The Greenbrier Classic
The Old White TPC
White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
The Old White TPC
Par: 70 (34-36)
Greens: Bentgrass; 7,000 square feet on average.
Rough: 3” Kentucky bluegrass
Water Hazards: 10
Course Architect: C.B. MacDonald (1914); Lester George (2001-2006); C.B. MacDonald and Sons (2010-2011)
Winner’s Share: $1,170,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Jonas Blixt held off four players to win by two shots.
Dates: July 3-6
Notes: The top four players inside the top 12 who are not currently eligible for The Open Championship will punch their ticket to The Open at Hoylake. Last week Shawn Stefani, Charley Hoffman, Ben Martin and Brendan Steele qualified.
Recent History Lessons
After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won 23 of 33 events in 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson (TWO), Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley, Matt Every, Matt Kuchar, J.B. Holmes, Brendon Todd, Ben Crane and Kevin Streelman have won for the USA.
Adam Scott, Matt Jones, Steven Bowditch, John Senden and Jason Day, all Australians, have cashed five victories. Hideki Matsuyama and Seung-yul Noh are the Asian representatives and Justin Rose has joined Martin Kaymer as the only European winners.
S.Y. Noh, Steven Bowditch, Matt Every, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler, Chesson Hadley Matt Jones, Brendon Todd and Hideki Matsuyama are the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year and we’ve had nine in 33 events in 2014.
Young Guns Versus Prime Time Versus Old Guys
Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every (30), Steven Bowditch (30) and Matt Jones (33), all first-timers, flew the flag before Watson picked up victory No. 2 of the year at Augusta. Since the first major, Matt Kuchar (37), J.B. Holmes (32), Adam Scott (33), Ben Crane (38), Kevin Streelman (35) and Justin Rose, 33, add to the prime-timers trophy case. All of them have had previous TOUR victories.
Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) Seung-Yul Noh (22), Martin Kaymer TWICE (29), Brendon Todd (28) and Hideki Matsuyama (22) are the twenty-somethings who have made large noise this year.
Australian John Senden, 42, won at Tampa Bay for the only W for the “Old Guys” this season. Stewart Cink, 41, continued his steady cut-making ways and horse-for-course form at CCC with T21, the best of the “Old Guys” last week.
Pay Attention: It’s FREE!
In 2010, there were 46 players who put all four rounds in the 60s.
In 2011, there were 0 players who put all four rounds in the 60s.
In 2012, there were 14 players who put all four rounds in the 60s.
Last year, just seven players achieved this.
In the last two seasons the field has played this tournament under par on average.
In 2012, it ranked the 27th hardest (of 49 courses used) on TOUR.
In 2013, it ranked 25th hardest (of 43 courses used) on TOUR.
Remember, after Stuart Appleby tore the place to shreds in 2010, the course was “fixed up” to make it play tougher.
There’s a reason two of the four winners have been first-timers.
Plenty of birdies and nobody really has an advantage because it’s only been in the rotation, in this form, since 2011.
This Will Win You a Bar Bet
Inside the Ropes
C.B. MacDonald created this course for the movers and shakers of government and society in years just before World War I so there’s plenty of history around these parts. His original design included generous fairways and severely contoured greens. Sounds like modern day Jack Nicklaus design to me except the greens, due to the severity of the undulations, must be kept at a rational, playable 10.5’ on the Stimpmeter so rounds don’t take seven hours.
As gamers have noticed over the four years, there are hardly any trends that have developed so form will be my greatest guide this week.
I can’t look back in 2010 when 46 guys put ALL FOUR ROUNDS in the 60s and compare that to last year where only seven players accomplished that feat.
Jeff Overton has the tournament record with 25 birdies. He didn’t win.
Jonas Blixt needed 21 of them to win last year as he fired 13-under-par.
Stuart Appleby won a title here firing 59 on Sunday. He was 22-under.
I’ve learned over the last four years that this is a tournament where most chalk goes to die. Webb Simpson had a four-shot lead two years ago and evaporated on Sunday. Woods missed the cut here in 2012. Mickelson missed his last two here. Bubba Watson’s best finish is T30. Steve Stricker’s is T22.
