The Upshot: Blixt hopes he's turned the corner
July 03, 2014
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
- Jonas Blixt's only top 10 this season came at the Masters (T2). (Todd Warshaw/Getty Images)
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Jonas Blixt knew he sounded a little like Forrest Gump on Wednesday when he discussed a season that includes a tie for second at the Masters as well as seven missed cuts.
"You have guys like Matt Kuchar that play well every week, and guys like me that kind of have good weeks and some bad weeks and a little more of a roller-coaster," the reigning Greenbrier Classic champ said. "You never really know what you're going to get. ...
"It's 80 percent kind of you hit your head against the wall, I feel like. Just trying to figure something out to play better and find the mojo again, and 20 percent of the time you feel like everything is just flowing like it did that Sunday a year ago.
"I hope this can be the ice breaker this year and just keep going."
Blixt just may have picked the right piece of chocolate at the Old White TPC on Thursday when he shot a 64 to seize the lead. The round of 6 under was the first in the 60s for the Swede since the final round of the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship the first week in March.
James Hahn, Jason Bohn, Joe Durant, Chris Kirk, D.A. Points, Patrick Rodgers, Jim Renner and Danny Lee are one stroke off Blixt's pace. Steve Stricker headlines a group of eight players who shot 66s on what turned out to be a very scorable day.
Blixt shot 13 under in winning a year ago, but Thursday's 64 was his lowest -- by two strokes -- at the Old White TPC. He hit 9 of 14 fairways and just 10 greens, but his hot putter was the key as he used it just 22 times.
The catalyst in Blixt's round was the chip-in birdie at the 16th hole, his seventh of the day. The 30-year-old Florida State product then chipped to 3 feet at the par-5 17th for birdie and added another pair from 21 and 10 feet on the next two holes.
"If you look at my stats this year, I haven't been chipping or putting as well as I have in the past," Blixt said. "But I worked quite a bit on it last week, and I feel like I'm coming back to where I've been before.
"So I'm very happy about today's round. I feel like it was a big step towards getting back into playing good golf again."
CAPTAIN'S CHOICE: Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley, who rank Nos. 17 and 18 in the Ryder Cup standings right now, played with the U.S. captain Tom Watson on Thursday.
The audition was one thing. But the opportunity to play with the World Golf Hall of Famer, who clocked in at 1 over, was quite a bonus.
"He's got a presence, for sure," Bradley said. "It's definitely a challenge, but it's an honor just to be out there playing. So I think it's very rare. Not a lot of sports you can play with a legend like Tom. So memorable day for sure."
Outside of some talk about Gleneagles, which hosts the competition in September, though, Simpson said much of their conversation centered around the Charlotte Panthers and Bobcats. Even so, Bradley, who shot 67, and Simpson, who had a 71, said they were well aware of the potential Ryder Cup implications.
"But you'd think that one round or two rounds wouldn't determine us being on the team," Bradley said. "I mean that would be kind of silly. But it doesn't hurt to play well. Put it that way."
"The thing I believe in is if I take care of what I'm supposed to take care of, add up all the points come a month from now, then I either deserve to be on the team or hopefully if I don't make it, close enough to where I'm tough not to pick," he said.
"I remember playing with (then-Captain) Davis (Love III) in Greensboro before the '12 Ryder Cup. Kind of the same feelings, but they both know golf well enough to know that if I shoot 64 today, it's not like he's going to pick me if I don't make the team."
Webb Simpson first met Tom Watson at age 13, as his standard bearer at the 1999 U.S. Open. Today, both shot 71. pic.twitter.com/qz6YrCl04d— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 3, 2014
CALL OF THE DAY: Bill Rosinski calls Keegan Bradley's closing birdie at No. 18 in the opening round of the Greennbrier Classic.
EYE ON THE TARGET: Make no mistake. Golf is huge at The Greenbrier, which boasts five championship courses, including the Old White TPC.
