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Blixt Off to Hot Start in Greenbrier Classic


Jonas Blixt began the defense of his title in the Greenbrier Classic in fine fashion. The 30-year-old Swede opened with a 6-under 64 for a one-stroke lead in the $6.5 million PGA Tour event, which got underway Thursday on the White Course at the Greenbrier in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va.

Beginning on the 10th hole, Blixt carded six birdies and a bogey on his front nine before tacking on two more birdies and a bogey on his home half. Four of those birdies came on Nos. 14-18, his fifth through ninth holes.

Blixt said he started the first round with a straightforward game plan. "I talked to my caddie about it on the first tee," the two-time Tour winner told reporters. "There was no wind, so I just said to him, 'I'm going to be really aggressive today.' He was like, 'Yeah, I like that.' Just go out there and make as many birdies as possible."

One stroke behind are several other players who also took advantage of the benign conditions. The All-American lineup recording 65s were James Hahn, Jason Bohn, Joe Durant, Chris Kirk, D.A. Points, Patrick Rodgers and Jim Renner. Durant is a rookie on the Champions Tour.

Tied for ninth following 66s are South Korean Sang-Moon Bae, New Zealander Danny Lee, and Americans Michael Thompson, Steve Stricker, Kevin Na, Troy Merritt, Chris Stroud, Pat Perez and Chad Collins.

The 47-year-old Stricker has been playing a limited schedule the past few years, but the Wisconsin native - still ranked 18th in the world despite making only his eighth start of the year this week - maximizes the time in competitions.

Also starting play on the 10th tee, Stricker carded four birdies - all on his front nine. The 12-time Tour winner says the secret to his success while playing a shortened schedule is "knowing that your shots really do count.

"You spend a lot of time at home practicing and the shots don't really matter. You can hit one off-line and it doesn't mean anything. And when you come out here, every shot means something. You've got to try and erase that out of your mind and do what you do at home and do what you do when you're practicing."

Stricker has made the cut in each of his previous seven tournaments, with his top finish a T-6 in last month's Memorial Tournament. "I have gotten used to (a limited schedule) over the years," he said. "I haven't played much and I am kind of used to that fact. So I am excited about the start this week."

Three behind Blixt are fellow Swede David Lingmerth, South African Tyrone Van Aswegen, Australian Robert Allenby and Yanks Michael Putnam, Davis Love III, Ben Curtis, Charles Howell III, Patrick Reed, Charlie Beljan, Kevin Chappell, Luke Guthrie and Keegan Bradley.

Two-time Masters' winner, Bubba Watson, who recently built a new house at the Greenbrier, was among a big group of players opening with a 2-under 68.

For all the scores, visit http://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html.