Ahhh golf. A great, classic sport played at resorts where one can sleep in his or her own cottage, dine in a four-star restaurant, get a massage, go bowling, shoot some rifles, ride a horse, do some laps in an olympic-sized pool, and then hit the elegant casino floor, all on the same property. Well that may not always be the case, and the sport has truly evolved over the years to incorporate the masses and shed the stigma of being a “privileged, upper-class sport…” but this week the PGA Tour kind of throws all that progress out the window when they take the players to the Greenbrier, one of the oldest and most luxurious resorts in the land. And although the Greenbrier itself has a lot of history, being a site where 26 presidents have stayed during their presidencies, and the resort is one of only two sites to have hosted both the Ryder Cup and the Solheim Cup (the women’s equivalent), the Greenbrier Classic itself is only in its fifth year. Played on the Old White TPC, the Greenbrier Classic was home to Jonas Blixt’s first marquee win on Tour (last year), as well as hoisting first-time winners Ted Potter Jr. and Scott Stallings into the limelight the two previous years. Much like last week, there will be four spots for the Open Championship in two weeks, going to the four players (not yet exempt) who finish highest within the top 12, including ties.
A little added incentive is all these players need, but there are several exempted players in the field who will be trying just as hard to be the last man standing on Sunday. Notable players in the field include Masters champion Bubba Watson, Steve Stricker, Keegan Bradley, and Webb Simpson. While this tournament has never seemed to favor the big names in its five year history, its hard to bet against the guys that find a way to keep themselves exempt in the majors and among the top in the OWGR. Especially those like Stricker, and Bradley, as well as Bill Haas and Gary Woodland, who are all still seeking their first win of the season.
The scores have been all over the place in the first four tournaments, but with an average winning score of 265 out of a 280 par, this is a course that favors a golfer that can go low. You’d like to think that would favor Bubba Watson, who is making only his second career start in this tournament (-5, T30 last year), or Jimmy Walker, who still sits atop the FedEx Cup standings, right above Bubba. And Walker has about as much history on this course as anyone. Aside from one missed cut, Walker has two T4s, and a T2 finish last year. Brendon Todd is a name we haven’t heard much of overall, but with a win, 4 top 10s, and a respectable T17 U.S. Open finish in his last 5 starts, he is playing as well as anyone in the world right now. Finally, Kevin Na tees it up for the first time since Pinehurst, where he finished 3-over par in a T12, after losing in a playoff at the Memorial Tournament.
Suffice it to say, there are a lot of different ways you can go with your predictions this week. All we can do is hope that fact leads to a fun, entertaining tournament to watch – amid all of the World Cup hype and, oh yeah, the holiday weekend (USA! USA! USA!). Stay tuned for a difficult week of predictions to follow.