By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. -- Derek Lamely will be the first to tell you his 2011 season "hasn't been pretty."
He's played 19 events and missed the cut in all but four of them. He's battled a lower back problem and had to take four weeks off after discovering a small tear in the cartilage in his wrist that forced him to withdraw from The Memorial Tournament.
But Lamely and his caddy have been working hard with his instructor, Jim Suttie. And if the first round of The Greenbrier Classic is any indication, he may be headed in the right direction.
Lamely, who won the Puerto Rico Open presented by Banco Popular last year as a rookie, made five birdies in his last six holes on Thursday. The resulting 65 left him in a five-way tie for second, one stroke off the lead held by his playing partner, Trevor Immelman.
"Everything's been getting really pretty good in the last month," Lamely said. "... I am definitely progressing in the right direction and I've finally stopped chopping it (around)."
Lamely was steady early as he started on the back nine and reeled off 12 straight pars. He made his first birdie when he rolled in a 7-footer at No. 4, then added another from the same distance at the next and a 14-footer for a third straight birdie at No. 6. Lamely then made a 5-footer at the eighth hole and finished with a flourish by chipping in from 26 feet on No. 9.
In retrospect, Lamely said the injury-induced layoff after the Memorial may have been a good thing. He said the time on the sidelines helped motivate him again, adding that “I kicked myself in the (butt), I guess."
"It's hard to play bad," Lamely explained. "... You want to play good. You want to be in front of the crowds, at least I do. Today was a blast, granted a lot of people were there for (Phil) Mickelson and Tom (Watson, in the next group) which is great. But it's so much fun when people are there and cheering.”
Lamely feels like he has regained his focus. He's well aware that he's on the outside looking in at No. 195 in the FedExCup. But Sean O'Hair moved from No. 147 to 43rd when he won last week and the 500 points available for a win on Sunday could work similarly for Lamely.
He's hardly going to get ahead of himself, though.
"I'm on the right path for what I need to do," Lamely said. "Most of all, mentally I am thinking about the thing I need to think about again."