The Greenbrier Classic: Crowded at the Top

Danniel Summerhays was first off at 7:00 am Friday morning in the Greenbrier Classic. He shot 3-under to get to 8-under on The Old White TPC, but nobody thought it would hold up. After all, 8-under 62 was what the leaders shot Thursday with the ball-in-hand and it was only going to cascade from there. Bill Lunde at 7:10 also got to 8-under as did Steven Bowditch at 8:50.

Summerhays had a epiphany during his round that was systemic rather than swing-specific:

I think I learned some things the last little bit, just try not to be as perfect. That’s my personality and it hurts me. I mean, that’s why I’m here, but that’s what hurts me sometimes, trying to be too exact, too perfect. Over the last couple days and on the weekend that’s what I’m going to try and do is just pick my target, hit the shot, and live with the result instead of trying to be so — I mean, you can be too perfect out here and golf is not a game of perfect [with a tip of the hat to Dr. Bob Rotella]. 

Bill Lunde had his own take on the “track meet” after his 4-under 66:

No, I’m not really like a numbers guy to get to what it’s going to take. All I know is somebody shoots low every day, so all you can do is go out there and keep shooting lower and lower, and hopefully Sunday afternoon on the back nine you have a chance. Like I said, I’m not really a numbers guy but I guarantee somebody’s going to shoot low this afternoon, somebody always does. It will take a lot of birdies.

Third year pro, Steven Bowditch, felt pretty good about his 3-under 67 on the day. He probably knew that getting to 8-under was nice but really had to assume that the afternoon guys were going to go deeper still. But he did know that it put him in position for the weekend and it was a pleasant surprise:

Yeah, you know, I really haven’t put myself in position really my whole career, so it’s going to be a new experience for me. I’ve been playing around, playing the game of golf now, this is my third year as a professional golfer, so I’ve gained a little bit of experience but not quite at this level. So I’m just going to go out there and play my game. My golf swing feels probably the best it’s felt in a long time now, so I’m sort of freewheeling it, which is nice. You don’t often get to do that in the game of golf, so just go out there and keep freewheeling and hopefully make some putts.

And then the afternoon guys began coming in and we had to wait most of it for the best of it. Matt Every matched yesterday’s low round of 8-under 62 with no bogeys. Coupled with Thursday’s 69, that gave him a one-shot lead at 9-under.

Out of the University of Florida, I followed him at Phoenix on the back nine a couple of years ago and he was very impressive. He was a solid ball striker with a perfect trajectory off the tee, high but not too high. He took a medical timeout which he’s now back from and so he hasn’t won just yet. But he looks to his peers at Florida for inspiration:

It has motivated me. I know I can win out here. It didn’t take Billy [Horschel] winning to know that. It’s not like a jealous motivation. I mean, I was really genuinely happy for Billy when he won.

But it is a motivation because, you know, it’s just like college when I went to the University of Florida, Camilo [Villegas] was there and he was the best player and I wanted to be the best player there. So I just kept going and it wasn’t like I rooted against him, it’s just that’s who I measured myself up against when I was there.

Not that I’m measuring myself up against Billy but he’s pretty good right now, he’s one of the best in the world right now. He plays PGA Tour, I play with him, so that’s who I’ve got.

Thursday’s 62s by Tommy Gainey and Johnson Wagner held their own with a 71 and 70. Wagner in particular was excited about his position and interestingly, about his nervousness:

I’m excited. Like I said, I’m playing really good golf and it’s really fun when you know what you’re doing. And I have not had much control of my golf game lately and I feel like I’m on a really good track. And I’m going to be nervous, I’m always nervous but that’s a good thing, lets me know I care and lets me know I’m in contention.

And believe it or not, there was something good that came out of his bladed bunker shot: reinforcement of having a sense of perspective:

That was a terrible shot, I lose $50 to my caddie every time I blade a bunker shot. I owe him actually $100 but he let me off because it stayed where I could putt it. My whole goal for the week was to kind of laugh off mistakes. I’ve been getting frustrated lately, I’ve broken two clubs this year during tournaments, which is probably more than my entire career. So I’ve just been trying to laugh off my mistakes. That was just a prime example of that.

For Tommy Gainey, even though he finished one back at 7-under, it was a pretty good holding action:

Yeah, for as bad as I swung at it today, yeah, that was a great round because I made a lot of putts and I hit a lot of putts that should have went in that didn’t, but that’s just the way this game is. That’s why it’s so crazy and that’s why we love it.

But today was punishment for me because I swung at it terrible. It could have been worse, but you know what, I’ve got two more days, so I’m going to try to get back in the situation tomorrow and just let it ride.

And of his quirky but effective golf swing, he had this:

No one’s trying to give me any tips on it because I think they know my stance on it.

Q. What is your stance?

TOMMY GAINEY: It’s not happening, I’m not changing. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it. For God’s sake, I won a PGA tournament last year, so there’s got to be something good with it.

Would that we would all go forth with that attitude about our swings.

And finally, rookie winner in Hawaii, Russell Henley, shot 5-under to join the T2s at 8-under. He was asked about his sort of flat spot in the middle of the season:

I’ve learned a lot this year, I’ve learned a lot about myself and my game. This is the most golf I’ve ever played.

The biggest thing for me is not being too hard on myself and knowing it’s a process. And also not searching too much, I think that’s easy to do. You can have a great week ball striking or putting and not make anything and not play that well and just being patient that way. So I’m learning a lot. I felt pretty good all year, but some weeks it comes together.

It’s always interesting to see that you almost always learn the most from your losses…even though it’s sometimes hard to remember that when your struggling just to make the cut.

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