The Greenbrier Classic
The Old White TPC
White Sulphur Springs, WV
The Old White TPC
Par: (34-36) 70
Greens: Bentgrass; 7,000 square feet
Rough: Kentucky bluegrass at 3.5"
Water Hazards: 10
Course Architects: C.B. MacDonald (1914); PGA TOUR Design (2010; 2011)
Purse: $6.7 million
Winner’s Share: $1.206 million
FedExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Angel Cabrera fired 64-64 to defeat George McNeill by two shots.
Dates: July 2-5
Notes: 156 players; stroke play; low 70 and ties play the weekend
Notes II: The top four players already not qualified for The Open Championship will gain entry. The tiebreaker, if one is needed, will be the highest OWGR ranking.
Patrick Reed, Jimmy Walker (twice), Bill Haas, Brooks Koepka, Jason Day, Brandt Snedeker, James Hahn, Padraig Harrington, Alex Cejka, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth (three times), Matt Every, J.B. Holmes, Jim Furyk, Justin Rose, Rory McIlroy, Rickie Fowler, Chris Kirk, Steven Bowditch, David Lingmerth, Fabian Gomez and Bubba Watson are the first 24 winners of calendar 2015. Hahn (No. 297), Harrington (No. 297), Cejka (No. 285), Every (No. 96), Bowditch (No. 137), Lingmerth (No. 212) and Gomez, No. 283, are the only players outside the top 70 OWGR to win this year.
After 28 wins in 45 events last season the USA has won with Snedeker, Koepka, Haas, Walker TWICE, Reed, Hahn and Johnson, Spieth THRICE, Every, Holmes, Furyk, Fowler, Kirk and Watson in 2015.
Cejka, Harrington, Jason Day, Rose, McIlroy, Bowditch, Lingmerth and Gomez make up the rest of foreign legion who have won in calendar 2015. They join Sang-moon Bae (Korea) and Nick Taylor (Canada) from the 2014 as the international winners.
After 13 first-time winners in 2013 there were only 10 last year. Through 33 events in 2015, Hahn, Koepka, Martin, Streb, Taylor, Cejka and Lingmerth and Gomez have broken their maidens.
The only multiple winners this season on TOUR are Watson, Walker, McIlroy and Spieth. Nice fourball!
Country Roads, Take Me Home
Billionaire Jim Justice has put golf in the state of West Virginia back on the map as the owner of The Greenbrier Resort puts on his sixth TOUR event this week. The Greenbrier will host plenty of TOUR families this week so maybe it's not a wonder why older dudes with grown kids (Angel Cabrera, Stuart Appleby), kid-less and married (Scott Stallings) or unmarried (Ted Potter, Jr., Jonas Blixt) do so well here! They'll be concerts and plenty activities to go along with plenty of birdies this week.
The Old White TPC goes out in 34 but comes home with two par fives and 36. With only two par fives, par four scoring, as it does every time on a par 70 track, will be very important. Scoring on this course is usually not terribly difficult for two reasons. The greens are quite large, over 7,000 sq feet and they roll at a VERY manageable 10.5' on the Stimpmeter which is anything but fast. Giving these guys a big target to aim at and speeds which they can ram home putts equals low numbers. Remember, this is a resort course so that means avoid bogeys and make birdies.
The course was almost too easy in 2010 as Stuart Appleby blitzed it in just 258 shots and won the tournament with 59 on Sunday. After a redesign to bring back the original routing and bunkering, the pendulum swung back the opposite direction. After adding almost 300 yards, no players in 2011 put all four rounds in the 60s after 46 did in 2010. This course wasn't going to continue as a push-over. In 2012 there were 14 players who hit the 60s in all four rounds, seven in 2013 and eight last year. The course has ranked in the middle of the pack on TOUR for the last three years.
