Immelman heads Greenbrier leaderboard

It might not be all the way yet, but 2008 Masters champion Trevor Immelman served notice on Thursday that he was back as he fired a six-under-par 64 to take the first round lead of the Greenbrier Classic on the US PGA Tour.

His round of seven birdies and a bogey gave him a one-stroke lead over a group of five players in the $6-million tournament, while tournament favourite Phil Mickelson struggled all day with his putting, finally finishing on even-par 70 in a share of 42nd.

Also on level par was Retief Goosen, while the other South African in the field, Garth Mulroy, was down the field in a tie for 133rd on four-over-par.

“I hope I’m close,” Immelman said. “You never know with this game. It’s been a frustrating couple years not being able to swing the way I want to swing and practice the way I want to practice.”

About 18 months after he won the 2008 Masters, he had surgery to repair the tendinitis in his left wrist. He couldn’t putt for five months and it was another month before he was able to even start hitting balls.

Immelman eventually returned to action in February, 2010 but he is still looking for his first top-10 finish. In fact, his last one came at the 2008 TourChampionship – 48 starts ago.

He’s been working hard, and there have been signs that recovery is taking hold.

But he has had to repair more than just his game. He has also had to regain his confidence during his lengthy recovery.

“Number one is the pain and discomfort,” Immelman said. “So that’s the roughest part, because no matter what profession you’re in, whether it be indoors or outdoors, pain is not great.

“And then from an athlete’s standpoint, because of the pain, number one, before the surgery I was compensating. All you do at that point is get into bad habits and start playing worse.

“So it’s just frustration because I know that I got better golf in me. I’ve proved it to myself. So when you’re out there shooting mediocre scores and struggling to make cuts and stuff like that, mentally it’s not ideal.”

It’s all looking better at the moment.

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