Greenbrier notebook: Strong start has Stricker thinking British

CHIP ELLIS | Gazette
Steve Stricker shot a 4-under par 66 in the opening round Thursday.
CHIP ELLIS | Gazette
West Virginia State Amatuer champion Brian Anania watches his first drive in the Greenbrier Classic first round.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — On Wednesday, Steve Stricker said he would need to do some big things at the Greenbrier Classic and next week’s John Deere Classic before he would commit to play in the British Open.

After a 4-under-par 66 in Thursday’s opening round, Stricker could be on his way to doing just that.

“This is a good start,” Stricker said. “I’m just taking it one day at a time, really, and seeing what the day brings and trying to do the things that I normally do and stay within the confines of my game and my game play.

“We’ll just keep plugging along and see what happens.”

Stricker has one top-10 finish this season, but it came just a month ago at the Memorial Tournament near Columbus, Ohio. He is playing only his eighth event this year.

He feels like he’s just now rounding into form, and that could be bad news for everyone else in the field.

“I haven’t played that much, but I’m starting to get into the groove of things a little bit more and starting to play a little better golf of late,” Stricker said. “So it’s an exciting time for me to start playing, and play this week and next week and see what happens.”

No. 17 takes another victim

The par-5 17th hole, playing 613 yards Thursday, has been the second-easiest hole in the Classic’s short history, but has been known to bite a few unsuspecting victims. The example in the first round Thursday was Jimmy Walker, who drove right into the creek, three-putted from a few feet and made double bogey.

The hole also kneecapped Phil Mickelson, who hooked his drive into the creek in the 2013 first round, and struggled to a “snowman” 8. It just so happened those three shots lost to par equaled the three shots by which he missed the cut.

In 2012, the 17th knocked Tiger Woods out. Woods belted his drive in the creek and muddled to a 7, and he missed the cut by a single shot (and he had to birdie his final hole to get that close).

A 73 for Anania

If you were watching the Golf Channel late in its coverage of the Greenbrier Classic, you might have caught West Virginia Amateur champion Brian Anania sinking a birdie on No. 16 after sticking an approach shot within 2 feet, 4 inches of the hole.

Anania finished at 3-over 73 in the first round of his first PGA Tour event and was happy with his ball striking, citing some errant putts as his biggest problem on Thursday.

“I felt comfortable out there today,” Anania said. “I just went out, tried to take it one shot at a time, and I hit the ball solid. I just didn’t have any putts fall for me today.”

The 22-year-old Marshall graduate enjoyed quite the supportive following on Thursday, something he said helped him throughout the day.

“The support today was amazing,” Anania said. “I had so many friends and family — so much support today. A lot of Marshall support, too. I heard ‘Go Herd’ a lot, which was pretty cool. I can’t thank those people enough for coming out and supporting me.”

Anania will tee off at 9 a.m. from the 10th hole today and will need to go low -- think 66 -- to become the second State Amateur champion to make the cut.

Hahn is on with a 65

As always, it seems, the Classic has a leaderboard featuring some unfamiliar names.

Introducing Mr. James Hahn, who was first off the Old White tee at 7 a.m. on Thursday and near the top of that leaderboard at 5-under 65.

“I’m a PGA Tour player and pretty good putter,” Hahn said. “I’m a guy who enjoys playing golf.”

Hahn, born in Seoul, South Korea, attended the University of California and is No. 103 in the FedExCup standings and No. 218 in the world rankings. He played on the Canadian and tours, finishing fifth on the latter’s money list in 2012 to earn a spot on the big tour.

He’s found the Old White TPC to his liking.

“I felt comfortable,” Hahn said. “This is one of my favorite courses on the schedule. The tournament runs a great event with a lot of support. We had a lot of fans here in the morning to cheer us on.”

Busy week for Joe D

Joe Durant has been going back and forth between the Champions Tour and PGA Tour since turning 50 in April. The setup seems to agree with him — on Thursday, the Florida native shot 5-under 65 to join the horde in second place.

“It worked out good today,” he said. “I mean, I didn’t get in here until [Wednesday] afternoon about 4 [p.m.]. We sold our house at home, so I had to go home [to Pensacola, Fla.] for a closing. I played a charity pro-am Monday, flew home Monday night, did that Tuesday, then flew up Wednesday.

“I’ve played here before, though. This is such a good course. It’s straightforward. No tricks, really.”


n Today’s second round will air live from 3-7 p.m. on the Golf Channel, with replays being aired from around 7:30-11:30 p.m. and midnight-4 a.m.

n Not that he had a good day otherwise (75), but Chesson Hadley had the day's longest drive, 347 yards on the par-4 sixth. George McNeil hit the longest putt, 51 feet, 10 inches. 

n Other category leaders: Chris Kirk and Charlie Beljan hit 17 greens in regulation, Davis Love III, Justin Hicks and Kevin Na hit 14 fairways and tournament leader Jonas Blixt had 12 one-putts.

n The first-round leader has won seven out of 32 PGA Tour events so far this season, with Martin Kaymer at the U.S. Open the most recent. No first-round leader has won the Greenbrier Classic.

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