By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
PONTE VEDRA BEACH, Fla. -- Jonas Blixt polished off his round of 76 around noon on Sunday and planned to head home to take a nap.
He wouldn't get to sleep long, though, because he was heading back at TPC Sawgrass to watch his next-door neighbor David Lingmerth try to win THE PLAYERS Championship later that afternoon.
Lingmerth tees off at 2:38 p.m. ET in the final group of the day with Sergio Garcia. The PGA TOUR rookie is tied for the lead with Garcia and world No. 1 Tiger Woods at 11 under, one stroke ahead of Ryan Palmer, Casey Wittenberg and Henrik Stenson.
Blixt, who met Lingmerth on the Web.com Tour, won't be the only familiar face in his friend's gallery. Lingmerth's financee Megan Mercurio will be nervously walking along with his father Thomas and brother Andras, who flew in from Sweden on Wednesday, along with his coach Hans Larson from the Swedish Golf Federation.
Blixt knows his fellow Swede to be a "fierce competitor." Since Lingmerth moved to Jacksonville Beach in December, the two have been playing practice rounds on the Stadium Course and keep a running tally of their matches. Blixt says that while their scores are modest, generally a couple under par, they are tied 2-2 overall.
"It's almost impossible to talk with him in a normal practice round," Blixt reported. "... He loves to compete and he's good at it. ... But I think it's great. He just does his own thing and he believes in himself."
Blixt says the two live close enough that he can "sneak a peak" into Lingmerth's house from his bedroom. Blixt settled here first, and Lingmerth decided to move because he wanted to live where the winter was more moderate than in Fayetteville, Ark., where he went to college and met Mercurio.
Lingmerth's passions were evident from the get-go, Blixt said. His friend loves ice hockey and considered pursing the sport as a career until he was about 15. He's a big fan of the Washington Capitals and center Nicklas Backstrom, a 25-year-old Swede like Lingmerth.
"I don't know if his first love is golf or ice hockey," Blixt said. "I think it is a little confusing."
There is no confusing Lingmerth's collegiate affiliation, though. He went to Arkansas and remains a staunch supporter.
"He's a huge Razorback fan, absolutely huge," Blixt said. "It's almost impossible to talk to him about anything else, any other teams because they are the best, obviously."
Not even Blixt's alma mater, Florida State? "No, clearly not," he said with a grin. "Even though we are a lot better."
Blixt says putting is the strength of Lingmerth's game. He's tied for first in distance of putts made this week and ranks 14th in strokes gained putting. He's no slouch off the tee, either, and is tied for first in driving distance.
So is Blixt surprised to see Lingmerth with a share of the lead at the PGA TOUR's signature event?
"That's a hard question," Blixt said after a long pause. "Everybody that plays out here, they're good enough to be up there. You always see those normal names like Tiger, not Phil this week but usually Phil and Adam Scott, sometimes you mix it in with a little more unknown players like Lingmerth.
"I'm impressed that he's been keeping his head cold and just keep on chugging along which is great. This is a golf course that really reveals your strengths and weaknesses. I think he's in a good frame of mind right now and he's going to do well this week."