The lack of consistency in the setup and the relative newness of the redesign make this a difficult week for gamers. The pros will go out in 34 without any par fives before coming home in 36 with both par fives in play. Their rounds will end on the par-three 18th. Everything about this event is different as families’ join the players on this resort where there are a billion things to do. It almost seems like the players are distracted by the surroundings as opposed to the happenings on the golf course. Watch out for the unmarried without children this week!
With only two par fives in play, birdies will be required on those holes and par-four scoring will be in play. As I stated above, plenty of birdies and the avoidance of bogeys is never a bad combo either. With greens stretching upwards of 7,000 square feet I’d keep my eye on above average putters as well!
Call to Order
Here they are, ranked for your pleasure.
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Brendon Todd (C): His form is excellent. His game is excellent. He has three top-five finishes in his last five outings which includes his win at Dallas. Hi other two were T8 and T17 so he’s hardly scraping by! He’s fifth in scrambling and total putting and 20th in the all-around. He played here in 2012 and put all four rounds at 70 or better.
Jimmy Walker (C): He won a Nationwide Tour event here in the early 2000s and regardless of how this course has been tinkered with, Walker loves it here. Last year he was 12-under heading into Sunday and his 71 saw him finish T2. His other three finishes on this track on TOUR are MC, T and T4. He rolls in with three top 10s in his last four starts including T9 at Pinehurst No. 2. #Legit
Brendan Steele (C): After back-to-back T5s, Steele deserves an even closer look this week. Remember, if he makes a par instead of hitting it in the water on 18 last week, he could have been in a playoff as well. He’s currently 11th in the all-around category and is 22nd in par four performances. I like that he was T5 on an easy TPC River Highlands and backed that up with T5 on a very difficult Congressional.
Steve Stricker (B): In a tournament where putting is needed I can’t leave out Stricker no matter how much he’s not been tested this year. His worst round here in four is 69. His three best finishes on TOUR have been the last three he’s played. Throw in his T1 at the CVS Caremark Charity Classic last Tuesday and I’m set.
Webb Simpson (B): He was the 54-hole leader here after winning the 2012 U.S. Open before a final round 73 knocked him to T7. He opened here last year with 64 but didn’t play any of his final three rounds under par. Feels like unfinished business and a great place to break out in 2014. All he needs is a decent week with the putter.
Bill Haas (B): With a pair of top 10s in three starts at The Old White, Haas has proven that he can handle the tweaks that were made. When you hit as many fairways and greens as he does he SHOULD contend each week. He’ll be happy to see resort-speed greens after dry and crust Congressional last week.
Marc Leishman (A): He’s currently on a fantastic run of form as he’s hit the top 11 in his three of his last six starts, including his last two at Travelers and Quicken Loans. He found plenty of fairways and even more greens at Congressional so he’s dialed in.
Chris Kirk (B): He’s made 21 cuts on the bounce but that didn’t do Jason Day or Tiger Woods any good last week so he’ll need to keep sharp around and on the greens. Kirk is currently 18th in scrambling, 38th in strokes gained-putting and makes plenty of birdies. His last finish outside the top 30 was seven events ago at SHO. His career year by $1 million has been a huge plus for season-long investors and he’s not done yet.
Ben Martin: (C): A wonderfully kept secret no more as the former Clemson Tiger and former TOUR player is making the most of his second go-around on the big circuit. His T3 last week got him into The Open Championship and cemented his card for next season. Now, it’s time to relax and win a tournament! His old college buddy, Alex Boyd, is on the bag and they’ve made seven straight cuts on the bounce, five of those T21 or better. His last two outings have been T13 and T3 so he’s quite temperate.
Patrick Reed (A): Too many folks will focus on the blown Sunday lead of two shots. Not me. I’m focusing on Reed finding multiple rounds in the 60s for the first time since his victory at Doral. That’s a span of 10 tournaments and a new daughter! Congressional was no push over and Reed handled it quite well minus the final round. He’ll be a consideration for OAD as this is a style of course he should absolutely overpower and make a ton of birdies as he’s an excellent putter.
