Blixt survives roller-coaster ride to Greenbrier title

By Jason SobelJuly 8, 2013, 3:15 am

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W. Va. – Jonas Blixt’s journey to The Greenbrier Classic winner’s circle wasn’t without plenty of ups and downs. After claiming his first career win late last year, this season had been an amalgam of missed cuts and poor finishes. And even at this tournament, while climbing into contention on the weekend, it was never easy. He continually struggled to control a swing that had gotten more than a little leaky.

“I didn’t know where my golf ball was going,” he confided afterward. “I was terrible.”

You could even say Blixt’s journey to this point was a roller-coaster ride. Just don’t say it to him directly.

That’s because Blixt suffers from a familiar affliction called “coasterphobia” – it’s a real thing; look it up – which is more commonly known as a fear of roller coasters.

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It’s a fear that he’s faced, even though he never wanted to.

A few years ago, Blixt and a college friend named Torstein Neavestad decided they were each “getting a little chubby.” Since both are big fans of Coca-Cola and frantically afraid of roller coasters, they decided to make a little wager.

“We made a bet that the first one to drink soda has to go on a two-hour roller-coaster ride,” he said.

After six months, Blixt broke down.

He was playing poorly on the Tour and the lack of caffeine wasn’t helping, so he gave in and started drinking Coke again. In his next start, he finished in a share of second place. But he knew he’d have to pay the price.

And so a few months ago, Blixt finally settled the bet on the Kraken roller coaster at SeaWorld in Orlando.

“They told me afterward that it could be dangerous for you,” he recalled. “You’re not supposed to have more than five rides a day. But my friend was like, ‘You’ve got to do it continuously.’ So I did it for 45 minutes, then my buddy puked all over the place, so they had to shut it down. It was disgusting. He puked a little bit on me, too. Then I had to go for another hour and 15 minutes after that.”

The mental imagery of others throwing up on themselves was appropriate during Sunday’s final round, as well. The closing twosome of Johnson Wagner and Jimmy Walker posted scores of 73 and 71, respectively – the worst totals of any players in the eventual top-20.

That opened the door for Blixt, but not without some stomach-churning moments of his own.

The 29-year-old Swede failed to find one-third of the fairways this week and one-third of the greens in regulation. He never felt comfortable with his swing and never quite knew where the ball was going. It served as a microcosm for a season that had yielded just a pair of top-25 finishes in 16 previous starts.

“It's just been a hard year,” he admitted. “I just haven't played that well and it just feels really weird, missing the cut last week and I felt like the ball was going everywhere, trying to find some stuff going into this week and kept working on it, never really felt that I got that slot in my swing where I can just rip at it.”

Blixt worked on curing that this week, but let’s face it: He won this title thanks to sublime wedge play and an unrelenting putter. Both traits have been trademarks of his since his All-America playing days at Florida State University and through his journey to becoming a PGA Tour rookie last season.

In the final round, he saved par on five of the seven occasions that he missed a green in regulation.

“The putter worked really well today and the whole week,” he said, “so I mean it's just really cool to finish on top.”

After it was all over, after all of the wayward drives and missed greens and clever pitch shots and clutch putts, Blixt was asked which ordeal was more harrowing.

Trying to close out a tournament down the stretch or two hours on a roller coaster?

“Going down the stretch, especially when you don’t know where the ball is going,” he answered. “My first win was great because I knew where the ball was going. This one, I was a little bit unsure.”

Despite the up and down, topsy-turvy final round, one that was emblematic of his entire season, Blixt still doesn’t like roller coasters. And he certainly doesn’t like them for two hours at a time.

“I don't recommend doing it,” he said. “I was quite dizzy there for an hour and a half, two hours afterwards. But you've got to pay your bets.”

Now he’s done it. Faced his fears, both on the rails and on the course. When this roller-coaster ride ended, he was showered with an obscenely large trophy, a seven-figure paycheck and a berth in next year’s Masters field.

And just in case you were wondering, he’s staying caffeinated these days, too. When asked how many Cokes he’s enjoyed this week, Blixt smiled.

“I couldn’t tell you. Too many. A lot.”

