5 Things: Blixt opens Greenbrier defense with 64

Jonas Blixt began his title defense at the Greenbrier Classic with an opening-round 6-under 64 Thursday at The Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.
Jonas Blixt began his title defense at the Greenbrier Classic with an opening-round 6-under 64 Thursday at The Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va. ( Getty Images )

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Jonas Blixt began his title defense at the Greenbrier Classic with an opening-round 6-under 64 Thursday at The Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.

Blixt leads by a shot over eight players who are tied for second. That group at T-2 includes 50-year-old Joe Durant and Patrick Rodgers, who is competing in just his third event as a pro.

Click here to read more about Rodger's opening round, which included a hole-out for eagle.

Here are 5 Things you need to know about Thursday's first round of the Greenbrier Classic:

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1. AGGRESSIVE DEFENSE: The key for Jonas Blixt Thursday? Being aggressive.

"I talked to my caddie about it, and on the first tee there was no wind, so just said to him I'm going to be really aggressive today, and he was like, 'Yeah, I like that. Just go out there and make as many birdies as possible,' " said Blixt, who made eight birdies, including six on his front nine (Nos. 10-18).

Blixt was 2 under through six holes when he chipped in for birdie from about 25 yards out at the par-4 16th. That sparked a stretch of four straight birdies for the Swede.

"The chip kind of got me going, got me moving the right way," Blixt said.

Unfortunately for Blixt, he has been moving the opposite direction for much of the season. Aside from a T-2 at the Masters, his only top 10 of the PGA Tour season, Blixt has failed to finish better than T-16 and has seven missed cuts in 16 official Tour starts. His 64 Thursday was his best round of the season by two shots and also his first round in the 60s since he shot 66 in the final round of the WGC-Cadillac Championship in early March.

"Hope I can shoot four 64s this week," Blixt said. "That would be hard to beat."

That it would.

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2. SENIOR SUCCESS: Since turning 50 on April 7, Joe Durant has four top 10s – on the Champions Tour.

He's made five starts on the senior circuit since becoming eligible, but has yet to notch a top-10 finish in 11 appearances on the PGA Tour.

"These courses are a little longer, obviously," Durant said. "But golf anywhere is good golf, you know, and I've been playing good over there (on the Champions Tour) and I've had some good rounds over here (on the PGA Tour), too. I just haven't put four together. Maybe I can do it this week."

So far, so good for Durant, who fired a 5-under 65 Thursday at The Old White TPC and is tied for second. He made six birdies and just one bogey while missing only a single fairway and two greens in regulation.

"I played very solid," Durant said. "Only missed one shot today. It was my tee shot on my second hole and made bogey. But other than that, I drove it in the fairway, hit a lot of greens. You know, if you can do that around here, you can shoot some good numbers."

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3. THE DALY SHOW: John Daly's season has been, well, very John Daly-like.

He's making his 10th PGA Tour start of the season this week after missing five cuts in his first nine events. He's yet to finish better than T-32 while sprinkling in rounds of 79, 80 and 90.

Yet, Daly did something Thursday that he'd only done once already this season – record his fifth straight round of par or better with a first-round 2-under 68 at the Greenbrier. Daly, whose 2013 PGA Tour season ended with a WD at the Greenbrier, made five birdies, including four on the front nine, to extend his streak, which includes his 70-68-70-70 performance at the Travelers Championship.

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4. BRITISH HOPEFULS: The Greenbrier Classic is part of the Open Qualifying Series, awarding four spots in the Open Championship to players finishing inside the top 12 and ties who are not yet in the field.

Here are the early candidates to earn those invitations to the July 17-20 major championship at Royal Liverpool (ties are broken using the Official World Golf Ranking):

CURRENTLY IN

  • James Hahn, T-2, 5 under
  • Jason Bohn, T-2, 5 under
  • Danny Lee, T-2, 5 under
  • Jim Renner, T-2, 5 under

NOT IN, BUT INSIDE TOP 12

  • Patrick Rodgers, T-2, 5 under
  • Joe Durant, T-2, 5 under
  • Sang-Moon Bae, T-10, 4 under
  • Michael Thompson, T-10, 4 under
  • Troy Merritt, T-10, 4 under
  • Chris Stroud, T-10, 4 under
  • Pat Perez, T-10, 4 under
  • Chad Collins, T-10, 4 under

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5. SHORT SHOTS: D.A. Points' opening-round 5-under 65 was his best round of the PGA Tour season. Points has either missed the cut or withdrawn in 11 of his last 12 Tour starts. . . . Keegan Bradley, coming off a missed cut at the Quicken Loans National, opened with a 3-under 67. His playing competitors, Tom Watson and Webb Simpson, each carded 71s. . . . FedEx Cup points leader Jimmy Walker shot 70 while Bubba Watson, who is second in the points standings, fired a 68.