Johnson Wagner watches his tee shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the Greenbrier Classic on Thursday.
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — The mustache is gone, and for one round at least, Johnson Wagner also didn’t have to deal with playing bad golf.
Wagner and Tommy Gainey each shot an 8-under 62 on Thursday to share a two-stroke lead after the first round of the Greenbrier Classic.
Webb Simpson and Jin Park were close behind after 64s. Daniel Summerhays, Tag Ridings, Steven Bowditch and 50-year-old Neal Lancaster were another shot back.
Players were able to lift, clean and place their balls Thursday after rain fell prior to the start of play.
Gainey and Wagner had bogey-free rounds in the morning. Wagner was 8 under after 12 holes but finished with six straight pars. Both could use a good week — Gainey is 125th in season tour winnings, while Wagner ranks 148th.
Wagner doesn’t have a top-10 finish this year and the three-time tour champion hasn’t won since the 2012 Sony Open. In his last seven tournaments, he’s missed six cuts and withdrew from the Memorial.
“The last couple of months have been really hard,” Wagner said. “I just haven’t been much fun to be around. It’s just been tough. Nobody likes to be bad at what they do, especially golfers.”
A product of Virginia Tech — which is less than two hours from the Old White TPC course — Wagner chipped in for eagle on the par-5 12th, then finished with six straight pars.
“I’ve been disappointed with 76s and 79s the last month, so I’m very happy to be disappointed with a 62 today,” said Wagner, who shaved his well-talked-about mustache in a nod to his wife for their seventh wedding anniversary on Monday.
“I didn’t get her a gift. So I thought maybe surprising her with a clean lip would suffice,” he said.
The mustache will return at some point.
“I love irritating my wife too much to let it go for too long,” he said.
Gainey’s first PGA Tour victory came last fall at the McGladrey Classic, but like Wagner he has missed more cuts than he’s made this year.
Nicknamed “Two Gloves” for wearing gloves on both hands, Gainey had a serious talk with his wife, two other family members and his agent in the past month to try to figure out how to turn around his bad fortunes. Gainey said he had stopped having fun on the course.
“I had gotten away from that and I’m trying to get back into that now,” he said. “I felt like I knew what was going on. I was putting too much pressure on myself.”
Not Thursday, when he missed just one fairway with a new driver in his bag.
“Hitting out of the rough is no fun,” Gainey said. “Trust me, I’ve been doing it for the past three years.”
Wagner admitted he had thoughts of shooting 59. Gainey knows what it’s like to flirt with the magic number, which only five players have attained in official PGA Tour events. He shot 60 in the McGladrey Classic’s final round.
At the inaugural Greenbrier Classic in 2010, Stuart Appleby shot 59 in the final round to win at 22 under. With favorable scoring conditions this week, there’s already talk about surpassing that. On Thursday, the top eight scores produced just nine total bogeys.
“I believe you can get to at least 20 (under) this week,” Gainey said. “It depends on how much rain we get and how much softer this course gets.”
Lancaster’s lone PGA Tour win came at the 1994 Byron Nelson Classic. He’s won $83,000 in five Champions Tour events this year. With an early second-round tee time, he knew where he was heading after Thursday’s round.
“To bed. Fifty-year-old guys don’t want to play golf at 7:20 in the morning,” he said.
Among those at 2 under were Bill Haas, coming off a win at Congressional last week, and Ryan Palmer, whose caddie is New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton.
Phil Mickelson, playing for the first time since finishing second to Justin Rose at the U.S. Open, struggled to a 74. His tee shot on the par-5 17th landed in Howard’s Creek and he three-putted for triple bogey. He also had five bogeys and four birdies.
A similar round on Friday would mean his third missed cut of the year and the third consecutive time he’s failed to advance to weekend play at the Greenbrier Classic.
“I don’t know what it is,” Mickelson said. “I felt like I was playing really well heading in here. I don’t play this course well. I don’t know what the reasoning is. It’s just given me problems the last few years.”MORE IN Sports Wire
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