Underdog making the most of his opportunity
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Introducing this year's official Greenbrier Classic underdog story.
Michael Letzig followed up Thursday's 1-under-par 69 with a 4-under 66 Friday, landing him in a five-way tie for fourth place after the first two rounds of play. He finished with a flurry, making birdie on three of his last five holes, including the par-3 18th, where he planted his tee shot within 7 feet and buried his last putt.
Any score that Letzig collects is icing, however, as he only got into The Greenbrier Classic field by virtue of Sean O'Hair dropping out after winning the RBC Canadian last Sunday.
To say the least, Letzig is making the most of his opportunity thus far.
"I'm just putting good and giving myself lots of chances for birdie," Letzig said. "I feel like I'm struggling with my driver, but we've just been working on that every day once we get done. But everything else is good."
Letzig is a 6-foot-3, long and lanky player with fluffy, curly hair coming out of the top of a white Titleist visor. Not exactly the physical prototype of a golf superstar, and his professional results haven't exactly set the world aflame either.
The 31-year-old has never won a PGA or Nationwide Tour event, with his best career finish coming at the Ginn sur Mer Classic in 2008, where he finished second to Ryan Palmer. He has also only played in two majors, the 2008 U.S. Open and British Open. He missed the cut in each.
His finish of 150 on last year's money list puts him on limited status as far as PGA events are concerned. In other words, tournaments select Letzig, and not the other way around.
This week's Classic is just his ninth event of the season, and he has made only one cut.
"It's kind of been my whole year," Letzig said. "The status I have, I don't really know where I'm going until Monday afternoon every week. I tried to get a sponsor's invitation here and didn't, but luckily I got in on my number and I was able to make the cut and have a chance this weekend to keep it going."
While the Missouri native will admit that he had a poor year in 2010, the bright spot may very well have been the Greenbrier Classic. Letzig finished at 12 under last year, good enough for a tie for 21st place.
"It's just a cool golf course," Letzig said of The Old White TPC. "It's kind of the old country club feel. You don't have to walk 200 yards between the green and the tee box of the next hole. It's just kind of fun. I guess it just fits my eye."
Despite the improvements made to the course that have taken their toll on some of the world's most highly regarded players, illustrated by reduced scores across the board, Letzig's score of 5 under par is two strokes ahead of his pace after two rounds last year.
Still, he admits the well-publicized changes to the course are glaring.
"It's a completely different course than last year, for sure," Letzig said. "Just the way your shots are coming into the greens, if you don't have wedges in your hands, you've got to play short of the hole and let the ball pitch and roll out a little bit, to where last year it was so soft you could just fire at the pin every hole. So you've got to think about it a little bit, but the tee box changes, you hardly even notice them. They fit in perfectly."
Apparently so does Letzig's game at The Greenbrier. And how fitting would it be to see Letzig's first win come at his golfing safe haven over the past couple of years?
We could go from crowning Stuart Appleby, a man from down under, to Letzig, a man from way down under - under the radar, that is.
"It's kind of taken me four years to realize that my game is as good as anybody's," Letzig said. "I just get in my own way. I try to be too perfect sometimes and then I get pissed off and that really puts me at a disadvantage. If I can control my emotions and let my game speak for itself, I'll be fine."
Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948 or ryan.pr...@wvgazette.com.