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Dunlap, in 'excruciating pain,' shares early Dominion lead

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 10:29 pm

RICHMOND, Va. – Scott Dunlap and Fran Quinn shot 5-under 67 on Friday to share the first-round lead in the PGA Tour Champions' playoff-opening Dominion Energy Charity Classic.

Fighting a left wrist injury that will require surgery, Dunlap matched Quinn with a closing birdie on the par-5 18th on The Country Club of Virginia's James River Course.

''Maybe excruciating pain is the key to playing good golf because I'm not getting nervous on a shot, you're just trying to get through it,'' Dunlap said. ''The worst parts are gripping it and getting the club started ... that's when that bone hits that bone.''

The top 72 players qualified for the Charles Schwab Cup Playoffs opener. The top 54 on Sunday will get spots next week in the Invesco QQQ Championship in Thousand Oaks, Calif., and the top 36 after that will advance to the season-ending Charles Schwab Cup Championship in Phoenix.

Full-field scores from the Dominion Energy Charity Classic

The 55-year-old Dunlap entered the week 29th in the standings. Playing through the wrist injury, he's coming off ties for ninth and seventh in his last two starts.

''I think I finally taped it the right way,'' Dunlap said. ''Or maybe it's the pain meds kicking in. I don't know, one of the two.''

Quinn is 64th in the standings.

''I finished up strong last year, too, kind of secured my privileges for the following year making eagle on 18,'' Quinn said. ''I played solid all day. I had a lot of opportunities. A couple hiccups.''

Jay Haas was a stroke back with Kent Jones, Stephen Ames, Woody Austin and Tim Petrovic. The 64-year-old Haas won the last of his 18 senior titles in 2016.

Vijay Singh and Miguel Angel Jimenez, second in the standings, were at 69 with Joey Sindelar, Tom Gillis, Billy MayfairLee Janzen, Glen Day and Gene Sauers.

Defending champion Bernhard Langer opened with a 70. The 61-year-old German star won the SAS Championship last week in North Carolina to take the points lead. He has two victories this year and 38 overall on the 50-and-over tour.

Defending Charles Schwab Cup champion Kevin Sutherland had a 71. He's 14th in the standings. No. 3 Jerry Kelly shot 72. No. 4 Scott McCarron, the 2016 tournament winner, had a 74.

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Weather continues to plague Valderrama Masters

By Associated PressOctober 19, 2018, 7:55 pm

SOTOGRANDE, Spain  -- Marc Warren helped his chances of retaining his European Tour card by moving into a tie for second place behind Englishman Ashley Chesters at the rain-hit Andalucia Valderrama Masters on Friday.

Bad weather interrupted play for a second straight day at the Real Club Valderrama in southern Spain before darkness caused the second round to be suspended until Saturday, with overnight Chesters still ahead at 5-under.

Weather delays on Thursday, including a threat of lightning, had kept 60 golfers from finishing their opening round. They included Scottish player Warren, who went out on Friday and finished his first round with a 2-under 69.

He then made three birdies to go with one bogey on the first nine holes of the second round before play was halted. He joined Frenchman Gregory Bourdy one shot behind Chesters.

Full-field scores from the Andalucia Valderrama Masters

''I'm hitting the ball as well as I have in a long time,'' Warren said. ''Hitting fairways and greens is the most important thing around here, so hopefully I wake up tomorrow with the same swing.''

Chesters and Bourdy were among several golfers unable to play a single hole in the second round on Friday.

Warren, a three-time European Tour winner, has struggled this season and needs a strong performance to keep his playing privileges for next year.

Currently ranked 144th, Warren needs to break into the top 116 to keep his card.

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Watch: Is this the up-and-down of the year?

By Golf Channel DigitalOctober 19, 2018, 3:30 pm

Play away from the pin? Just because there's a tree in your way? Not Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano. Watch him channel some Arnie (or, more appropriately, some Seve) with this shot in the Valderrama Masters:

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Cut Line: Johnny's exit, Tiger's fatigue

By Rex HoggardOctober 19, 2018, 2:06 pm

In this week’s edition we bid farewell to the most outspoken and insightful analyst of his generation and examine a curious new interpretation that will require players to start paying attention to the small print.

