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John Daly chips up to the 17th green during the first round of the Greenbrier Classic golf tournament in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., Thursday.
Friday, July 5, 2013
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - The past two Greenbrier Classics have produced first-time PGA Tour winners - Scott Stallings in 2011 and Ted Potter Jr. last year.
Brendon de Jonge would love to make it a winning trifecta.
De Jonge, who finished third in 2010 and tied for fourth last year, put himself in position to challenge again with a 4-under-par 66 in Thursday's first round at The Old White TPC. He is one of a dozen players tied for fifth, three shots behind co-leaders Johnson Wagner and Tommy Gainey.
"It's still a long way to go, obviously," the former Virginia Tech standout said. "But it's a golf course I like. It's one of those tournaments you put on the schedule from the start as one you're definitely going to play in and you look forward to."
De Jonge, 32, has won a boatload of money - a shade under $7.5 million - in his five-plus seasons on tour, but has yet to hoist a winner's trophy. This week is career start No. 170.
"I keep knocking on that door, I just haven't been able to knock it down yet," the Zimbabwe native said.
De Jonge, whose career-best finish is a second last year, had four birdies in his bogey-free round on the rain-soaked Old White. Because of the Charmin-soft course, players were allowed to lift, clean and place their ball in the fairways.
"It was raining hard when we started [at 7 a.m.], then it subsided after two or three holes," he said. "The ball is sitting where it lands. If you're driving it straight you're going to hit a lot of fairways. And, obviously, we had the ball in our hand, so that helps."
It also was sweet to have some backers following the early tee-time group.
"It's always nice to hear 'Go Hokies' wherever you go," De Jonge said. "I like playing in front of the Tech people."
De Jonge would love nothing better than to be paired on Sunday with his old college teammate Wagner in the final group. Talk about a Hokie hoedown.
"We've been close a couple times, but it would be cool for us to be fighting it out coming down the stretch," said Wagner, a three-time tour winner. "He's had an amazing last four or five years and he's certainly overdue for a win ... and I would love to take it away from him."
Ryan Palmer has a celebrity caddie this week: New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.
A native Texan with three PGA Tour wins, Palmer befriended the coach when Payton was an assistant for the Dallas Cowboys from 2003-05 under Bill Parcells. This is Payton's first attempt on the bag.
"I certainly have a great appreciation for the job that these caddies have," Payton said. "All of a sudden it starts raining a little bit, you're one hand short, you've got umbrellas going, towels going everywhere."
Payton said he typically plays golf about twice a year but got a chance to hit the course a lot more in 2012, when he was suspended by the NFL for his role in the bounty scandal.
"After the suspension, whatever my handicap was, it was certainly never going to get better than that moving forward," he said.
As a first-time looper, he's been focusing on learning how to determine which club to pull depending on the yardage. Palmer doesn't expect - or want - Payton to do any actual coaching this week.
"Just shut up and keep up, that's it," Palmer said.
Give it up to Tom Watson. The 63-year-old shot 68, matching the other Watson, Bubba.
"My game was good," he said. "I had a lot of opportunities with the putter that I didn't convert so I left some strokes out there. I turned a 66 into a 68 today with the putter.
"Maybe overnight the fried chicken I'm going to have [Thursday night] on Fourth of July as I always do may help my putting stroke, you never know."
Quote of day
Co-leader Tommy "Two Gloves" Gainey, a rural South Carolina native who graduated from Central Carolina Technical College in 1999 with an industrial maintenance degree, worked in a water heater factory before taking a shot at professional golf.
Gainey media room gem: "I really don't want to go back into a factory ... working on an assembly line because I love what I'm doing right now. You look at me, I grew up poor and I'm playing on the PGA Tour, I'm a PGA Tour winner. It doesn't get any better than that."
A year after shooting 68-67-70-65 and collecting $119,560 for a tie for 12th in this event, John Daly could find no such magic at Jim Justice's playpen in Thursday's opening round.
Daly, 47, who has made only four cuts in 11 events and banked a mere $43,543 this
season, made a quadruple bogey 8 on the second hole and never recovered en route to a fat 75.
Daly will have to shoot in the low 60s today to have
any shot at making the 36-hole cut.
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