As has been the story so many times this season and every time at The Greenbrier Classic in four events, the winner on Sunday climbed a sizeable mountain to come-from-behind and win. Jonas Blixt found himself four shots behind 54-hole leader Johnson Wagner before firing a final round, three-under-par 67 to post 267 (-13) to claim his second TOUR title. Jimmy Walker, who began the day in solo second finished with Wagner in a four-way tie for second with Australians Steven Bowditch and Matt Jones on 11-under 269. Defending champion Ted Potter, Jr. was part of a group of three at nine-under, good enough for T6.
Jonas Blixt has been considered one of the best putters on the circuit in his almost two years on TOUR and this week was absolutely no exception to that rule. Where his iron play wasn’t always spot on, Blixt made plenty of putts this week to lead the field in birdies (21) plus finish second in strokes gained-putting and first in putts per GIR. We all knew that birdies would be the way forward this week and the only surprise was the guy who made them all! We also knew that avoiding bogeys would be another key to success this week and Blixt only made four of them (T1) yet dodged two doubles en route to his win.
So where’s Blixt been since his victory at Frys.com Open? David Feherty was generous in his interview with the winner as he suggested that Blixt’s name was near the top of the leaderboard most of the season but he just couldn’t break through. In a refreshing piece of honesty Blixt told him in so many words that he was wrong and that was not the case. He was right and he’s been struggling. After five top 10s in 21 events in his rookie season, he had zero in his first 16 events of 2013. He had one top 25 in full-field events, T11 at Colonial. His ball-striking has never been his meal ticket and that’s the case again this season; his putter is what’s carried him and even that’s been way off this year. He finished last season second in strokes gained-putting and fourth in total putting. He was 16th in scrambling to boot. In 2013, his putting and short game numbers have plummeted and his ball-striking has followed suit. He’s 67th in strokes gained and 108th in total putting. Yikes. We saw this coming last year before he won at the Frys.com. This week was completely out of the blue, just like all of the endings here at The Greenbrier Classic.
We learned again that The Greenbrier Classic brings EVERYONE into play and is almost impossible to handicap. From Stuart Appleby’s 59, to Scott Stallings emergence to Charlie Beljan, Troy Kelly and Ted Potter, Jr. going at it last year, this tournament has seen everything except a chalk winner. I saw absolutely nothing this week to suggest next year should be any different. Don’t agree with me? Keep reading, you will at the end…
With this victory, Blixt collects $1,134,000, 500 FedExCup points and adds two more years to his current exemption. Oh, and he gets to play Augusta next year after missing out earlier this year because the Frys.com winner was not invited. Not a bad week to right the ship!
Déjà vu All Over Again?
This was the 15th of 28 events this season with some kind of weather delay. That’s more than half, right, O?
It’s four-for-four at The Greenbrier Classic that the 54-hole leader has not closed the deal.
Only 12 of the 54-hole leaders or co-leaders have gone on to win the 26, full-field, stroke-play events on the season. Johnson Wagner adds his name to that list.
All four winners at The Greenbrier have now won in their first appearance. Of course Appleby did, but the rest are legit!
There have been 28 tournaments this season. The Stars and Stripes have won 22 of them. Blixt joins S.M. Bae, Martin Laird, Adam Scott, Justin Rose and Graeme McDowell as the foreign contingent of winners.
There have also been 10 first-time winners this season. There have also been just two multiple winners, Woods (four) and Kuchar (WGC-Match Play; Memorial). No changes, again, in those numbers this week.
The winners on TOUR have been Johnson, D (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods FOUR times (37), Mickelson (42), Snedeker (32), Merrick (30) Kuchar TWICE (34),Thompson, M (27) Brown (29), Streelman (34), Points (36), Laird (30), Scott (32), G-Mac (33), Horschel (26), Ernst (22), Bae (26), Weekley (39) English (23), Rose (32), Duke (44) Haas (31) and now Blixt (29). The young folks (30 and younger) now have 11 victories; the 30-somethings have racked up 14 victories, and the “old folks” (40 and up) have three wins on the year. After battling niggling injuries throughout the season, 49-year old Davis Love III hits the top 10 for the 28th consecutive season with his T8. Wow.
