The Greenbrier Classic
The Old White TPC
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
The Old White TPC
Yards: 7,287 as per the scorecard
Par: 70 (34-36)
Greens: Bentgrass; 7,000 square feet on average
Rough: Kentucky bluegrass at 3”
Water Hazards: 10
Course Architects: C.B. McDonald (1914); PGA TOUR Design (2010-2011)
Winner’s Share: $1,134,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Ted Potter, Jr. defeated Troy Kelly on the third playoff hole to win for the first time in his career on TOUR.
Dates: July 4-7
Notes: This is the fourth edition of The Greenbrier Classic. Course history buffs should remember that this track was overhauled in 2010-2011 after the player mauled it in 2010.
There have been 27 tournaments this season. The Stars and Stripes have won 22 of them but Australian Adam Scott and Englishman Justin Rose have the two biggest trophies, the Masters and U.S. Open, respectively.
There have also been 10 first-time winners this season. There have also been just two multiple winners, Tiger Woods (four) and Matt Kuchar (WGC-Match Play; Memorial). There were only nine first-time winners in 2012.
Past champions in the field include:
2010 Stuart Appleby
2011 Scott Stallings
2012 Ted Potter, Jr.
The winners on TOUR have been Johnson, D (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods FOUR times (37), Mickelson (42), Snedeker (32), Merrick (30) Kuchar TWICE (34),Thompson, M (27) Brown (29), Streelman (34), Points (36), Laird (30), Scott (32), G-Mac (33), Horschel (26), Ernst (22), Bae (26), Weekley (39) English (23), Rose (32), Duke (44) and now Haas (31). The young folks (30 and younger) now have 10 victories; the 30-somethings have racked up 14 victories, and the “old folks” (40 and up) have three wins on the year. Angel Cabrera, 43, finished T13 for the “oldies but goodies” this week but that didn’t cover the T5 for recently-turned 40-year old Stewart Cink.
Rank and File
There are 11 of the OWGR top 50 in the field this week as of Monday lunch.
For the second week in a row the TOUR stops at one of the newer tournaments on the schedule. The Greenbrier Classic was established in 2010 and like the AT&T National last week it has had a quirky early life. In 2010, Stuart Appleby blistered the course to the tune of 22-under-par en route to the inaugural victory. Oh, and he closed with 59 to beat Jeff Overton. Yes. 59. On Sunday. On TOUR. The Old White Course was ranked 42nd-easiest of the 52 courses used on TOUR that year. The Greenbrier had PGA TOUR Design come in after the 2010 tournament to shrink the fairways and restore the greens to their original design architecture. The course, renamed The Old White Course TPC, played the 13th-toughest in 2011 as Scott Stallings defeated Bob Estes and Bill Haas in a playoff. After two tournaments, the winning scores were 22-under and 10-under. Year three brought an interesting correction as Ted Potter, Jr. and Troy Kelly posted 16-under to reach a playoff that Potter, Jr. was victorious. In three editions we’ve seen low scores, high scores and the exact median of the first two years. We have also seen two, first-time winners as Stallings and Potter, Jr. broke their maidens in West Virginia.
Each year at The Greenbrier Classic we have seen that it takes a minimum of 18 birdies to win. Stuart Appleby bagged 21 on his way to victory in 2010; Scott Stallings needed 19 to post 10-under in 2011 and last year Ted Potter, Jr. racked up 18 to Troy Kelly’s 20. Jeff Overton made 25 birdies here in 2010 to set the tournament record.
C.B. McDonald’s design gives the players a chance to attack the greens if they place their tee ball in position A. Wayward tee shots will bring in bunkers, creeks and trees and those balls off the fairway will be harder to control on the severely-contoured greens. The contours of the greens keep the Stimpmeter at an attackable 10.5’ and this will favor aggressive putters. The more greens they hit, the more birdie chances they will have to make and with only two par-fives, I’ll look, again, for guys who score well on par-fours this week. The Old White TPC provides an interesting finishing duo of holes as the par-five No. 17 is over 600 yards and the final hole is a 175-yard par three. Quirk-a-licious! Since this is only the fourth edition of this event and only the third under these conditions, I’m relying more on current form than course history.