Made Cut

Here’s Johnny. After nearly three decades Johnny Miller will hang up his microphone following next year’s Waste Management Phoenix Open.

Miller called his first tournament as NBC Sports/Golf Channel’s lead analyst in 1990 at the Bob Hope Chrysler Classic and he told Cut Line this week that at 71 years old he’s ready to relax and spend time with his 24 grandchildren.

“I was the first guy with an open microphone,” Miller said. “That requires a lot of concentration. It’s not that I couldn’t do it but the handwriting was on the wall; it would be more of a challenge.”

Miller will be missed for his insight as much as his often-blunt deliveries, but it’s the latter that made him one of a kind.

A long ride to the right place. After nearly four years of legal wrangling a group of PGA Tour caddies dropped their class-action lawsuit against the circuit this week.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court in early 2015 in an attempt by the caddies to secure marketing rights for the bibs they wear during tournaments as a way to create better healthcare and retirement benefits.

The district court largely ruled against the caddies and that ruling was upheld by an appeals court earlier this year, but better healthcare options may still be in the cards for the caddies.

“I told the guys, if we really want a healthy working relationship with the Tour, we need to fix this and open the lines of communication,” said Scott Sajtinac, the president of the Association of Professional Tour Caddies.

Sajtinac told Cut Line that the Tour has offered a potential increase to the longtime stipend they give caddies for healthcare and in a statement the circuit said talks are ongoing.

“The PGA Tour looks forward to continuing to support the caddies in the important role they play in the success of our members,” the statement said.

It’s rare when both sides of a lawsuit walk away feeling good about themselves, but this particular outcome appears to have ended with a favorable outcome for everybody involved.

Made Cut-Did Not Finish (MDF)

A long haul. Tiger Woods acknowledged what many had speculated about, telling a group this week at his annual Tiger Woods Invitational at Pebble Beach that his season-ending push and his first victory in five years took a physical toll at the Ryder Cup.

“It was just a cumulative effect of the entire season,” Woods said on Tuesday. “I was tired because I hadn’t trained for it. I hadn’t trained this entire comeback to play this much golf and on top of that deal with the heat and the fatigue and the loss of weight.”

Woods went 0-4 for the U.S. team in France and appeared particularly tired on Sunday following the European victory at Le Golf National.

For Woods the result was worth the effort with his victory at the Tour Championship ending a five-year drought, but his play and concession that it impacted him at the Ryder Cup does create some interesting questions for U.S. captain Jim Furyk, who sent Woods out for both team sessions on Saturday.

Tweet(s) of the week: @BobEstesPGA (Bob Estes) “I spoke to a past Ryder Cup captain yesterday. We both agreed that there should be a week off before the [Ryder Cup] to adequately rest and prepare.”

Given Woods’ comments this week it seems likely he would agree that a break – which may become the norm with the Tour season ending three weeks earlier – would be helpful, but Belgian Nicolas Colsaerts had a slightly different take in response to Estes’ tweet. “I’m afraid a different schedule wasn’t gonna make the fairways wider. On that particular course with how we played, [the United States] had absolutely no chance. Hasn’t more than half the euros played playoffs too?” Colsaerts tweeted.

It’s never too early to get a jump on the 2020 trash talking.

Missed Cut

By the book. The USGA and R&A’s most recent rulemaking hill involved the use of green-reading materials. On Monday the game’s rule-makers unveiled new interpretations on what will be allowed starting next year.

Out will be the legal-sized reams of information that had become ubiquitous on Tour, replaced by pocket-sized books that will include a limited scale (3/8 inch to 5 yards).

While the majority of those involved were in favor of a scaled-back approach to what to many seemed like information overload, it did seem like a curious line to draw.

Both sides of the distance debate continue to await which way the rule-makers will go on this front and, at least in the United States, participation continues to be a challenge.

Banning the oversized green-reading books may have been a positive step, but it was a micro issue that impacted a wildly small portion of the golf public. Maybe it’s time for the rule-makers to start looking at more macro issues.