At almost 7,300 yards it sounds long but in reality it's not, especially with huge fairways and greens. Resort courses and TPC courses, for the most part, mean birdies and more birdies because of the green speeds. Yes, the greens are large and undulating and the rough can be a bother but 63 of the 75 who completed the weekend were under par. Without Cabrera (16-under) and McNeill (14-under), the second flight was all to play for as 13 guys were bunched up by two shots.
Those who play well here will rise in the rankings and so will the ones with current form on TOUR. I look for guys who can get hot and make birdies as this course passed out 61, 63 and a pair of 64s last year. ON SUNDAY. As I wrote in the wrap-up column last year, there are so many guys who get low out here, don't be surprised AGAIN this week to see a leader board with some names we're not accustomed to seeing. Those players know as well that the field isn't as strong as others so the confidence is already sky high. It's hardly a winner's list that induces fear.
Facts and Figures
2014: Angel Caberra -16
2013: Jonas Blixt -13
2012: Ted Potter, Jr., -16*
2011: Scott Stallings -10
2010: Stuart Appleby -22
Italics: First-time winner
Bold: not playing this week
It's strange that Stallings and Blixt have won twice but we rarely hear about them when they don't.
Potter, Jr., and Stallings won as rookies.
Angel Cabrera has won two majors.
Each winner has come from off the pace on Sunday.
Each winner won on their maiden voyage to The Old White TPC.
That's some winner's list as we've checked a box in EVERY SINGLE CATEGORY.
The only trend this week is there is no trend besides first-timers. #wideopen
Appleby's 258 (-22) is the tournament record and 59 the course record both set in 2010.
Bizarre Stat(s)of the Week:
Every winner has won in their maiden voyage.
Jeff Overton has the tournament record for birdies, 25, set in 2010. He lost to Appleby's 59. Blixt made 21 in 2013 and 20 was T1 last year. BIRDIES BIRDIES BIRDIES.
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
Sam Snead made his final hole-in-one here in 1995. No, he wasn't in the tournament but you get the point...
In order, these are the players that I believe project the best this week (Yahoo! group in parentheses).
Webb Simpson (A): Think Bubba at the Travelers minus the victory. Simpson has led after three rounds and was the 54-hole leader by three shots in 2012. He hasn't closed the deal yet but has 65 or lower in his last four visits including closing with 63 last year. Similar to Watson last week, Simpson's recent form goes out the window here as he 32-under-par over the last four editions at Greenbrier with finishes of T9-T7-T41-3rd. He's the man to beat this week because he makes birdies for fun. If his putter gets hot, he could run away and hide with the amount of GIR he hits.
Bubba Watson (A): The "new" resident has made The Greenbrier his summer home and will look to add the winner's trophy to his new mantle. Watson has played here twice before and never fired a round worse than 69; conversely, he's never fired anything better than 67 but after his solid performance last week, I'm on board. The Old White TPC's generous fairways will put Watson in play even more this week so that will free him up to fire away. He only made three bogeys last week.
Bill Haas (A): Even though the greens here are well above normal size, Haas has proven through the years that ball-striking still counts on this layout. He's posted two top 10s in four tries and lost in a playoff to Scott Stallings in 2011. Only two of his 16 rounds are above par while 11 are in the 60s. He MC last time at the U.S. Open but had a nice T4 at THE PLAYERS and T18 at Memorial before that.
Kevin Kisner (B): He's played the weekend in his last seven events and five of those resulted in T12 or better including TWO playoff losses. Gamers were worried when he WD from Memphis the week before Chambers Bay with a sore back. He and Duane Bock's calves traversed Chambers Bay and finished T12. Course history goes out the window as his form has been completely legit. With his improving ball-striking and tight short game, he should be in the mix in the weekend again this week.
Patrick Reed (C): When he hits fairways he usually doesn't have much club left in his hand. The problem is usually hitting fairways! Since that won't be the case this week, theoretically, Reed will have plenty of scoring opps with his flat stick to rack up birdies. He's 32nd in strokes-gained: tee-to-green, 25th in strokes gained putting and 12th in birdie average.