A look at the players who finished in the top 10
Johnson Wagner: He was the 54-hole leader because he made 14 birdies, an eagle and only one bogey through three rounds. His four bogeys and one birdie on Sunday was not the round he was obviously looking for to close it out. Wagner said in the post-round interview that he was not pleased with his play on Sunday. He had been two-for-two in 54-hole leads but his putter stopped swinging and he struggled to find fairways late. His boot camp with his coach two weeks ago is obviously paying dividends as he had MC or WD in his last seven consecutive events. Of course he was in contention to win this week. He now has finishes of T2, T64, T11 and MC in four events near his beloved Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va.
Jimmy Walker: He’s now played four events here and has finished T2, MC, T4 and T4. He should be on your list next year if he is standing upright. This was going to be the week that he broke out of his mini-slump and he did as he only made five bogeys next to 16 birdies. He won’t be happy with his final round 71 but whatever he and Butch Harmon are working on has brought results. He’s now 16 of 18 on the season and hits the top 10 for the fifth time.
Steven Bowditch: The Aussie’s best finish before this week’s T2 in 2013 was T29. His next best finish this season in 16 events was T47. He won twice in 2010 (Web.com Tour and New South Wales PGA) and he earned his card for 2013 by placing in the top 25 at Q-School last winter. His best finish of his career before this week was ninth. As most Aussies he’s a premium bunker player and plus-scrambler. Remember, his wife’s family is tied into Greenbrier and he’s played this course a million times. I think it’s safe to say, based on the above, that I’ll need some further proof before I’m rushing him into any fantasy format.
Matt Jones: After closing with six straight birdies on Friday, Jones made eight more on the weekend with only two bogeys on his card to finish in the quartet at 11-under. Aussie II is also known for his excellent short game and solid ball-striking. We heard Gary McCord lament on Sunday that he can’t believe that, with all his talent, Jones hasn’t broken through yet. His T2 today is his second T6 or better in his last four events so he’s getting closer. His best finish on TOUR previously was solo fourth. His two top 10s are the most he’s had on TOUR since five back in 2010, his only season with more than two. He’s in his early 30s so he should be in his prime. He’s been on the radar before this season so let’s see if he can get over the hump and start finding some consistency. He’ll be in the mix next week in the Quad Cities.
Ted Potter, Jr.: The defending champion gave it a valiant try but he was done in by a couple of doubles and too many pars. His T6 combined with his victory here last year puts him, along with Walker, in the “horse-for-course” class for next year. This is TPJ’s second top 10 in 18 events of 2013 and his first since February at Riviera. He had one top 10 last year in his rookie season. You know where that was…So far in his young career he’s a one-course player!
Brian Stuard: After opening the season making eight weekends in a row, including three top 10s, Stuard missed eight of his next 11 cuts. His best finish in that stretch was T22 at Colonial, very similar to the path of Jonas Blixt. Coming into this week, the solid putter and driver had missed three of four and his only weekend was T64 so you’re excused for not having him in your lineup. He now has four top 10s this season so he might be gearing up for another hot streak on birdie-maker courses this month.
Pat Perez: Rounding out the three-some at T6, Perez should be chuffed after his week saw him only make four bogeys and 54 pars. His ball-striking was solid (T9 GIR) but he could have used some help from his putter T56 in putts per GIR. Perez hits the top 10 for the fourth time this season but his last four weeks on TOUR sums him up for me in fantasy world. He was T77 at HPBNC, WD at Colonial, T8 at Memorial and T76 last week at AT&T. Got that?
Daniel Summerhays: He was coming off three MCs heading into this week including 78-79 last week at Congressional yet he found the way to bounce back from a third round 73 to post a final round 67 to finish in the top 10 for the second year in a row (fifth last season). Sure, let’s throw him in “horse-for-course” as well! We have plenty of room! In 18 events leading into this week, Summerhays had one top 10, T7 at Valero that was also his only top 25.
Davis Love III: The 49-year old had neck surgery earlier in the year and WD last week after opening with 83 so it makes perfect sense that he would lead the field in GIR this week en route to his T9 finish. His streak of top 10s is amazing (see above) but I’m not hitching my fantasy wagon up to anyone of that “vintage”. Before this week he had seen three weekends in nine starts so it’s hardly the stability that you or I are looking for to win or leagues or weekly games. Is he worth a flier occasionally? Absolutely, I just didn’t see it coming after WD and 83. Some weeks you just throw your hands up and take the medicine.
David Lingmerth: Another Swede in the top 10 (T9) this week, Lingmerth has now made six weekends in a row which I would have thought impossible after looking at his record after his P2 at Humana. He missed eight of 10 cuts with both of his finishes T50 or worse before racking up T2 at THE PLAYERS. Since then, he’s added, including today, another top 10 plus two other top 25s. He’s young enough to expect some wild swings like this.
