Greenbrier notebook: Bubba brings star power to the leaderboard

CHRIS DORST | Saturday Gazette-Mail
Bubba Watson watches his ball after hitting it on the fairway to the ninth hole Friday. He shot a 67 Friday, leaving him four strokes behind second-round leader Billy Hurley III.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — The Greenbrier Classic can always use a name player near the top of the leaderboard, and Bubba Watson is doing just that for the fifth annual event, standing four shots off the lead following a 3-under 67 in Friday’s second round.

Watson said the course had “firmed up a little bit’’ from Thursday’s opening round, but said occasionally gusting winds caused some difficulties, especially on his back nine, which for him started at hole No. 1.

“The front nine, the wind wasn’t blowing that hard,’’ he said, “so I could guess right. The back nine, the front nine, I had some trouble coming down the stretch just trying to guess the wind. The wind started swirling a little bit, but I held it together. I wish I could have made a couple more and I made that bogey, but all in all, it’s good.’’

Watson turned in four birdies and just one bogey (on the par-4 sixth) on Friday after carding five birds and two bogeys on Thursday.

“The ball-striking’s still there,’’ he said. “[Thursday], the ball striking was good. I made a couple more putts [Friday]. I putted really solid [Friday]. I didn’t make all the bogeys I made [Thursday], but the last five holes, six holes, it got windy, it got gusty, so guessing right was the hard thing — just like all day [Thursday].

“So, I’ll take it. It’s a start. It’s two days and I made the cut and hopefully we’ll improve on the weekend.’’

Tom Watson plugging away

The ageless wonder struck again Friday as Tom Watson fired a 2-under 68, assuring himself a spot in today’s round by making the cut for the third straight year at the Classic.

The 64-year-old Greenbrier golf pro emeritus stands at 1-under 139 heading into the third round. His card Friday included three birdies and one bogey.

Some golfers who didn’t make the cut included Ben Curtis (2-over 142), Vijay Singh (142), 2010 Classic winner Stuart Appleby (144) and FedExCup points leader Jimmy Walker (145).

The other three past Greenbrier Classic champs did survive the cut, which came at even-par 140 — Jonas Blixt (137), Scott Stallings (139) and Ted Potter (140). Stallings’ advance was aided by a birdie on the par-3 18th hole, which has been very good to him in past Classics.

Another familiar and popular Classic participant, John Daly, made the cut — just barely at 140 — despite an adventurous final nine holes.

Coming down the stretch, Daly bogeyed Nos. 13, 15 and 16, but birdied Nos. 12 and 14. He found a bunker on the 17th hole, but still made par.

His tee shot on the par-3 18th “stadium hole’’ stopped 31 feet away from the pin, but he two-putted to get safely into the clubhouse at even par for the tournament, enabling him to play another day.

No gimmes on the Tour

Jason Bohn gave the handful of fans within eyesight at the 13th green one of the most valuable lessons in golf: Do not get sloppy and take shots for granted.

By shots, we mean tap-ins. Bohn missed a tap-in on that already difficult par-4 hole, sticking him with a double bogey in the process.

Bohn hit his approach to the front edge of the green, 71 feet away, and his chip didn’t go well. He faced an 11-foot putt for par, but missed. In his frustration, he walked swiftly to the ball and used the back of his putter to tap the ball in.

And missed.

The ShotLink tracker called it a 19-inch putt, but it somehow seemed shorter. Bohn muttered, “Damn!” to himself before properly lining up and sinking the 15-incher from the opposite side.

Tackett back in town

Beckley native Slugger White, PGA Tour vice president of rules and competition, helped Greenbrier owner Jim Justice bring the Classic to southern West Virginia.

But he didn’t stop there.

White also hired former West Virginia Golf Association director Ken Tackett land a spot on the Tour’s 16-man rules official staff.

“I talked to him and [a possible job] was mentioned when we first met four years ago,” White said. “Well, I had nothing [open] at that time. But this past January, I hired him. He’s doing a nice job.”

Tackett, a Capital High graduate, is working the Classic, having arrived last week as an advance official.

All due respect for Jack

White was once like Tackett and just starting out on the Tour. He remembered his first ruling — involving a man named Jack Nicklaus.

“I had met him before,” White said. “I saw him in San Diego and he said, ‘I understand you’re now on the staff.’ I said yes and he wished me good luck.

“Well, I drove down to Torrey Pines and I had to make a ruling on a French drain. He looked at me with those steely blue eyes and said, ‘Is it anything [allowing free relief]?’ I said, ‘Yes, sir.’ ”

Anania bows out with 77

It went from bad to worse Friday for hometown favorite Brian Anania, the West Virginia Amateur champion who failed to make the cut following a 7-over 77.

A double-bogey on No. 14 was part of the agony for the former Hurricane High and Marshall athlete, whose two-day total of 150 was lower than only one other 36-hole score (the 154 of former Virginia Tech golfer Mikey Moyers).

“I started off putting it terrible,’’ Anania said. “It was a struggle from the start. I started putting it kind of rough, then I had a four-putt on 14, which killed me. I had two really good putts and lipped them out, then pulled the third putt and the next thing you know, I’m making double [bogey] from the middle of the fairway.’’

Anania had some hope following Thursday’s opening-round 73, but never approached that score Friday, shooting 5-over on his first six holes. He also suffered a triple-bogey on No. 2 on his back nine, and knocked in just one birdie.

“I hit the ball so well [Thursday],’’ Anania said, “and I really could have shot a good number. [Friday], I just didn’t have it. I didn’t hit it very good and I didn’t putt it very well. It was either one thing or the other on every hole.’’

Anania, who just finished his senior season at MU, said he will likely either work with the Acushnet Company (which owns the Titleist brand name) in Boston or California, or become a teaching pro. He also plans on competing in this summer’s West Virginia Open July 21-25 at Glade Springs.

He said PGA Tour personnel asked him prior to this week’s tournament if he was going to turn pro or play the event as an amateur. He got his spot in the field by winning the State Amateur last month, but his college eligibility had already ended.

“With getting my exemption as an amateur, I think I needed to stay an amateur,’’ Anania said.

Hurley SEALs the deal

New leader Billy Hurley III said he “found myself between equipment contracts,” so he used his visor space to promote a cause near and dear to his heart: the SEAL Legacy Foundation.

With a motto of “No One Left Behind … No One Forgotten,” the organization was founded to provide financial and other support for Navy SEALs and their families.

“They like to say that SEALs are asymmetrical warfare, and they do some asymmetrical stuff in the foundation side of the world,” he said.

Notable stats

n FedExCup leader Jimmy Walker missed the cut for just the third time this year. He went 70-75, missing by five strokes.

n The 89 players who made the cut is a Tour high this year, and two short of the record for a non-major event is 91, achieved in 1991 and in 2013.

n The Old White TPC played nearly a stroke harder Friday than it did Thursday, 70.895 to 69.987. Windier conditions and drying-out greens were among the factors.

n The par-4 13th continues to play the hardest, yielding a 4.265 average. The par-5 12th is the easiest again at 4.658.  

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