Kevin Na (C): Speaking of excellent putters, Na has quietly returned from a neck injury that saw him miss all of last summer. After P2 loss to Matsuyama at Memorial after a closing round 64, Na stayed hot with T12 at Pinehurst. It doesn’t hurt that he’s second in scrambling and 18th in total putting. No wonder why he’s 13th in adjusted scoring and 11th in the FedExCup race. He was T7 (-11) in 2012.
Bubba Watson (A): In a vacuum, Watson should dismantle this course with his length and ball-striking. In reality, I can argue that he might need to be faded this week. Nobody can keep up the pace that he put up to start 2014 but he’s leveled off in his last two starts. He’s never been a big fan of U.S. Open set ups and MC there; he also stung gamers with T31 at TPC River Highlands. The argument AGAINST Watson this week is with a birdie-fest, it brings too many guys into the picture. Just look at the examples I listed above.
Chris Stroud (C): He destroys par threes and fours because his putter and short game is excellent. He’s made four cuts on the bounce and has a T14 and T18 in two of his last three so his game is rounding into shape. He currently sits 11th in total putting.
Brendon de Jonge (B): My theory on the ATM is that he only plays well in North Carolina and Virginia. Since this is WEST Virginia, I’ll make an exception. He’s put up a low round EVERY year this tournament has been on, regardless of course set up. The reason gamers like de Jonge this week is no matter what’s going on in his game he continues to make birdies.
David Hearn (B): It was this time last summer where he was coming off four weekends in a row to MC at Greenbrier. The following week he finished second in a playoff to Jordan Spieth at JDC. He’s coming off almost a month off and should be raring to go. His accuracy and short game are his strengths and this leads to plenty of birdie chances and bogey avoidances.
Gary Woodland: He’ll bomb and gouge his way around West Virginia but he’ll need to avoid the big number if he’s going to contend. He was seven-under heading into Sunday last year before 77 knocked him way back. Sounds like last week. Sounds like a recording! He kills par four scoring and has made 16 cuts on the bounce.
Hudson Swafford: After T24 and T11 in his last two starts, the former Georgia ‘Dawg deserves a look. He didn’t find out that he was in the field last week until Wednesday but that didn’t seem to bother him. He’s learned a couple of lessons now when lurking on the weekend as he shot 77 at Honda and 74 last week. He’s 16th in total driving and fifth in ball-striking and he’s hot.
Nick Watney: I’m expecting another solid week this week especially on a track with less daunting greens. Gamers know that Watney has the talent and that he can pop up and steal one at any time. I like him more on a course where his putter won’t be as exposed and this is similar to TPC River Highlands where he finished T11.
Tim Wilkinson: He defied my theory last week that he wouldn’t hold up on over 7, 500 yards. He finished T24 because his putter is that solid. Make that five weekends in a row for the lefty and three of those have been top 25s.
Stuart Appleby: He hasn’t broken par in three events since winning with 59 four years ago. The grizzled Aussie veteran has been in the picture in his last three tournaments but just hasn’t been able to put all four rounds together. I prefer him on a resort course.
Charles Howell III: He once played here and did not make a bogey for 72 holes. He’s also played 19 of 22 weekends this season because he dominates par fours and fives. Now, about those par threes…
Scott Langley: I’m not ignoring a guy who opened 64-65 his last time out.
Ricky Barnes: He’s played the weekend in eight of his last nine since WD from the VTO in late March. His best finish of that streak came last weekend at Congressional when he held on for T11 after a rough weekend. Barnes is a grinder and I’ll take a guy on that run of form as opposed to a guy who should play well but hasn’t.
Billy Hurley III: He’s played the weekend in eight of his last nine since WD from the VTO in late March. His best finish of that streak came last weekend at Congressional when he held on for T8 as he fired one-under on the weekend.
Cameron Tringale: Can’t he just throw gamers a bone already? His last four finishes are T63, T37, T32 and T30. #Trending
Long Shots/Sleepers/Course Horses
Steven Bowditch: He was T18 in 2011 and T2 last year. He’s played a few rounds around here and is coming off T21 last week for his first top 25 in nine starts since his first career win at VTO.