Tim Petrovic: He played four events in July, two on the Web.com Tour and two on the PGA TOUR. His T9 this week is his best finish anywhere in 2013 and his best finish since his surprise T2 at Frys.com last year. He also split time between the TOURS in 2012.
Tag Ridings: Before this week he was cut in 11 of 18 events entered in 2013. His best two finishes were T15 at Torrey Pines and T17 at Tampa Bay. This is his 12th finish in the top 10 in 201 starts in his career. He’s 38. He hits it a mile and putts it pretty well but I cannot endorse him moving forward.
Rory Sabbatini: After WD last week with back issues I immediately crossed him off my list for this week. Leading into the week, he was MC at the Travelers, MC at the U.S. Open, T7 in Memphis and MC at HPBNC. He MC here last season as well.
D.H. Lee: He backed up his T3 last week at Congressional with T9 this week at The Old White TPC as he racked up fairways and greens again. He only made four bogeys but it was his double on No. 15 on Sunday that kept him out of a higher finish. No matter as the rookie inches closer to securing his card for 2013.
Bill Haas: He backed up his victory last week at Congressional with a big-boy performance that just reinforces his status in today’s game to me. Sure, you would have loved to have seen him win back-to-back but how many guys win and vanish the next week or don’t even play? No smoke and mirrors this week as Haas finished in the top 10 in GIR and only made one bogey and one double on the weekend. Rock solid from Haas.
“Hey, what ever happened to…”
I take a look back at what happened to the chalk
Webb Simpson: After lighting up the first round with 64, Simpson failed to break par in his three final rounds of the week. The normally steady ball-striker striped fairways but his iron play and putter were chilly after Thursday. His finish, T41, would have been T60-something if he didn’t birdie three of the last four holes on Sunday. He hasn’t won since last year’s U.S. Open but has plenty of class to do so any week.
Bubba Watson: He was middle of the pack in GIR and if I would have known that before the week started, I could have told you that he finished probably somewhere in the middle of the pack. Watson must hit GIR to contend as his chipping and putting aren’t going to bail him out most of the time. He didn’t. He didn’t contend. Simple equation. I expected more from a guy who leads the TOUR in par four birdie-or-better percentage and is third in birdie average. It wasn’t his week. I move on.
Billy Horschel: He dropped three shots in the last four holes on Sunday which knocked him out of the top 10 to T30. He finished T9 in GIR but his putter didn’t cooperate. He’s good, folks, nothing to worry about moving down the stretch.
Graham DeLaet: He was solid of the tee, average from the fairway and quiet on the greens. His T30 makes it eight on the bounce but it’s his worst finish in six starts. He was my OAD so of course it was his worst finish in six starts…
Phil Mickelson: For the third time in three trips to Greenbrier Mickelson does not make the weekend. Mickelson is a notorious “spring” player and enjoys golf on the West coast. His summer numbers over the last few years back up that assessment. It has been suggested over the Twitter that Mickelson gets paid to show up to play this event. That doesn’t mean you have to put him in your lineup each year.
Ryan Palmer: After going with Sean Payton, the Head Coach of the New Orleans Saints, as his caddy this week, I immediately regretted putting him in my preview. His 68 was the best of the four rounds as he posted 71-70-71 to finish T62. I prefer routine and normalcy.
Scott Stallings: The 2011 champ bookended 70s with 67s in the middle to finish T23. Stallings, like Simpson, made three late birdies on Sunday to salvage a higher finish. He only has one round over par in 12 in three trips to The Old White TPC and he looks to be back on it. He’ll be my one-and-done next week, probably, at TPC Deere Run.
Roberto Castro: The bad news? He missed the cut. The good news? He shot even par both rounds. The bad news? Even par isn’t any good at a birdie-fest like this. Castro shows again why the youth can be high-risk and high reward. He MC at the Travelers, finished second alone last week and now he’s MC again. He’s now 12-21 on the season so finding the consistency will be the next step.
Scott Piercy: Plenty of GIR and birdies but too many bogeys this week saw Piercy MC. He’s all-or-nothing here in four starts as he now has two MC to go along with T12 and T16. This was his first event since the U.S. Open so hardly time to panic.
Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a live chat Wednesday at NOON ET at Rotoworld.com. We will be breaking down the field at The John Deere Classic and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget that you can follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/GlassWGCL) on Twitter!