WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — When Jonas Blixt won the 2013 Greenbrier Classic, he didn’t lead after 18, 36 or 54 holes.
In the first round of the current Classic, Blixt shot a 6-under-par 64 to take a one-shot lead. On Friday, he learned a painful lesson in what happens to early leaders at this tournament.
They slide. Or implode. They tumble off the leaderboard.
All three descriptions, plus a few more, applied to Blixt’s round Friday. He suffered a 3-over 73, falling to 3 under for the tournament. He slid to a tie for 25th.
Teeing off from No. 1, he suffered four bogeys in the first 10 holes before he birdied the par-5 12th, only to give that back on the par-4 13th. He got a stroke back on the par-5 17th.
“It was really swirly in the beginning,” he said. “I lost my confidence a little bit, and I got my shots were a little too far from the pin. The greens seemed to dry up, and usually when they dry up, they get quicker. They actually got slower.
“[The greens] were great to me last year, so this is really the first day I had a bad putting day. It was just weird.”
No first-round leaders have won the Classic — Tommy Gainey and Johnson Wagner last year, Vijay Singh in 2012, Trevor Immelman in 2011 and Erik Compton and Matt Every in 2010.
To take that further, the six other players ahead or tied for the lead at the end of the first three rounds failed to win — Webb Simpson, Every, Brendon de Jonge, Wagner, Anthony Kim and Jeff Overton.
The first-round leaders’ bomb-outs have been considerable. In 2010, Every hit a second-round 72 and went on to finish 66th; Compton’s 77 in the final round sent him to 73rd.
Immelman went 70-73 in the middle rounds before recovering to finish 14th. Singh sank to 74 in the second round and finished 33rd, Gainey’s final round of 75 sent him to 41st and Wagner’s final-round 73 helped hand Blixt the 2013 title.
Which Blixt is still alive to defend, and who knows? Six-stroke deficits can be made up in 36 holes.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.