Ted Potter, Jr.: He backed up his win in 2012 with T6 last year. He’s been cut in four of his last five but ground out a T13 at FESJC as his only result. He’s is THE default in TOAD.
Daniel Summerhays: He has ONE round OVER 68 here in from his last eight as he finished fifth in 2012 and T9 last year after 73 on Saturday set him back. He’s made six cuts in a row overall as well. Shhhhhhhhhhh.
Richard H. Lee. His T11 last week was his best finish since early March. He can really putt it and fired a pair of 68s on Congressional last week.
Chad Campbell: The crusty ol’ ball-striker is coming off a top 10 in Hartford his last time out. He’ll appreciate the slower greens as well as he’ll hit most of them.
Jeff Maggert: See above but crustier.
Shawn Stefani: Some might argue that he should be higher up the list. Well, go on then! Move him on up! Last time he banged a top 10 he didn’t back it up so well, T53, so I’m giving him some breathing room. Remember, he had a twenty footer to WIN for the first time on TOUR. I’m excited to see how he uses that episode moving forward this week.
Tyrone Van Aswegen: Rob Bolton’s favorite! If needing a flier this week I’d take one on the South African who has been T16, MC, T26 and T21 in his last four.
Martin Flores: He opened with 64 in 2012 and put up a second round 65 last year. Getting closer.
Pat Perez: He’s opened with 71 the last two years. His other six rounds have been 18-under. He’ll be happy to see The Greenbrier as he didn’t finish better than T44 in May or June.
Davis Love III: No Courses for Old Men except maybe this one. No rounds above 70 and T17 and T9 in his last two here.
Every week in this column I break somebody out of a funk. Last week, it finally cooled as T24 was the best I could do.
Keegan Bradley: He remarked on Twitter that he’s confused on why the TOUR is playing 523-yard-par-four holes. I thought he’d LOVE to see more of those. He hits it a mile and that’s one of his advantages. I’m confused on where he is and what he’s doing. We need time away.
Bubba Watson: He’s now a “member” at The Greenbrier so he’ll be quite comfortable around these parts. He’s not who I need in a putting contest. Are you confused that he’s in the Call to Order AND Fade? So am I. He’ll be a last-minute something.
Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week
The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.
CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!
McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek
OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.
HTOC: Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.
Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.
FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Web.com Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.
WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN
Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.
WGC-CC: Patrick Reed is 23. He’s now won three times in eight months on TOUR.
Puerto Rico Open: Rookie Chesson Hadley, 26, took home his first title on the big boy circuit.
API: The young Japanese lad Ishikawa racked up another top 10 (T8) this week. Yep, he’s still just 22.
Valero: He’ll be remembered for all of the wrong reasons but Andrew Loupe, 25, finished T4 in only his eighth start on TOUR. #slowgolfclap
Shell Houston: Russell Henley’s T7 shows him heating up before heading back for another crack at Augusta.
Masters: That Jordan Spieth guy was T2.
RBC Heritage: John Huh, T3, is a TOUR winner but is only 23 years old. Remember?
Zurich: The winner was 22-year old Seung-Yul Noh. He fits this column to a T.
Wells Fargo: Defending champ Derek Ernst was T30. He’ll turn 24 on May 15.
THE PLAYERS: That pesky Spieth was tied for the 54-hole lead and finished T4.
HPBNC: T16 was the best the youth could muster with John Huh, who turns 24 on Wednesday.
Memorial: Matsuyama must be a quick study. He was the 54-hole leader at Colonial yet finished T10. He took it deep this week with his first victory on TOUR, in a playoff, nonetheless. #impressive
FESJC: Brooks Koepka continues to rack up non-Member points and his T19 this week added to that.
U.S. Open: For the second consecutive week Koepka has the spotlight and deservedly so after T4. With Matsuyama, Spieth and Koepka, the future looks quite bright for the TOUR.
Quicken Loans: Spieth and Reed both were T11. John Huh was T19.
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 and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 6ET 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 NOON p.m. 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.