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The Greenbrier Classic

07/03/2014, Thursday

After missing the cut at three of the last four PGA events he has played in, Sweden’s Jonas Blixt found his swing on Thursday, firing a 6-under 64 to open up a one-stroke lead at The Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

Eight players are tied for second, one stroke back at 5-under, and seven of them are Americans. Another seven, including Korea’s Sang-Moon Bae and the US’ Steve Stricker, are tied for 10th at 4-under.

Blixt didn’t look anything like the leader in the clubhouse early on, mixing four birdies with two bogeys to sit 2-under through 13, just one of a huge group of players a couple of strokes under par.

He turned that around on the back nine, birdying 14, then adding three more on 16 through 18 to finish the back nine at 5-under.

In all, a whopping 70 players are at least one stroke under par, and thus within five strokes of the lead entering Friday’s action.

07/04/2014, Friday

American Billy Hurley III fired a second-round 63, the second-lowest score of the tournament so far, to rise from 31st to the top of the leader board at the Greenbrier Classic on Friday.

Hurley holds a one-stroke lead over Chris Stroud, who hit his second straight 66, and Kevin Chappell, who followed up his first-round 67 with a 65.

Hurley hit four birdies in his first seven holes, and another three between No. 14 and No. 17.

Nobody was hotter on the day than Troy Matteson, who jumped from 110th to 4th with a second-round 61, firing nine birdies, including five in a seven-hole stretch on the back nine.

The 34-year-old Matteson is ranked 176th in the world.

A three-way tie for fifth is comprised of Steve Stricker, Chris Kirk and Brice Garnett.

Masters champion Bubba Watson rose from 31st to a tie for eighth with a 67 to get to 5-under.

07/05/2014, Saturday

Statistics are a funny thing in sports, particularly in golf. Billy Hurley III is trying to ignore them.

In the brief five-year history of the Greenbrier Classic, no player has ever won the tournament after leading following 54 holes. And Hurley has never led a tournament after 54 holes, and obviously never won a PGA title.

That and more is on the line for him Sunday in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. If he’s among the top four finishers not already qualified for the British Open, he’ll do that.

Hurley, a former officer in the US Navy, is hoping for that and more on Sunday.

He’s at 12-under through three rounds after hitting a 3-under 67 on Saturday. He’s enjoying a two-stroke lead over Angel Cabrera, who is in search of his first non-Major win on the PGA tour.

It’s anything but a safe lead for Hurley, considering Kevin Chappell is three back at 9-under after a third-round 69 and Steve Stricker sits four at 8-under after firing a 68.

07/06/2014, Sunday

The Greenbrier Classic worked its jinx for a sixth straight year, and Angel Cabrera was the main beneficiary of the hex.

Cabrera recorded his second straight 64 to defeat Geoge McNeill by two strokes for the title in White Sulphur Springs on Sunday.

Billy Hurley III, who had led after 18, 36 and 54 holes, ended up tied for fourth at 9-under after shooting a 2-over 73.

No leader after three rounds has ever won the Greenbrier.

McNeill received word Sunday morning that his older sister had died of cancer.

He proceeded to go out and tie the tournament low with a 10-under 61, finishing the back nine with four birdies in a row followed by an ace.

Cabrera was well ahead of McNeill, playing in different groups, until he bogeyed No. 14 and 15 back to back. He locked up the tournament with a birdie on No. 17.

Low-scoring final rounds were the them of the day as third-place Webb Simpson fired a 63 and Bud Cauley moved into a tie for fourth with a 64.

Hurley looked set on shaking off the jinx with a birdie on his first hole of the day, but he bogeyed four of the next five and could never get on track.

Masters champion Bubba Watson tied for 16th at 7-under.

Tournament Recap

It’s always fun to be the guy being chased in any race, because that means you’re No. 1.

But for Jimmy Walker, the hunter is about to become the hunted.

Masters champion Bubba Watson used his Top 10 finish at the Greenbrier Classic to move within 187 points of Walker for the No. 1 position in the latest FedExCup standings.

Walker has accrued 2,322 points in 20 events in the 2013-2014 season; Watson has 2,135 points in 14 events.

No other player has more than 1,725 points, although that can all change with two Majors and a score of other tournaments to go before the FedExCup gets underway late August.

Inside the Top 10 of the Cup standings, Brendon Todd moved up to ninth and Patrick Reed to seventh, displacing Harris English and Chris Kirk, respectively.

Webb Simpson, who finished third at Greenbrier, climbed five spots to No. 11. Although it’s not impossible for any player in the Top 125 to win the FedExCup, the more points one accrues during the regular season, the better chance a golfer has to rack up major money in the post-season.

Angel Cabrera, who won the Greenbrier, his first non-Major PGA victory ever, appeared in the Top 125 for the first time this season, climbing from 158th to 54th with his win and the 500 points that accompany it.

Although he couldn’t hold his three-day lead at the Greenbrier, Billy Hurley III still put himself in a far more favorable position, moving up from 80th to 69th in the latest standings.

An idle Phil Mickelson fell from 89th to 93rd, putting him in the bottom fourth of the standings to qualify.

He’s joined there by 2013 FedExCup winner Henrik Stenson, who is 98th and has played just nine PGA events so far in 2014.

Tiger Woods, the 2013 runner-up and two-time FedExCup champion, is in 208th place with a meager 43 points through four events. 

Woods trails the 125th position, currently occupied by Steve Stricker, by 316 points at present.

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