Jonas Blixt, the defending champion of this week’s Greenbrier Classic at the Greenbrier resort in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, sat down to bring us up to date on last year’s win and the state of his game today. He first burst onto the scene for most of us when he won the Frys.com Open in October of 2012, the last year that the Fall tournaments were at the end of the year. In 2013 they became the beginning of the PGA Tour season.
Blixt came out of Florida State by way of Sweden and spent three years honing his skills on the Web.com Tour before finishing 5th on the money list in 2011 to earn his 2012 Tour card.
He made his first cut at the Sony Open (T54) and then basically missed every other cut until he got to New Orleans in late April. He had his best finish (T13) and then strung together three consecutive top 10s: Charlotte (T9), Dallas (T3) and Fort Worth (T10). It was a meaty consolidation of his game that made his year…until he won the Frys.
Except for the T11 in Dallas in late May, 2013 had the same sort of feel to it, low finishes and missed cuts. In fact, when he won the Greenbrier three weeks later, he’d missed another cut the week before.
Blixt is both smart and funny as he demonstrates in his synopsis of that stretch in his career:
I guess it’s the way I play. You have guys like Matt Kuchar that play well every week, and guys like me that kind of have good weeks and some bad weeks and a little more of a roller coaster. You never really know what you’re going to get. So I sound like Forrest Gump right now.”
“So, you know, it’s 80% kind of you hit your head against the wall, I feel like. Just trying to figure something out to play better and find the mojo again, and 20% of the time you feel like everything is just flowing like it did that Sunday a year ago. I hope this can be the ice breaker this year and just keep going.”
But he’s also quite thoughtful as he provides in this pithy little truth:
“As a golfer, you can never be happy. There is no perfect shot in golf. The more I play golf, I find more of a struggle at times trying to reach where you’ve once been, where just everything comes to you instead of you trying to get there.”
I’m not sure I totally agree with him here. It is entirely possible to be happy with the way you come to the process — all in and grateful for the lessons learned, both good and bad — and there is such a thing as a perfect shot, even if it doesn’t go in. Given the odds, a long iron shot that ends up on the lip is so close to your intention, you can at least be completely satisfied with near-perfect. As the old saying goes, “Not all good putts go in.”
But as happens from time to time on the PGA Tour, Blixt was just sort of playing along last year and didn’t really think he was in it. That can only happen if you don’t have any judgments about how you’re playing (that drag you down) and just keep going for it. If you can do that, you never know:
“No, it was a crazy week last year. I played all right. I never thought I was really in contention until the 16th hole and then ended up with the W, so I really don’t know how to analyze that. I was just hanging around all week, and the feel kind of came back to me, and I said tip my cap and say thank you.”
“There are a bunch of birdie holes, and that’s why I was so surprised that I found myself in contention where I didn’t make any birdies the last day, a bunch of pars and maybe one or two bogeys and I was right there.”
One of the things that made his victory possible was that he had a good pairing with Aussie Matt Jones and they got in a really good rhythm. And that created a highly effective mindset that he describes very well. It began with a weather delay that caused him to get off late and makes the case that grim determination isn’t always necessary:
“I thought it was quite relaxing, actually. It kind of took some pressure off before tee time. I was kind of lucky that I didn’t get to tee off before the storm. After the storm everything was so calm and no breeze at all. It was perfect temperature.”
“It felt like we didn’t run around the golf course. We played a really good pace. I got into a really good rhythm. It’s just one of those easy days. I never thought anything in particular. It was kind of mindless days. I was out there just having a good time and relaxing, really.”
And still the work continues, as it always does:
“I feel like we’ve done a lot of good stuff, me and my coach, but never really got the — I feel like the putter and short game are really working lately. I feel like I’m kind of close, but you should never make those statements because it kind of comes back and bites you fairly quickly.”
“No, I don’t feel like I’m too far off. It wouldn’t surprise me if I play well this week. Wouldn’t surprise me if I play well next week. But it’s a work in progress, I guess. Just trying to get back to where I was last year.”
He’s an easy guy to root for because even though he’s much better than almost all of us, his struggle is our struggle. And in his success is hope for ours.