AUGUSTA, Ga. – It’s been documented that Jonas Blixt has a fear of roller coasters. So what’s with the ride he took folks on in yesterday’s third round of the 78th Masters?
Wide left with his drive at the first.
So far right with his second shot at the second that he was in the third fairway.
Over the green at the seventh.
And good gracious, was that Blixt pinned in the trees down the right side of the par-4 11th for a third straight day at Augusta National?
“Same shot?” he said to his caddie when he arrived at the ball on the pine needles. Zak Williamson barely looked at his yardage book, nodded, and said, “We know this one.”
OK, so we’re not talking a fairways-and-greens machine, but here’s the thing about Blixt, the unheralded 29-year-old Swedish import who attended Florida State and has persevered in his pro career in admirable fashion: “That’s his game,” said swing coach Jorge Parada. “He fights hard.”
For proof, consider that Blixt, who was 5-under and one off the lead as he stood among tress at the 11th, hit his recovery shot into the water wide left of the green and made bogey. Then he hit his second shot into Rae’s Creek at the par-5 13th to bogey again. He was 3-under and three strokes behind Bubba Watson.
Time to press?
“We’ve talked all week about staying patient, that you could still score at this golf course if you didn’t hit a good drive,” said Parada. “Just stay patient.”
Parada then smiled because normally, “Jonas doesn’t do very well with patience,” but in his first trip to the Masters, the Swede has become enamored with the course. “I have so many holes I like,” said Blixt. “So many fit my eye.”
Though he drove it wide left and had to lay-up at the par-5 15th, Blixt hit his 95-yard wedge to 15 feet and made that birdie. Then he birdied 16. At 5 under, he was back in a share of the lead, but having driven wide left at the 17th and gone long and right with his approach, he bogeyed to fall one back.
Still, no worries, because when Blixt made par at the 18th, he had settled in at 4-under 212, just a shot behind the co-leaders, Watson and Jordan Spieth.
With trips of 70-71-71, Blixt is one of two who have broken par each day (Spieth being the other), so for now we can table that talk of first-timers being unable to play Augusta National.
Agreed, it isn’t recommended that one follow Blixt’s blueprint in Round 3, because hitting just 7 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens is a difficult way to play a firm and fast Augusta National. But again, Blixt has now played eight consecutive major championship rounds at par or better – the three this year and all four at last summer’s PGA Championship – and that he’s got two PGA Tour wins in just 56 career starts. You’d have to agree that he’s got something figured out, that even when he misses a fairway or fires wide of a green, he can scramble beautifully.
“That’s what he does,” said Williamson. “It’s what he does when he’s out here six or seven hours a day. He chips and putts all day.”
It’s why he can play the sort of game he did in Round 3 and stay in contention. Maybe it’s the roller-coaster bet he lost with good friend Torstein Naevestad of Norway – the one where they vowed to stop drinking soda and the Swede caved first and thus had to ride for two hours non-stop – but he’s shown an ability to withstand turbulence on the golf course.