LYTHAM ST ANNES, England (Reuters) - A nervous look accompanies U.S. PGA Tour rookie Ted Potter Jr after a session at the practice range on the eve of the British Open.
The 28-year-old American has not come to Lytham just to make up the numbers though, having announced himself on the big stage earlier this month by winning the Greenbrier Classic in West Virginia.
“Winning at the Greenbrier helped me feel more relaxed out here. I feel like I belong more,” the world number 85 told Reuters in an interview on Wednesday after repeatedly blasting balls down the narrow practice range.
“My confidence skyrocketed. I had been struggling the last couple of months with my game but a couple of weeks ago my swing started falling into place, like it was last year on the (second tier) Nationwide Tour.”
Potter Jr finished 13th on his debut on the main tour this year and then missed nine cuts in 14 events until his Greenbrier breakthrough.
It has been a long road for the American since turning pro in 2002 and missing all 24 cuts on the Nationwide Tour two years later.
“It’s a dream come true to be here at the Open. I never expected to be here this year,” Potter said before playing a practice round in the company of five-times British Open champion Tom Watson.
”It’s the first Open I’ve played in so I don’t know what to expect but I’ll just try and enjoy it.
“This is the first time I’ve ever really seen a links course, it’s definitely different. I‘m trying to learn it the best I can. Maybe I can learn a few things today.”
If playing with Watson and getting tips from the best is a good start, another factor in Potter’s favor is he is left-handed.
Lytham is hosting the Open for the 11th time and of its past nine winners one, New Zealand’s Bob Charles in 1963, was also a ‘lefty’.
“I‘m definitely looking forward to it especially if a lefty has won out here. You know it can be done which is good to see,” said Potter.
”You’ve just got to keep going about your business and keep swinging how you have been. Don’t change anything.
“I know people want to hit knock-down shots and change their swing but I just want to try and play my own game,” said Potter in reference to the low shots under the wind used by Darren Clarke en route to victory last year.
“My ball flight isn’t too high anyway so I shouldn’t have to change too much.”
Links golf can be troublesome for many Americans, used to playing in less windy conditions and with better manicured courses, but Potter said he especially liked the greens at Lytham.
“The course is beautiful and in awesome shape. I like the green speeds over here, they’re not super slick like Augusta (for the U.S. Masters),” he explained.
“Yesterday I made sure I hit a lot of putts around the edge of the greens and off the greens just to get used to that method. I felt pretty comfortable.”
Editing by Tony Jimenez