WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Johnson Wagner has found paradise this week.
The former Virginia Tech standout turned in one of his best rounds of the year, shooting an 8-under 62 to tie for Thursday's opening-round lead at the Greenbrier Classic.
"I've always loved Old White,'' said Wagner. "I went to Virginia Tech and we would come over, I think maybe two or three times, when I was in school.
"I'm really a big fan of Seth Raynor and C.B. Macdonald designed golf courses, and this is just kind of my paradise, playing a tournament on his course. I really enjoy playing classically designed golf courses.''
It showed Thursday as the 6-foot-3, 230-pound Wagner tore up the 99-year-old Old White TPC with six birdies, one eagle and, more importantly, no bogeys. The eagle occurred on No. 12, a 568-yard par 5.
The Amarillo, Texas, native turned in three straight birdies on holes 3, 4 and 5 and finished the front nine at 5-under 29.
"My first competitive 29 on the PGA Tour,'' beamed Wagner, who has ditched his trademark mustache.
"Then the 59 thought started creeping in. I blocked it out for a few more holes and birdied 11, chipped in for eagle on 12, and then the 59 thoughts really got in my mind. But I managed to hit really quality shots and quality putts coming in. I've been disappointed with 72s and 79s the last month, so I'm very happy to be disappointed with a 62.''
Wagner has struggled this year, making only six cuts in 18 tournaments.
"I've struggled with my ball striking all year,'' said Wagner. "Even my good finishes, which there were maybe two at Kapalua and Harbortown, which was the last cut I made, my ball striking's been terrible.
"After Hartford a couple of weeks ago, my coach watched me play. We hadn't been working all that much together this year. He said come down and get it straight. We got into a position after three or four days where I kind of felt like I did leading into the Sony Open last year and Kapalua last year, where I played the best golf of my life. Confidence for me can turn around real quickly.''
And the mustache?
"It will definitely come back at some point,'' Wagner said. "I love irritating my wife too much with it to let it go for too long. We just celebrated our seventh anniversary on Monday and I didn't get her a gift, so I thought surprising her with a clean lip would suffice.''
While most of the professional golfers were getting their winks Wednesday night before the Classic's opening round, Pat Carter was on the road in spite of a 9 a.m. tee time.
The 13-time West Virginia Amateur champion drove to Barboursville on Wednesday evening to watch his son pitch in the 11-12-year-old age group of the district all-stars.
"I knew he was going to be pitching to get us to the district championship and he's having such a good year in Little League,'' said Carter.
"I would have gone home every time. I was hoping to have a late tee time and get a little more sleep, but that was OK. I wasn't tired at all. Mark it down. We're heading for the state championship.''
Wagner isn't the only Hokie near the top of Thursday's leaderboard.
His Virginia Tech teammate, Brendon de Jonge, shot a 4-under 66 and is tied for ninth. De Jonge finished third in 2010 and tied for fourth in 2011 at the Classic.
"It's great,'' said Wagner. "For years I've wanted to be paired with him Saturday and Sunday when it mattered.