61 pulls Matteson into contention
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — There’s something to be said for consistency. It just took awhile for Troy Matteson to see the results.
Matteson, one of only six golfers to make the cut at each of the first four Greenbrier Classics, turned his game around Friday, firing a 9-under-par 61 to forge his way into fourth place, two shots off the pace set by Billy Hurley III.
Inexplicably, Matteson shaved a full 11 strokes off his first-round score of 2-over 72 on Thursday, a round when he carded two bogeys and 16 pars. On Friday, the meter read nine birdies and no bogeys. That puts him at 7-under 133 for the tournament.
“Actually, I was a little worried this morning,” Matteson said following Friday’s round. “I’ve been working on some new swing stuff, and you’re never quite sure when it’s only been a day or two. So obviously today I hit it much better, as much as you can out here in the wind when it’s as gusty as it is.”
Matteson, 34, who lives in Austin, Texas, came into the Greenbrier Classic languishing at No. 176 on the money list with about $260,000 this season. But his payday could be a large one when Sunday’s final round finishes.
And for a bonus, a solid finish could get him into one of the four available spots for the British Open.
He began his birdie barrage early, with four on his first five holes (No. 1, 3, 4, 5) and also turned in three in a stretch of four holes to begin the back nine (10, 11, 13). A golden touch with the putter was to thank, as Matteson needed just 19 putts in his entire round, a remarkably low total.
“It was unlike any day I’ve had this year,” he said. “I just haven’t been getting it in the hole all year, and to have a day like this really kind of turns things around.
“But I’ve always been a streaky putter. When I get hot, it usually falls in from just about anywhere and that’s one of those days today.”
His stroke was so superb on Friday that he came to the final hole — the par-3 18th — with a chance to post just the seventh score of 59 ever on the PGA Tour.
Of course, he needed a hole-in-one to pull it off, but wound up in a greenside bunker. Fortunately, he managed a sand save to salvage his par.
“I had my 9-iron out and I guess it’s 163 [yards],” Matteson said, “[then] I said the only way to make this and shoot 59 is to get a wedge. And I said, ‘Do I really want to mess this round up?’ [But] you know, I gotta take a shot at it. How many shots are you going to get?
“I just pushed it, just very slightly. At 163 downwind, I mean your shot has to be perfect to that pin today just to get it inside of 10 feet. So I felt like I had to take a stab at it, and it worked out in the end. Making a 3 was much better than I expected seeing that ball go in the bunker.”
As it was, the final score marked the fourth competitive 61 Matteson has shot on Tour.
It sets him up for perhaps his biggest check in five years of playing at The Greenbrier’s par-70 Old White TPC course.
He tied for ninth in the inaugural Classic — eight shots behind — and pocketed just over $138,800, but his next three tournaments weren’t very lucrative (tie for 61st in 2011, less than $13,000; tie for 56th in 2012, about $13,600; tie for 41st last year, just over $20,000).
So far this year, he’s made only four cuts in 17 tournaments, so perhaps he’s overdue.
“You’re going to go through rough spots in your career at some point,” he said, “and it’s just a matter of how long they are, and for me usually I’m a streaky putter.
“You know, I play good in five or six tournaments. They might be in a row. They might be sporadic throughout the year. But that’s how golf is. It’s an 80-20 deal. For some guys, it’s the reverse, but for most of us it’s an 80-20 deal.”
Incidentally, the number of golfers to make each of the five Greenbrier cuts was pared to four — Matteson, Carl Pettersson, Brendon de Jonge and D.A. Points.
Ben Curtis (2-over 142) failed to advance Friday and Jeff Overton withdrew, ostensibly to appear at this week’s AJGA Under Armour Jeff Overton Championship in Indiana.
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or firstname.lastname@example.org.