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Classic finale had drama, even without Tiger and Phil

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Well, whaddya know.

After all the consternation that two big-name players didn't make the cut, a Lefty won the Greenbrier Classic after all.

No, it wasn't The Lefty, Phil Mickelson, who has now missed back-to-back cuts in the event. But it was A Lefty, in the form of Ted Potter, Jr.

Once again, there was Greenbrier drama, just like last year when Scott Stallings won in a one-hole playoff. This time, though, it took three playoff holes, perhaps giving CBS a little bump after ratings winners Mickelson and Tiger Woods experienced nosedives.

And whaddya know, for once this summer, West Virginia nosed out bad weather. At least its showcase sporting event did, getting the playoff in before a bad storm hit the area.

In a second attempt at a winning putt within 5 feet, Potter dropped one from 4 feet, 2 inches, defeating Troy Kelly in sudden death on No. 18.

"It's an amazing feeling," Potter said afterward, wearing a green jacket. "I didn't know what was going to happen down the stretch."

No one knew what was going to happen when the wheels fell off the one name player in contention, Webb Simpson, the U.S. Open champ.

Heck, no one knew if there would be a Sunday conclusion to the tournament. A severe thunderstorm warning was in effect for hours before Potter sneaked the winner in the cup.

But maybe it was appropriate a guy named Potter won. Because there was magic to be enjoyed.

Down the stretch before the playoff, the victor, at 15 under, made an eagle at No. 17, a 616-yard par-5. When Kelly failed to capitalize on the same hole, a Cinderella matchup was on.

On the first hole of the playoff, Kelly basically had the same putt as moments before, this from 31 feet, 7 inches. Potter was off the edge of the green and dribbled his attempt left.

After chatting down the No. 17 fairway, Potter had the edge with a putt to win from 4 feet, 9 inches. No go.

Finally, he converted the winner on playoff hole No. 3, again No. 18.

"I played tough all day," Kelly said. "I had a lot of fun."

Those who stayed tuned did as well. No, it wasn't Phil and Tiger. It was Troy and Ted. Kelly had zero Top 25 finishes in his career. His bio is highlighted by the fact that he's also dabbled in home remodeling.

Potter might have won because he's more comfortable in West Virginia's hills. He likes to fish and hunt. And you have to love a guy whose favorite movie is "Caddyshack."

It put an exclamation point to a different kind of week.

Angles? There were more here than in geometry. There were the obvious ones: the heat, the missed cuts of Woods and Mickelson.

There was the made cut by legendary golfer Tom Watson. On Sunday, Watson faltered at the end of his round and finished at 5 over on the day and 4 over for the tournament. He bogeyed on what might be his final made cut in a regular PGA Tour stop. But he made sure to smile and shake hands with playing partner D.J. Trahan. He also took a few moments to speak to the Air Force and Army national guard representatives on the closing hole.

If you didn't know, the regular pin flag on No. 18 was replaced by an American flag for the July 4 week. The national guard reps tended the flag and made sure it didn't touch the ground.

There was also the sudden withdrawal of Scott Brown, who was at 3 under but left to be with his wife, who was in labor. That left Tommy Gainey in a group of his own on Sunday. Gainey buzzed through the course in two hours and four minutes.

The players had fun.

"It was great," said Virginia Tech grad Brendon de Jonge, who finished at 3 under. "It's a wonderful sight, a wonderful venue. It's come a long way."

"I like it," said Dustin Johnson, who won the FedEx St. Jude Classic this year and finished at 6 under. "I think it's a good tournament. I had a lot of fun and definitely will come back."

Both thought the Old White TPC course was receptive to good scores.

"It was very warm," de Jonge said. "The ball went a long way and the greens were receptive. There was a little wind."

After the playoff, there was much wind. Before, there was much wind.

And, in the end, maybe that's why this Greenbrier Classic will be remembered. The Mountain State was punched in the stomach by a derecho. But the residents took a deep breath, pulled together and, again, helped put on quite a show.

Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvingle@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.

 


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