WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS -- It was a typical Bubba Watson day, chock full of moments of brilliance and moments of near-disaster.
In the end, a double-bogey on the par-3, eighth hole (his 17th) after an errant tee shot cost the two-time Masters champion a great round and he settled for a workmanlike 2-under 68.
But mixed in was a scary moment as well for the lefty. On No. 11, the second hole of the day for Watson who started on the 10th hole, he jammed his club into the lip of a bunker and was visibly in pain for several minutes, shaking his hand and wrist.
"I was just trying to chip out of the bunker," Watson said. "I couldn't get to the green, so I just jammed it. My backhand just jammed off the lip of the bunker and I have some other [injury] things going on, so I already took two Advil before I teed off.
"As it got hotter, it stretched out and I was trying to work on it a little bit, trying to stretch it out. It took a couple holes, basically like a stinger, it went out of after a couple of holes. Once you make a birdie, it's good."
Indeed, Watson answered the injury and corresponding bogey with a birdie on the next hole, the 12th, and it served as a microcosm for his day. Watson already has a PGA-Tour-leading three wins this season and said on Tuesday that a win at The Greenbrier, where he owns a home, would be extra special.
But to move up the leaderboard, Watson will have to avoid playing "scared golf," a term he used to describe his round on Thursday.
"On every tee shot, doesn't matter if it was iron off the tee or driver off the tee, I just played scared because I wanted the fairway so bad," Watson said. "I never had anything free up. Now after the tee shot, then I freed it up. A lot of wedges, a lot of short irons in here that I could make some numbers, but it was just awful. Then that wave on [No. 8] on my 17th, I just double crossed it because I sat there for so long and already not feeling confident in my tee shots. It was just a bad swing and it put me in a really bad position to make a quick double."
STRONG STRETCH FOR SIMPSON
Webb Simpson celebrated a solid four-hole stretch of golf during Thursday's opening round.
A birdie on No. 9 gave Simpson momentum as he made the turn and he followed with two birdies and an eagle over the first three holes of the back to gain momentum before a weather delay.
Simpson's chip-in on No. 12 from just off the green gave him a share of the lead at 7-under with Joaquin Niemann, who finished with an opening-round 63.
The horn sounded due to lightning within the vicinity at 3:51 p.m.
Storms were tracking into the Greenbrier Valley area during the mid-afternoon rounds, but the system had avoided the area for much of the day prior to the delay.
The delay lasted a total of 1 hour, 54 minutes and play resumed at 5:45 p.m.
Simpson flirts with 59. Bubba nearly owes a signed glove to a fellow player. Some lucky breaks ... and some unlucky breaks.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 6, 2018
It's all in The Takeaway! pic.twitter.com/7f7TxqS4Gn
CHIP-IN FOR SILVERMAN
Ben Silverman was able to salvage a 2-under par on Thursday, thanks to a fortunate chip on No. 17.
After Silverman's 3-wood left him a third shot from 50 yards out, Silverman hit a chip a little thin, but got a fortuitous bounce and the chip tracked into the hole for an eagle.
The chip helped him get back into the red numbers after a pair of bogeys on Nos. 11 and 14 had taken him back to even-par.
This article is written by Ryan Pritt and Grant Traylor from The Charleston Gazette, W.Va. and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.
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