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July 7 2013

9:57 PM

Sunday observations: The Greenbrier

Tom Watson, 63, carded a final-round 67 and tied for 38th at The Greenbrier Classic.
(Trotman/Getty Images)

By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

Jonas Blixt’s game is built around his putting stroke. 

Blixt can be inconsistent in his ball-striking; ranking 147th in driving accuracy and 173rd in greens in regulation this year.  When you combine those numbers with an average drive of 286.3 yards, you can understand why Blixt must putt well. He usually does just that. 

Blixt ranked second in strokes gained-putting last year, trailing only Brandt Snedeker.  This year, Blixt ranks 67th on TOUR in putting. Those metrics all changed this week. He led the tournament in putts per green and was second strokes gained-putting.

Blixt is a left-hand low putter, which he says not only levels his shoulders; it also levels his sightline allowing for a better read. Blixt’s game rises and falls with his putter. It rose to the top this week.

Observations: 

Small steps: I saw Johnson Wagner hit his drive on the 18th hole at AT&T National during last week’s Pro-Am and he launched it so far right they still haven’t found the ball. When I asked about the state of his game, Johnson optimistically told me “I’m really close.”  Turns out, he was right. Wagner hadn’t made a cut since April. He was so frustrated following a missed cut at the Travelers Championship he scheduled an emergency lesson before the AT&T National, and then missed another cut. Wagner says it took a couple weeks for the swing changes to take effect. He did not quite close the way he wanted but Johnson’s game has come a long way in the last two weeks.

XXL: Jimmy Walker can take it deep when he wants to.  It’s as if the Texan can coax another 20 yards out of his driver on command. He is 15th on TOUR this year in driving distance at 299.5 yards. This week, Walker averaged 307 to rank T10  in the tournament.  At the 427-yard third hole, he cranked a 297-yard drive followed by a 139-yard sand wedge that went over the green.  He also cranked a 347-yard drive in the final round.  That distance may have seduced Walker. He attempted a couple 190-yard 8-irons that came up short of the target.

Conditions: The final round was one of constant adjustment for players. Usually, the green speed on Sunday is the quickest of the week but rain totally changed the putting surfaces.  Those slower greens also allowed for quicker play. Golfers are inevitably faced with 4-foot par putts on fast greens which take time to read and stroke, but when the putting surfaces are slower the run-out past the cup is always significantly shorter. The rain delayed the final round but it also slowed the greens, which increased the pace of play.

Veterans: Let’s salute the veterans this week. Tom Watson had a final-round 67 and took just 22 putts. Kenny Perry left the Champions Tour for a week and finished a very respectable 3 under with an eagle on the 12th and Davis Love III finished T8 and led the tournament in greens in regulation, hitting including 17 of 18 in the opening round.

Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio.  For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here

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