George McNeill (B): He closed here last year with 61 as he learned his sister passed away before the round. It included a hole-in-one. I don't care what or who you pray to or believe in, but that's some achievement. He finished second after racking up T17 the year before. His steady play this season would have put him in this list regardless. This may be Watson's second home but it's McNeill's spiritual home. His only MC in his last 10 this season was at Chambers Bay; his worst finish in the six before that was T29.
J.B. Holmes (A): He shot 60 in the second round here in 2010. He was three off Simpson's lead (-11) in 2012 before he also shot a million on Sunday. He returned last year to put all four rounds in the 60s, one of only eight golfers to do so, and finished T23. The big hitter is a very solid putter and has no problem bombing away for birdies. His 2015 has been excellent (win, two seconds, T9) and playing in West Virginia is as close to a "home game" that he'll get this season.
Chris Stroud (B): I'm still trying to figure out how I WHIFFED completely on Stroud last week. I'm not making that mistake again as the Texan has two top 10s in four tries including T4 last year. He's fresh off a top 10 at a course he excels at, TPC River Highlands and heads to another course he excels at, The Old White TPC.
Cameron Tringale (B): With bookend T4s in the last four years, I can't throw out Tringale this week. After finishing second at Zurich, another course he plays historically well, he's MC in of two of his last five and has nothing better than T43 to show for his effort. He had a similar run before his T5 at SHO as well. The bottom line is Tringale is cashing checks at courses he's done well on in the past. He was T4 last year with four bogeys and TWO doubles. He also bogeyed his final hole to miss out on T3.
Paul Casey (B): For the second time this year he was eliminated in a playoff last week at the Travelers but what I took away was he was in the fight on a course he's never played before. That applies again this week as this will be his first visit to West Virginia for golf. His accuracy off the tee might not be as valuable this week but if his iron play is crisp, he'll enjoy putting greens that roll just 10.5' on the Stimp again this week. Casey's reaction after skinning his bunker shot last week told me all I need to know about him. He said something to the fact that he saw his little boy in the stands sucking on his fingers and that put it all perspective. Beware the golfer with sound game, body AND mind.
Kevin Na (C): He didn't make anything last week on the greens and his short game was off. He only MC by a shot. I doubt that's going to be the order this week. After eight events with seven top 20 or better finishes a correction was in order. He was T46 the week before at Chambers Bay so if he doesn't WD before play, I'll gladly take a guy who will benefit from larger fairways and larger greens with both irons and his putter.
Steven Bowditch (C): His wife's family has a vacation home on the property so the Aussie has played a few rounds here. That experience showed when he was T2 in 2013 with all four rounds in the 60s. He also has T18 and MDF in four tries. His last four on TOUR are WIN-T52-T22 and T15 last week. He has two rounds over par in this stretch, 80 in the final round at Memorial and 71 in round two in Memphis.
Jon Curran (C): There he is! We've found him! Every winner here has been a first-timer at the event so if Casey doesn't pip him, Curran should be lifting the trophy on Saturday. Pro gamers won't be surprised if this is the case. He's hit the top 10 in two his last three events and has been putting lights-out. He was eight-under on the par fours last week but his closing 69 left him wanting more as the field passed him by. Fire up the hot hand.
Robert Streb (C): He snapped out of the doldrums with a T4-T19-T18 run to Chambers Bay where he finished a very respectable T42. He hits it a mile, finds plenty of greens and can putt. He has six top 10s and a win on the season.
Brendon Todd (C): With top 20s in two of his last three, I'll put last year's T4 in the final spot in the chalk. Sandwiched between those top 20s was a million shots at Chambers Bay but resort golf is more up Todd's alley proven by his win last year at AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas. He's a superb putter and should have an advantage on large greens this week. Only made three bogeys total in his final three rounds here last year after opening with 71.
Hot Form/Long Shots/Off-the-Radar/Course Horses
Hot plays, trendy fliers, tough fits, you name it, I got it.
