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Bubba up, Walker down in 1-2 FedExCup battle

By Doug Smock, Staff writer

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — In the 1-vs.-2 bout in the FedExCup points standings, Bubba Watson overcame dryer, windy conditions Thursday to score a two-shot “victory” over Jimmy Walker in the first round of the Greenbrier Classic.

Watson was content with his 2-under 68, while Walker was spitting nails at times during his even-par 70. Odds are Walker will need a 69 or lower today to make the 36-hole cut, and he’ll have to do it with an afternoon tee time.

At one point Thursday morning, it seemed as if Walker wanted to be somewhere else.

He certainly didn’t want to attempt the 55-foot downhill putt he faced on the fifth hole, a 373-yard par-4. As he approached the green, he muttered, “Wish we’d taken a month off.”

The 35-year-old Oklahoma native took two weeks off between the U.S. Open and the Greenbrier Classic, but the form that made him the FedExCup leader took another day off. On a morning with no wind and soft fairways and greens, he wasted the morning made for good scoring.

But considering what happened on the par-5 17th, he did well to put up a 70.

First, he stuck his drive too far right, into Howard’s Creek — a great place for trout fishing but a lousy place for a golf ball. He smacked his driver’s head into the ground in disgust.

He recovered well enough to stick his fourth shot within 3 feet, 2 inches of the hole, but somehow three-putted for a double bogey. In fact, his second putt was longer at 5 feet, and he missed that one, too.

He sank an 11 ½-foot birdie putt on the 18th, then parred the entire front nine. His score is perilously near the cut line, which has fluctuated between even and 1 under.

Walker was playing with defending champion Jonas Blixt, who took the tournament lead with a 6-under 64, and 2011 Classic champ Scott Stallings, who also shot a 70.

“I think both of them hit the ball really good today, just didn’t make anything,” Blixt said. “I think I got their birdies today.”

Watson struggled to a 1-over 35 on the front nine, suffering bogeys on Nos. 6 and 8. He rattled off four birdies on the back, but gave back a stroke on the 13th when his approach landed on the side of a fescue-covered mound guarding the right of the green.

He wasn’t displeased with his chip from there, but couldn’t make the 14-footer to save par. He bounced back in style, hitting to within 3 feet for an easy birdie on the 14th.

“We played in real gusty winds, winds were swirling,” Watson said. “So when you look at a couple under par, you don’t feel too bad. I think this morning the wind was a little different and it was easier.

“Hopefully [today] we’ll have no wind and we’ll move up the leaderboard a little better.”

Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.


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