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Singh's 63 Leads Greenbrier Classic
Three-time major champion Vijay Singh fired a 7-under 63 Thursday to take the opening-round lead in the Greenbrier Classic. The $6.1 million PGA Tour event is being held at the Old White TPC at Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, W.V.
The 49-year-old carded eight birdies and a bogey in steamy conditions. The "Big Fijian" hit 71 percent of the fairways and needed only 25 putts en route to forging a one-stroke lead over fellow veteran Jeff Maggert, Martin Flores and Jonathan Byrd.
It's been awhile Singh's last visit to the winner's circle; the most recent victory for the World Golf Hall of Fame member came at the 2008 Deutsche Bank Championship. "I don't know where that came from," Singh told PGATour.com of his round. "I've been playing pretty good golf for a while but just never got any scoring going . . .
"It's my first good round of the year, I would say, that I felt really comfortable with. It's a good way to start a tournament. I'm looking forward to the rest of the week."
J.B. Holmes, reigning U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, Garth Mulroy and Andres Romero carded 65s to share fifth, while another stroke back are several players.
Simpson played in the Travelers Championship immediately following his Open victory in mid-June at Olympic Club - finishing T-29, but took last week off to rest up. "It was good for me to play in the Travelers and kind of get in the tournament atmosphere again," he told PGATour.com. "So (the U.S. Open win) has sunk in. Off the golf course nothing's changed, I'm still the same guy, but obviously when it comes to golf it allowed me to be more confident."
Defending champion Scott Stallings, who in 2011 finished at 10-under 270 then beat Bob Estes and Bill Haas for his first PGA Tour victory, opened with a 67 and is tied for 16th with several other players.
Tom Watson, the pro emeritus at Greenbrier, shot an even-par 70 in the opening round. The 62-year-old had two birdies and a like number of bogeys Thursday. "I don't treat this tournament any different than any other tournament I play in," Watson told PGATour.com.
"I'm here to compete the best that I can compete. This course doesn't favor my game because of its length, but I have a few tricks up my sleeve. I might be able to get around some of the long holes and make it up on some of the shorter holes."
Last week's winner in the AT&T National, Tiger Woods, started out on the 10th hole. The 74-time Tour winner began okay with two birdies in his first three holes but bogeyed the 13th (his fourth hole) and doubled the par-5 17th (his eighth). Woods played the home half with two birdies and two bogeys for a 1-over day. He needed 31 putts, a factor he mentioned later.
"I was a little bit off with my game, and on top of that I didn't have the speed of these greens at all," Woods told PGATour.com. "My last three tournaments, the greens were awfully quick and they have a lot of swing at the end because of how fast they are. I missed literally every single putt high today."
Woods was paired with Simpson and his good friend Steve Stricker, who carded a 69.
In 2011 Phil Mickelson brought along his wife and kids to the Greenbrier; the facility has all manner of family-friendly activities and "Lefty" treated the stop as a working vacation. But not this week as Mickelson is trying to get his game back in a groove and erase the bad taste of missing the cut last year - the only time that happened in 21 starts. "I'm going to have to let everything else take a back seat," Mickelson said Wednesday after the pro-am.
But such renewed focus didn't help Mickelson, as he opened with a 1-over 71 that included three birdies, two bogeys and a double on the par-4 fifth hole.
Earlier in the week PGA Tour officials announced that it had signed an extension with the Greenbrier Classic to ensure that the tournament will be held through 2021. The owner of Greenbrier Resort, Jim Justice, was thrilled with the new agreement.
"The first three years of our contract with the PGA Tour have been a thrilling ride," said Justice. "The entire state of West Virginia and the region as a whole have embraced the tournament from the very beginning. Without the passion and support of our local and regional communities, the Greenbrier Classic could not have grown so quickly into one of the premiere events on the Tour."
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