Will Wilcox: He burst onto the scene in the final group with Jimmy Walker at Sony in 2014 but finished T8. He reappeared at The Greenbrier last summer to post his best career finish, T4, in his 12th TOUR event. With limited status this year he's made seven cuts in 10 tries and five have hit the top 25. He's MC twice in his last four, once at three-under and once at one-under. He has one round over 73 in 2015. #ForReal
Graham DeLaet: I've fallen into this trap more times than I would like to count with the Canadian. He should probably be ranked higher since he's never posted a round above 70 in three tries at The Greenbrier but conversely, he's never had a top 10 either. He was very solid last week at the Travelers but could never recover from a double bogey on his first hole in the final round but finished fourth. That was his first positive number in strokes-gained: putting in five events. Gulp.
Keegan Bradley: Speaking of traps to fall into, after opening with 64 last week I was upset at not having him in my Yahoo! lineup. After finishing 69-71-70, I remembered why he wasn't. In a field this thin I have no problem trotting him back out there. He's made three weekends from three tries here and was T4 last year.
Rory Sabbatini: He comes and goes like the breeze but when he plays the weekend (11 times) he's usually in a decent position (nine top 25s). In fact, in 2015 he's MC seven times; his eight finishes are ALL T30 or better including his last three T10-T30-T24. He hasn't played since Memorial so he should be rested and ready to go. Just like this season, Sabbo is all-or-nothing with MC-T9-MC in three tries at The Old White TPC.
Colt Knost: He's been an automatic in this column for over a month because he's played his way in. He's played the weekend in six of his last seven and has been sharp in all three phases of his game during this streak. His only struggle in this recent solid form was MC at Memorial where the hot and spicy greens got him. That's not going to be the case this week on the calm Bentgrass that he's used to playing.
Jason Bohn: Sometimes we dismiss players because they MC the previous week but I always try and look to see why they didn't make the weekend. Bohn entered last week off four in a row with two top 10s and opened with 66. It was his Friday 73 that saw him MC by one and that one round doesn't equal "bad" golf. His T11 here last year won't chase me off either.
Cameron Percy: With T10-T18-T54 in his last three and only one round over par, the Aussie should get a look in deeper formats. He's played the par fours eight-under during this streak and the par threes three-under.
Pat Perez: He ran out of gas at Memorial and closed 75-76 but that was his 13th weekend from 14 starts in 2015. His T57 that week broke a six-week run of T26 or better. He has two top 10s in four starts and all four weekends with a tee time at The Old White TPC. Of those 14 rounds (one MDF), 11 are in the 60s.
Charlie Beljan: I had to stick him down here because too many guys in my league sadly can read. BUT. They have very short attention spans so I'm hoping I've bored them to death and they've logged out. Beljan shot 62 here in 2012 and finished T3 and was T11 last year. He MC last week but shot 70-69 after T18 at Chambers Bay. Shush.
Scott Pinckney: More #UtahMafia please. Closed 67-68 for his fifth payday in his last six. His last three are T2-MC-T25. And he's a virgin at The Greenbrier.
Angel Cabrera: He has just two top 25s in 2015 but if he's going to get a third it would not surprise me if it was this week. He's played here once. You know what happened as he closed 64-64.
David Lingmerth: After winning at Memorial he took two weeks off before returning with T64 last week. He's played The Old White TPC twice in the last two years. His first round was 71 but his next seven were all in the 60s resulting in T9 and T16.
Kevin Chappell: He's posted T17-T41-T16 in his last three. Every Thursday-Friday is lower than Saturday-Sunday Yahoo! fans. He's also made five cuts in a row.
Justin Thomas/Daniel Berger: Thomas played here as an amateur in 2012 so he can't win but this is Berger's first time so he can. Berger is riding the every-other-week-MC bus at the moment but has 10 top 25s this year. Thomas is on the struggle bus at the minute with T55-MC-MC but you'll notice only one of those rounds is above 70. #Redherring
Daniel Summerhays: MC-5th-T9-MC in his last four here. High risk and higher reward.
