Sam Torrance: Kiradech Aphibarnrat thrills in Perth, Ted Potter Jr strikes a blow for journeymen at Pebble Beach – and how I got the nickname "Elsie"

 
Sam Torrance
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World Super 6 Perth - Day Four
Aphibarnrat was a last-minute entrant to the tournament (Source: Getty)

He was the last man to arrive at the World Super 6 event in Perth, having only decided to play days before. More importantly, Kiradech Aphibarnrat was the last to leave after pulling off a magnificent victory.

Aphibarnrat put in a fantastic performance under intense pressure all week, coming through a play-off to make Sunday’s match play section and then needing shoot-out holes to advance from two of his knockout contests.

The final was nothing short of amazing. All square with home hope James Nitties after three of the allotted six holes, Aphibarnrat hit a wonderful tee shot to about five feet on his way to an eagle at the fourth and followed that up with a birdie to win 2 and 1.

Read more: Sam Torrance: Woodland return puts him in frame for Masters

It was a great win and would have been a popular one, too. I’m a big fan of Aphibarnrat, who is lovely player as well as a very likeable guy.

The Thai’s fourth European Tour title was also a great result for organisers in that the drama showcased everything that the new format is meant to be about.

Potter Jr's magical turnaround in fortunes

Perhaps the best line of the weekend came from Wayne Riley, who was commentating on journeyman Ted Potter Jr’s brilliant triumph at the Pebble Beach Pro-Am on Sunday.

“He’s waving his putter like Harry Potter’s wand,” quipped Riley as the boy wizard’s golfing namesake saw off the challenge of world No1 Dustin Johnson to win by three shots in California.

Former rankings leader Jason Day and five-time major winner Phil Mickelson were tied with Johnson, as was Chez Reavie – a runner-up for a second successive week – so it was quite a feat from Potter.

The 34-year-old has a great story. He won on the PGA Tour in 2012, his rookie year, but lost his card after almost two years out with an ankle injury and only earned it back last year.

He won a modest $150,000 in prize money throughout 2017 and started last week at 246 in the world rankings. Now he is up to 73, a career high, and has just banked $1m.

Like Mickelson, who learned to play by copying his dad, Potter is naturally right-handed but plays left-handed.

AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am - Final Round
Potter Jr spent almost two years recovering from an ankle injury (Source: Getty)

Pebble Beach is one of the great courses and also one of the few that can’t be overpowered, which suited Potter. Despite three-putting at the first green on Sunday he plotted his way around the course beautifully.

He and Reavie have shown that there is more than one way to make a living playing golf, and it is great for these journeymen to have their day. I hope Potter goes on to have more but even if he doesn’t he will always have this.

Mickelson didn’t quite apply the pressure on Potter that he could have but played some magnificent golf for the second week running. At 47, he looks in great form.

Day followed his win last time out at the Farmers Insurance Open with a third top-five finish in a row and it’s nice to see the Australian back. He didn’t seem troubled by injuries, either.

Not much went right for Johnson, but his sublime tee shots give him such an advantage every single week and he looks a real threat again.

Johnson, Day and Mickelson are all in action alongside Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy this week in a mouth-watering field at the Genesis Open in Los Angeles.

Big in Bogota

Up-and-coming Englishman Ben Taylor’s maiden win on the Web.com Tour, at the Club Colombia Championship, was a great step for him and brought back some fond memories for me.

I remember shooting a 64 to beat the great Lee Trevino and win the Colombian Open in 1979, and I still have a cutting from the local newspaper the following day.

Unfortunately, the caption underneath the picture of me read “Elsie Torrente” – and the nickname Elsie followed me around on tour for 20 years!

Farewell to a dear friend

Finally, I’d like to pay tribute to someone who was alongside me for many of my most treasured memories in the game, my longest-serving caddie Malcolm Mason, who passed away last week.

Malcolm was on my bag for more than a decade, including at my last European Tour win at the French Open in 1998 and when I captained Europe at the 2002 Ryder Cup. I’ll miss him.

City A.M.'s opinion pages are a place for thought-provoking views and debate. These views are not necessarily shared by City A.M.

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