Jonas Blixt: Going low at the Greenbrier Classic

Jonas Blixt seems serious about continuing his winning ways at the Greenbrier Classic. He’s off to a great start in defending his title from last year, taking the first round lead with a 6-under, 64. The course plays as a Par 70 because there are only two par 5s. And at almost 7,300 yards, it’s a lot to chew on. But the conditions were very favorable to scoring, an assessment shared by all the players who scored well:

“No, I mean the golf course is in perfect shape, like last year.  The greenskeeper should get a lot of credit for it.  I mean it’s very scorable.  The greens are not very hard, and I mean if you hit the fairways, you can definitely attack the pins, and if you’re in the rough, you can still hit the greens quite easy.”

The other interesting thing that came out about his score was that he, uh, didn’t hit the ball as well as he had. We make disparaging comments when that happens to us, Tour players just play on anyway trying to find a way to make birdies: 

“I don’t think I hit the ball as well as I did yesterday, but I got a couple of good breaks, and I hit a bunch of good shots that kind of ended up kind of close to the hole, and took advantage of my opportunities, and I also made — I don’t know how many putts I made that was about 10 feet, and I think that was — kept the momentum going through the round.  And I’m very happy about that.”

One of the confidence boosters he has is that he won on this course last year. But he also found that to be a double-edge sword when he tried to repeat his first victory at the; you can’t just rest on your laurels:

“And you know, just coming back, you come back with a bunch of confidence knowing that you won here before.  And you really don’t know what to expect, to be honest with you, but I think it helped me a lot after the first win I had and going back there, I felt, I think a little too comfortable.”

“And coming back here you gotta realize that it’s a new golf tournament, and you gotta go out there and play it and play hard and try to make birdies and try to win it.  So you just start from scratch, and that’s what I’m trying to do.”

Well, he has a lot of company. Blixt is 6-under and there are fully 70 players in the 156-man field under par:

  • 5-under – 8 players including: James Hahn, Jason Bohn and Chris Kirk
  • 4-under – 8 players including: Sang-Moon Bae, Steve Stricker and Kevin Na
  • 3-under – 13 players including: Davis Love III, Charles Howell III, Patrick Reed and Keegan Bradley
  • 2-under – 22 players including:  Camilo Villegas, J.B. Holmes and Bubba Watson
  • 1-under – 18 players including: David Toms, Bill Haas and Gary Woodland

Steve Stricker continues to be one of the most interesting players in that group. Stricker, you will recall, decided that family was as important to him as his winding-down career. So he cut his schedule way back in 2013 playing in just 13 events…finishing 2nd four times along with four other top-10s. All together he hauled in a remarkable $4.4 million. How did he do that? From Wisconsin?

So far this year he’s only played in 7 events and he’s cherry-picking the rest of his schedule. Maybe he’s going to the British Open and maybe he’s not:

“Well, I kind of was, you know, maybe about a week and a half ago, it just started looking like I should maybe come play here and then John Deere [next week].  And I was thinking about skipping the British [the week after that].  So I wanted to get a couple of tournaments in, especially if I was skipping the British.”

“And like I said, I enjoyed our time here a couple years ago, and you know, I thought it would be good to play the week before the John Deere swing and get some rounds under my belt.  And then also, thinking if I play well, you know, maybe sneak out a win in one of these two or have a couple of high finishes that the British Open was a possibility.”

Don’t know how he does it. Clearly from a place of contentment in his life. But how does he keep his competitive edge? It’s near legend that he hits balls from a heated trailer at a local range in the winter, but how effective could that be? He’d probably say $4.4 million worth of effectiveness. But still…

And that’s what makes him one of the most interesting players on the Tour. Just how long will he be able to keep this up? Ya gotta pull for him.

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