WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Those watching on television had to wonder where the gallery was in Thursday’s first round of the PGA Tour stop at The Greenbrier Resort.
Well, one guy in the field had a sizable gathering in tow as he went about his work.
While most of the 38 groupings toiled basically in front of crickets, Lanto Griffin of Blacksburg, starting his second tour on the Tour, had a pack of about 40 supporters. They helped fuel a 6-under-par 64 that left him in a five-way tie for second place heading into Friday’s second round of the Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.
“That’s normal around here, a lot of people will watch it on TV,” Griffin said. “The golf course is beautiful, you couldn’t get a better backdrop. It’s nothing against the tournament for not having a huge crowd out there. I had my Mom [Julie] with her birdcalls out there and hooting and hollering and that was fun.
“I like to keep my emotions pretty level regardless, but I was smiling inside. If I get too up or down it just gets me out of rhythm. That was the goal this day. I did a good job of playing smart and not getting ahead of myself.”
Jump-started by an eagle-3 on the tough par-5 12th — his third hole of the day — the 31-year-old matched his previous Tour-low score of 64 to join five others who will begin Friday’s second round two shots behind leader Robby Shelton.
“The key to the round was the eagle on 12,” Griffin said. “That’s really an uncomfortable tee shot, and I hit a good one down there and I hit 7-iron to like 5 feet and made it, so that settled me in.
“Plus, I had probably three or four putts that you really don’t expect to make and they all went in today. The putter feels really good. But the putter doesn’t usually last all four days, so I’m going to need to start hitting it a little better off the tee and getting more confidence.”
“The irons felt good, the putter felt good. And when I get in that little mindset I play smarter off the tee when I’m not hitting it well. I’ve gotten better at playing to what I feel comfortable with so I hit a lot of irons off the tee. The ball was going forever today. I was actually hitting a lot of 4-irons off the tee but they were going 270 yards. Probably hit five or six 4-irons off the tee but they were going 270 in the thin and hot air.”
Griffin realizes to make serious hay at The Greenbrier, one has to string four red numbers on consecutive days.
“The scores are low. It’s not like I shot 64 on a real hard golf course,” said Griffin, before heading to the practice range after his round.
“Those are the rounds that are fun. I’m going to have to keep the pedal down. If I had to guess it would be somewhere around 22 under will win.
“My goals are realistic. I just want to get off to a nice solid start. If I have a top-10, or a top-5 or win that’s amazing but … two years ago I made the mistake of putting so much energy into the first couple of weeks and that I didn’t play well. So this time I’m trying to free myself up. If I miss the cut [Friday] or I finish 60th I’ve got 20-some tournaments left.
“That’s kind of where I’m trying to calm myself down to where the whole world is not going to end … and all that does is just frees me up to play well. Because that’s what happened on the [Korn Ferry Tour.] I didn’t need to play well toward the end. I wanted to, but I didn’t need to. Trying to trick my mind into having that mind-set and that usually frees me to play pretty well.”