Defending champ Blixt leads by 1 at Greenbrier


Jonas Blixt won The Greenbrier Classic a year ago, and the Swede appears eager to keep his hands on the trophy awhile longer. Here's how things stand after one round in White Sulphur Springs. W.Va., where Blixt holds a one-shot lead over a host of players:

Leaderboard: Jonas Blixt (-6), Chris Kirk (-5), D.A. Points (-5), Patrick Rodgers (-5), Joe Durant (-5), Jason Bohn (-5), James Hahn (-5), Danny Lee (-5), Jim Renner (-5)

What it means: Players took advantage of ideal scoring conditions, with more than half the field shooting par or better. No one capitalized more than Blixt, who since his runner-up finish at the Masters has failed to find his game. But once again he appears to be comfortable in the hills of West Virginia.

Round of the day: Blixt birdied three of his first five holes and six of his first nine. After leading the field with an average of only 26 putts per round at The Greenbrier last year, he needed only 23 Thursday while making eight birdies against two bogeys.

Best of the rest: Kirk is on the fringe of the U.S. Ryder Cup team and is in position for another strong week after a bogey-free 65. He birdied both par 3s on the front nine and made the most of the middle of his round, with three birdies across a four-hole stretch from Nos. 8-11. A winner earlier this season at McGladrey, Kirk appears in good shape to extend his streak of made cuts to 22.

Biggest disappointment: Stuart Appleby shot 59 on The Old White TPC en route to winning this event in 2010, but the Aussie appears headed for an early exit this time around. Appleby made only two birdies, shooting a 3-over 73 in the first round, an effort that left him staring up at more than half the field and nine shots behind Blixt. He hit 12 of 18 greens in regulation but was unable to overcome an opening stretch where he bogeyed three of his first six holes.

Main storyline heading into Friday: Blixt could very well be chasing another player by the time he tees off Friday afternoon, but he will be a player to watch in the second round as he looks to successfully defend his title. Among the prominent chasers are Steve Stricker, who opened with a 4-under 66 with wife Nicki on the bag, and Kevin Na, who matched Stricker's 66 in his second start since a playoff loss at the Memorial.

Shot of the day: Making just his third start as a pro, Rodgers had a hole-out eagle from 118 yards on the par-4 first hole, his 10th of the day. He shot a 5-under 65.