36th hole of the day, joining an 11-man playoff for seven spots. He birdied the first hole of that playoff to advance to the big show in Merion a week from now.Did his experience here pay off then?"Over my career, playing mini-tour golf and everything else, I've had really good success in playoffs," he said. "I definitely draw back on them, just going out there and doing what you can do - don't worry about what's going on around you."Just hit fairway and green and, hopefully, roll a putt in."His goal this year is to develop consistency in putting and all other departments. He's still suffering bad streaks, including four straight missed cuts in the spring, He has a top-10 and four top-25 finishes, and is ranked 82nd in the FedExCup standings and 140th in the world.
He could always stand to do something special at the fourth Greenbrier Classic, which runs July 1-7. Defending a championship is tough, but one thing is for certain: He'll be at ease in his surroundings."I'll definitely have a good feeling coming back here July and defending. It will be the first time defending, so there will be a little added pressure," he said. "It's a relaxing place here, The Greenbrier. I love the outdoors and they have a lot of activities that can take my mind off golf."It was a comfortable place to be last year, and that's what helped me play well." BRIEFLY: Ninety-four children have been signed up for the day-care program during the Classic, the highest number on the PGA Tour. ... A few more commitments were released Tuesday, besides the most notable return of Phil Mickelson. Some were expected, such as the flamboyant John Daly, Greenbrier pro emeritus Tom Watson and resort ambassador Kenny Perry (knees pending). The highest of those in the world rankings is Ryan Palmer (85th). ... Other new commitments include Graham DeLaet, Steve Flesch, Tim Herron, Kevin Stadler, Brendan Steele and Gary Woodland.Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.