The resort offers a host of other activities, though -- everything from a spa and mineral baths to hunting and fishing to horseback riding and falconry, just to name a few. Concerts are on tap every night, as well, with this year's line-up featuring Lady Antebellum, Lionel Richie, Maroon 5 and Jimmy Buffett.
So it's easy to get distracted, particularly with the family in tow.
Jason Bohn managed to stay focused on the task at hand on Thursday. He fired a 65 that was his lowest round in three appearances at The Greenbrier Classic, the first two ending with missed cuts, and enters the second round one shot off the lead.
"I think it's a work week, but it's also a great family week, and so you want to make sure you can enjoy it with your family and not stress too much about the job at hand," Bohn said. "It's a beautiful place to come, so I'm thrilled to get off to a good start, for sure."
Bohn's two sons are 9 and 6 years old so they're a little young to appreciate the slice of American history that is "The Bunker," the top-secret facility located in the bowels of the resort that was built during the Cold War and would have housed Congress in the event of a nuclear attack.
"But we've touched every other thing that we can get our hands on, for sure," Bohn said. "It's all how you look at it actually, you can make yourself be distracted, for sure, or you can just enjoy your time away from the golf course.
"There's lots of times when we go away from the golf course that there's nothing to do. So this is great. And we see a lot of our families here, a lot of our friends, all the kids are having fun. So yeah, to go lounge by the pool is not so bad."
It is an infinity pool, after all.
Jonas Blixt's 64 leads at The Greenbrier
Jonas Blixt's 64 leads at The Greenbrier
ODDS & ENDS
James Hahn, Jason Bohn, Jim Renner and Danny Lee, who all opened with 65s, hold down the four qualifying spots for The Open Championship after the first round. The top four players not otherwise exempt for the season's third major among the top 12 finishers and ties on Sunday earn those spots thanks to the Open Qualifying Series. All but Bohn would be making their Open debuts. ...
Jimmy Walker, who has led the FedExCup standings for 31 of 32 weeks this season, opened with a 70. Bubba Watson, who ranks second to Walker and could overtake him with a win or possibly a runner-up finish, shot 68. ...
Brian Gay withdrew after shooting 78 due to a thumb injury.
STATS DRIVING DISTANCE J.B. Holmes 324.5 yards DRIVING ACCURACY Daniel Chopra, Justin Hicks, Davis Love III, Kevin Na, Heath Slocum 14 of 14 fairways (100 percent) GREENS IN REGULATION Charlie Beljan, Chris Kirk 17 of 18 greens (94.44 percent) STROKES-GAINED PUTTING Sang-moon Bae 4.09 SCRAMBLING Ricky Barnes, Charlie Beljan, Ben Curtis, Brice Garnett, Jason Gore, Justin Hicks, Chris Kirk, Jeff Maggert, Pat Perez, D.A. Points, Steve Stricker, Chris Stroud, Michael Thompson 100 percent TOTAL BIRDIES Jonas Blixt, Danny Lee 8 BOGEY FREE ROUNDS Chris Kirk, Pat Perez, Steve Stricker, Chris Stroud, Michael Thompson, Ben Curtis, Justin Hicks LOW ROUND Jonas Blixt 64 COURSE STATS HARDEST HOLE Par-4 13th 4.25 EASIEST HOLE Par-5 12th 4.66
"It's definitely a step in the right direction, that's for sure. One of the things that I've been looking at and trying to do better at is get off to a better start instead of putting myself in the hole right away. So this obviously helps." Jim Renner on his opening 65.
"I'm enjoying it. I went up to the gun club yesterday and shot some clays for a little while, and going to go see if I can catch some trout this afternoon. So it's nice, all the extracurricular activities they have for us." Chris Kirk, who opened with a 65
"This is a good golf course because on some holes it does give me the advantage and some holes you do have to reel it back a little bit. ... It's one of those weeks where you don't usually see a big hitter always winning it or a short hitter always winning it or great short game player. The tournament's kind of had all kinds of winners." J.B. Holmes, who shot 68.
View images from the first round by clicking the photo below.