Mitch Vingle: Remember Jonas Blixt?
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — There were many stars walking around the Old White course at The Greenbrier on Wednesday.
Not only were big-name golf professionals like Bubba Watson, Nick Faldo and Tom Watson roaming the course for the Old White Pro-Am, but so were comedian George Lopez, NASCAR driver Denny Hamlin and the star of seemingly every Walmart T-shirt, “Duck Dynasty” star Jase Robertson.
Perhaps missed, though, was Forest Gump.
Or, at least, a self-proclaimed, momentary Forest Gump: Jonas Blixt.
You remember him, right? Last year, wearing a tight, neon Cobra golf shirt only an Oregon Duck could appreciate, Blixt took this Greenbrier Classic golf tournament.
He was out there too on Wednesday, all 5-foot-10, 164 pounds of him.
What will we get from him this go-around?
“You have guys like Matt Kuchar that play well every week and guys like me that kind of have good weeks and some bad weeks, a little more like a roller coaster,” Blixt said Wednesday. “You never really know what you’re going to get. So I sound like Forrest Gump right now.”
Perhaps. But he played like a champion last year.
“He showed some guts,” said Tom Watson, the Greenbrier’s pro emeritus.
Ditto this past April, when Blixt tied for second in the Masters.
Yet the Florida State product from Sweden is ranked but 84th in the FedExCup points standings after 16 events. He’s missed five of the last seven cuts, including in the recent U.S. Open and Traveler’s tournaments.
But if you’re playing in one of those golf pools and picked Blixt to finish in the top three, well, there’s last year’s result as a positive point. And there’s this: He’s comfortable here. Very. In some ways, he’s oddly comfortable here.
“It’s a lot like home,” Blixt said of the climate and beauty. “It’s a very laid-back, kind of relaxed tournament. It’s not as hyped up as other ones. It’s harder to get here, so there aren’t as many people here, so that’s probably why.
“It’s like going to a resort. It’s just nice to be here. If you’re stressed out, this gets you not stressed out. You get to stay next to the golf course and they take care of you unbelievably. Great food. Great hospitality. They drive you wherever you want. Plus they have everything on the property you could want to do. Usually you can’t do that much,”
Blixt pointed out golfers can sign up for activities, walk out their hotel door and be at the activity in minutes. It’s great for families. But it also seems a perfect spot for Blixt.
Rewind to last year’s Classic. In the final round, a thunderstorm delayed play for three hours and Blixt didn’t even tee off until 5 p.m. Irritating?
Nope. As comfortable as his 61-degree lob wedge.
“I thought it was quite relaxing, actually,” Blixt said. “It kind of took some pressure off before tee time. I was kind of lucky that I didn’t get to tee off before the storm. After the storm, everything was so calm with no breeze at all … I got into a really good rhythm. It was just one of those easy, mindless days.”
Except, of course, it netted him $1.134 million and a jumping-off platform.
“It meant a lot,” Blixt said. “The first step was to win a tournament, which I did in the fall [via the 2012 Frys.com Open]. Then I struggled quite a bit. Then winning this tournament got me into a few other events, a little higher-level events, like the British Open. I felt like I took a big step both that way and confidence-wise.”
Now 30 years old, Blixt finds himself in much the same position as last year at this time.
“Not that big of a difference, really,” Blixt said. “I kind of struggled last month a little bit. I feel like my coach and I have done a lot of good stuff. I feel like the putter and short game are really working lately, so I don’t feel like I’m too far off.”
Oh, and how is he oddly comfortable here, or at the Frys event, or even at Augusta?
“I’m kind of weird,” Blixt said. “I get more nervous about making the cut than actually being in contention. That Sunday a year ago here I didn’t feel any nerves, really. It was just such a soothing kind of place.”
He said after the rains, “the temperature dropped and it kind of felt like I was back home in Sweden growing up and playing with my dad.”
In sum? Blixt might be like a box of chocolates.
But his comfort level this week might just make it sweet once again.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, email@example.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.