Best 10, Plus One
Webb Simpson: His worst finish when finding the weekend in 2013 has been T32 and those were at his home course, Quail Hollow, and the U.S. Open so to say Simpson is playing well is an understatement. His last time out on a par 70, TPC River Highlands, he bookended rounds of 65 to finish T5 at the Travelers Championship. He hits plenty of fairways and ever more greens and his putting is in the top 50. He has no problems making birdies or finding his way around The Old White TPC as he’s finished T7 and T9 in the last two seasons.
Bubba Watson: He posted on Twitter that he and the family have been at The Greenbrier for a few days so he should have seen the course a few times by now! He excels at TPC River Highlands so this track should not be too problematic. Watson is fourth on TOUR in GIR and leads the TOUR in par-four birdie or better percentage. His putting has improved this year and don’t worry about scrambling this week. He’s coming off a solo fourth at the Travelers so he should contend this week as long as he and Ted Scott can get along for 72 holes!
Billy Horschel: The last course that Horschel played where he needed a ton of birdies was TPC Louisiana. Anyone remember off the top of your heads what happened that week? Yep, he won for the first time on TOUR. His last two tournaments, AT&T National and the U.S. Open aren’t exactly grip-it-and-rip-it layouts so I believe he’ll be geeked to get out and ram in birdies all weekend. He’s third in birdie or better conversion and all his numbers are off the charts, including seven top 10s (T1 on TOUR in 2013).
Bill Haas: Last week’s champ is looking to continue his hot stretch of golf. After watching him light up Congressional last weekend to the tune of 15 birdies, I can’t wait to see what he brings this week. He was eight-under heading into Sunday here last year before a quiet 72 knocked him back to T33. He’s T4, MC (U.S. Open) and won in his last three starts so his form is without question.
Graham DeLaet: His worst finish in his last seven events was T26 at THE PLAYERS and DeLaet enjoys golf in West Virginia. In eight rounds here in two tries, he’s been under par in six of those, including a 64 in round three last year in finishing T12. The No. 1 ball-striker on TOUR is also fourth in birdies made in 2013. He’s done everything but win this season and he could easily be the third-consecutive first-time winner at this event.
Phil Mickelson: Sure, he’s missed the cut in consecutive attempts in West Virginia but this is the first year he arrives with finishes of T3, MC, T2 and T2 in his last four starts leading into the event. He’s first on TOUR in birdie or better percentage and first in scoring average. He’s also 11th in total putting. There’s no way he plays poorly THREE times in a row here, RIGHT? RIGHT? Hello?
Ryan Palmer: A double-bogey on his final hole last Sunday at Congressional turned a 67 into a 69 but I’ll focus on his five birdies on instead. He’s long, hits plenty of GIR and is 24th in total putting so he should be in a happy place this week. He’s missed one cut in eight starts since April began.
Scott Stallings: The 2011 champion will have great vibes as he looks to add his second green jacket here in 2013. Stallings had a natural correction over his last two events as he finished T53 at the U.S. Open and MC last week at Congressional. He’s a player that’s pleasantly surprised on some of the tougher courses this season but he was known as a resort course bully before that. Welcome back to the resort!
Roberto Castro: After coming off of his best finish on TOUR, second, last week at AT&T, Castro couldn’t be happier in how the schedule falls in 2013. After finishing T29 last year at AT&T he backed that up with rounds of 63 and 64 to finish T7 here last year and I see no reason for him not to be able to replicate that form this year. The second year player has made six of his last seven cuts and will hit most fairways and most greens this week. If his putter remains hot as well, he’ll contend on Sunday. He’s another solid young player that is showing up more and more as he gets comfortable on TOUR.
Jimmy Walker: He tore it up here when it was easy in 2010 (T4) and found a way to fire 62 in 2011 after they toughened it up so I’m not too concerned about his MC last year. He’s 14th in scoring average and third par-four birdie or better percentage. He’ll bomb-and-gouge with the best of them this week. He’s also first in par-four performance. His funk should be over this week.
Scott Piercy: Don’t look at his result at the U.S. Open, but rather his results leading into it if you want a read on Piercy this week. The second Texas swing broke him out of a spring slump as he finished T5 at HPBNC, T26 at CPIC and was T16 at a tough Memorial. He’s 21st on TOUR in birdie average and in 12 rounds here, he has exactly ONE score over 68.