The Man with His Own Section
Louis Oosthuizen: My guess is that he's going to turn all of his efforts to get ready mentally and physically for his defence at St. Andrews. This is his last stop so I'm not sure how focused he's going to be teeing it up in his third week in a row on TOUR. Pass.
Rookie/Up-and-Comer of the Week Last Week
Once called the “Jordan Spieth” of the week, I had to retire that name after his last two seasons on TOUR. Now, we’ll keep a broad view of newer names/faces that gamers should pay attention to as the season moves on. Some former examples in this column include Hideki Matsuyama, Patrick Reed and Chesson Hadley.
Shriners: Finau, T7
McGladrey: Robert Streb, WIN
CIMB: Cameron Smith, T5
HTOC: Taylor played his sixth event as a pro. He’s won 1/6 of the events he’s entered. That’s worth keeping an eye on for the foreseeable future.
Sony: Blair and Thomas finished T6 in their Sony debuts.
Humana: SJ Park (T2) is new to the TOUR but is hardly a rookie; Oh, look: Thomas in the top 10 again (T7).
WMPO: Koepka won so he graduates from this column like Reed, Spieth and Matsuyama before him. Justin Thomas is now the current mayor. Daniel Berger was T10, Thomas T17 and Finau returned with another top 25.
Farmers: Blair and Ortiz were T11 and Finau and Berger were T24. Not bad on a big, bad course!
Pebble Beach: Another top 10 for Berger and Curran as they had low rookie honors at T10. Will Wilcox was T18.
Northern Trust: Barber checked in at T12 and all that took was firing a tournament-low 65 on Sunday. No shame in Ortiz’s final round 75 from the final group as he played two very tough SoCal courses, Torrey South and Riviera T11 and T20. Noted.
Honda: Berger lost in a playoff. He’s played 10 TOUR events.
PRO: Young Argentine Emiliano Grillo missed a three-footer for his first win on TOUR. Curran hit another top 10, his third this season. Grillo has three TOUR starts; Curran has 17.
Valspar: There’s that pesky Thomas back in the top 10 AGAIN!
API: Berger just missed out on another top 10 with T13 and Blair and Ortiz racked up another top 25 each on T21.
VTO: Welcome Scott Pinckney to the proceedings as his T8 was quite stout. Ortiz hit the top 20 AGAIN with T15.
SHO: Berger, T25. He just keeps on keepin’ on.
Masters: Now you see why Spieth (WINNER) and Matsuyama (5th) were retired from the column? Koepka has already won as well. So has Henley. And Reed. Nobody this week fits.
RBC Heritage: Thomas, T11.
Zurich: Berger, T6. Thomas T12.
WGC-Match Play: N/A but Tommy Fleetwood is only 24 on the European Tour.
THE PLAYERS: Thomas fell from T5 to T24 closing with 75. #learningexperience
Wells Fargo: Web.com’s Patrick Rodgers inched closer to STM with his T2. He needs just nine FedEx Cup points to gain unlimited exemptions for the rest of the 2015 season.
Colonial: Finau returned to the scene as he backed up a good week at Quail with another at Colonial. T19.
ATT&TBNC: Pinckney, T2, best finish ever on TOUR; Berger and Finau T10.
Memorial: Finau, T8. He won't be in this column for long, I feel...
U.S. Open: Smith made eagle on the final hole to finish T4. That gave him a trip to Augusta next year and STM for the rest of this season. Finau continues his fantastic run with T14.
Travelers: Curran pegs another top 10 with T10.That's No. 4 in 2015 and No. 5 overall. Not bad for less than 25 starts on TOUR in his first year!
Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon
Playing the Tips will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon and will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game, DFS plus the European Tour! Oh, and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 4ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.
And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at 12 ET. We will be breaking down the field at The Greenbrier Classic and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter. Don’t forget to follow Rob (http://twitter.com/RobBoltonGolf) and Glass (http://twitter.com/MikeGlasscott) on Twitter.