First cut is the sweetest for Baryla
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - If Phil Mickelson, for instance, took a one-shot lead at 8 under par in the second round and then limped into the clubhouse at 4 under, fans and golf analysts would be shaking their heads.
So would "Lefty," in all likelihood.
But that didn't apply Friday in the case of Chris Baryla, who was beginning to make a name for himself for all the wrong reasons. Instead of walking off his final green at The Old White TPC muttering all those "what ifs" to himself, he was relaxed and smiling.
Why? With a 69-67-136, he made the cut. Better yet, he is tied for ninth place, just three shots out of the lead.
Yes, this is a very big deal for Baryla, who previously had not made a cut.
All year. In 14 tries.
Baryla came to The Greenbrier Classic penniless, in a manner of speaking. He had not made a dime on the PGA Tour, and had cleared only $6,028 on the "Triple-A" Nationwide Tour.
He will leave the resort grounds with more than that, not to mention a renewed confidence.
"It's been long," he said. "Anytime you come back from any injury time off, it's tough."
Yes, hip surgery in 2010 has contributed to sending Baryla below every one of pro golf's Mendoza Lines. It wasn't just that he was missing cuts, but he was missing by a lot - he went 20 over and 18 over in consecutive April starts.
His scores did come down, as he was just below par in three low-scoring tournaments. He missed by just two shots last week in the Canadian Open, played in his native British Columbia.
He has made five Tour cuts, three in limited appearances before 2010. In 2009, he finished 19th on the Nationwide to earn his full PGA Tour card.
But his rookie season was cut short after seven starts, as he had his surgery early in the summer. He did get a medical extension to essentially replay his rookie season, but the competition offers no such mercy.
Looking back, he thinks he might have pushed himself too hard, too early.
"I had hip surgery, and missed 10 months," he said. "And the body's been really good, even for most of this year. But it's more or less been acclimatizing, getting the game back in shape, getting in routine, getting the body back where it needs to be.
"It's not a taxing sport on the outside. There's no impact and all that, but it's a daily grind. If your body's not healthy you can play a couple of weeks, but over time it's going to catch up."
He started on the 10th tee Friday and shot a 3-under 33 on Old White's back nine. That included birdies on Nos. 16, 17 and 18, all with putts well within 10 feet. He swung around to the front nine and birdied the tough No. 2 with a 337-yard drive and approach within 6 feet. He dissected the easier No. 5 in similar fashion.
That put him at 5 under for the day and 8 under for the tournament, and his name beamed atop the electronic leader boards around Old White. His name also buzzed around the galleries at Nos. 7, 8 and 9, his finishing holes.
But Baryla's huge round derailed on the sixth hole when he pushed his tee shot out of bounds. He later duffed a chip from the greenside rough, finishing with a triple bogey. He then bogeyed the seventh.
He regrouped for two pars to stay at 4 under entering today. He would have loved that 8-under mark, though.
"Shoot, I'd like to be at 12 under," he said. "Got it to 8, and really just got the wind wrong and made a bad swing and then I hit a cart path and it went out of bounds. So, a little bit of bad golf, a little bit of bad luck on that one.
"Kept the ball in play, driving the ball pretty well, and I putted well. So any time you make putts, you're going to be happy."
Baryla is plenty happy - he's not only sticking around for the weekend for once, he is in bona fide contention.
Reach Doug Smock 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com.