Blixt's season, life change with Greenbrier victory
Interview: Jonas Blixt
Following a final-round 67, Jonas Blixt reflects on his win at The Greenbrier Classic with Tom Werme from PGA TOUR Radio on PGATOUR.COM and SiriusXM.July 07, 2013
By Helen Ross, PGATOUR.COM
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- When Jonas Blixt was that kid growing up in Sweden who positively loved hockey but turned out to be more suited to golf his coach would always tell him, "Once is luck, twice is skill."
Of course, Thomas Hunter was usually talking about the way Blixt hit his 7-iron or feathered a wedge next to the pin. But Blixt couldn't help but think of those words when he won The Greenbrier Classic on Sunday.
The come-from-behind victory at The Old White TPC was the second of Blixt's young PGA TOUR career, coming just nine months and 18 events after the 29-year-old capped a solid rookie season with a win at the Frys.com Open.
"It's cool to back it up," the surprisingly emotional Blixt said.
The victory gives Blixt 500 FedExCup points, vaulting him 100 spots to 39th in the standings and assuring that he won't have to play week-in and week-out to make the Playoffs like he did a year ago when he came back after a mid-season rib injury.
In fact, he's now planning some time off with the family back home in Sweden as he waits to see if he makes the field for the British Open off the alternate list that is based on the Official World Golf Ranking.
"This kind of means I can relax a bit," Blixt said. "It's a big hunt during the year trying to get into the FedExCup Playoffs."
Regardless of whether he gets to play at Muirfield in two weeks, though, Blixt -- who has never played in a major or a World Golf Championships event -- has earned a spot in next month's PGA Championship and next year's Masters. Ditto for the Hyundai Tournament of Champions and his second PLAYERS Championship.
"It just confirms that you're doing the right things ... and dreams can come true if you work hard and keep at it," said Blixt, who now has job security on TOUR through the end of the 2014-15 season.
The affable Swede had been working hard but seeing few results this year, though. His best finishes came in consecutive weeks on two sides of the Atlantic as he tied for 11th at the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, then finished second at the Nordea Masters in Stockholm.
Blixt spent the next 10 days at home in Sweden working with his swing coach trying to resurrect the kind of game that produced five top-10s last year, including three finishes of third or better. When he returned to the States, though, it was more of the same with a tie for 43rd at the Travelers Championship and a quick 72-75 exit from the AT&T National.
But a session on the range with a caddie named Bill Harkey, who was a swing coach in another life, prior to The Greenbrier Classic helped put Blixt back on the right track. He also traded video with his instructor back home in Sweden -- "Luckily we've got technology that allows us to do that," Blixt said -- and he slowly regained some much-needed confidence.
Blixt's putter couldn't have been more cooperative, either, as he ended the week at The Old White TPC ranked first in putts and second in strokes gained- putting. Nowhere was that more evident Sunday than when he pulled even with overnight leader Johnson Wagner with consecutive birdies at Nos. 9 and 10, then gained a two-stroke advantage with his final birdie from 9 feet at the 16th hole as Wagner missed the green at No. 15 for his fourth bogey of the day.
Playing in the day's next-to-last group, with darkness fast approaching after a weather delay of more than three hours, Blixt had to temper his celebration until Wagner and Jimmy Walker hit their tee shots at the 18th hole. When neither was able to produce the improbable ace, the dazed Blixt bent over and exhaled, then fought back tears when he was interviewed by CBS' David Feherety.
The celebration, which included a bear hug from fellow Swede David Lingmerth, who tied for ninth, and his caddy Zac Williamson, was a far cry from the jubilation that attended the breakthrough win in California last year. Granted, his family wasn't in attendance as they had been at CordeValle Golf Club but this was much more.
"It's just been a hard year," Blixt said. "I just haven't played that well and it just feels really weird, missing the cut last week and I felt like the ball was going everywhere, trying to find some stuff going into this week and kept working on it, never really felt that I got, you know, that slot in my swing where I can just rip at it. It was kind of constant work.
"I don't know what it was, someone must have looked down on me and said the ball's going to go in the right direction."
Just as Blixt's career is headed.