PGA Tour Preview: The Greenbrier

The Greenbrier Preview

The PGA TOUR heads to West Virginia for the eight running of this week’s event.

Previously known as the Greenbrier Classic, it has changed names this year, now known as A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier.

The course remains the same so let’s sort through the 156-man field to see what golfers might leap into contention this week.

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The Course

Nestled in the Allegheny Mountains, The Old White TPC will play the role of host venue this week.

Originally a C.B. Macdonald design, this classical layout was completely wiped away during the 2016 floods. Keith Foster and crew scrambled to restore the course before the 2017 edition. A remarkable feat considering the damage that was done in the flooding.

Playing just under 7,300 yards, this par-70 layout is a nice relief from some of the more grueling venues the TOUR has visited recently. The course plays a little shorter than the 7,287 yards on the scorecard since the course sits at around 1,925 feet above sea level.

With five of the par 4s playing at 415 yards or less, golfers will get plenty of wedges in hand this week.

When it comes to putting scores on the board, eagles don’t typically fly off the shelves here but it falls inside the top-10 easiest courses on TOUR when it comes to avoiding double bogeys or worse.

There are just four holes where water is in play and even on those holes the water isn’t found that often. With plenty of wedges in hand and not many hazards to deal with, elite approach play is not at a premium like most weeks. Add in the altitude concerns on approach and moisture typically on the ground, and this leads to a much different leaderboard compared to most weeks on TOUR.

Looking at leaderboards over the past five years here, great drivers and great putters typically rise to the top here.

For grass types, we have bentgrass this week. Last year the turf will still very young as they had to rebuild all the greens after the flood but the grass should be a bit more mature this time around. New greens are usually bouncy but last year the course was hit with rain and was played with preferred lies before the cut, so that was a bit of an odd combination.

The Weather

Thursday: Mostly sunny with a high near 88 degrees. Calm winds. 50% chance of precipitation.

Friday: Partly sunny with a high near 86 degrees. Winds at 5-to-10 MPH with gusts potentially reaching 20 MPH in the afternoon. 70% chance of precipitation.

Weekend: More rain/storms in the forecast with upper 70s or low 80s.

As we often see this time of year, there is plenty of precipitation in the forecast. This might be a week where the weather draw hits one wave harder than another but given all the variables in the forecast, it’s best we revisit this on Wednesday. It’s a little early to make the call but a rain delay or two is looking very likely.

Golfers to Watch

Bubba Watson

Coming off a win at the Travelers, this big-hitting lefty now heads to the Greenbrier for a home game. Watson has just two top 20s (no top 10s) in four tries here but his form is what really makes him attractive. He’s been inside the top 25 at the midpoint during 8 of his last 9 starts. He’s even playing well on courses that typically don’t suit his eye (except the U.S. Open). Should jump right back into contention this week.

Russell Henley

When I look at performance on correlated courses, it’s Russell Henley who leaps off the page.  He crushes it at the GC of Houston and TPC River Highlands but also has steady results at the three other venues I highlighted. On top of course fit, Henley was also the first-round co-leader at the U.S. Open and entered the final round in second place at the Travelers Championship, his last two starts. Great form and great course fit makes for a great play this week.

Jimmy Walker

Needed to hole out a bunker shot last Friday just to squeeze through the cut. Was in stellar form before that, so I will give him a one-week pass. Now he heads to a course where he’s posted three top 5s in six tries. “A lot of the golf courses for me are tee shots. I like a lot of the tee shots out here.” A good week to hop back on the Texan.

Scott Piercy

Hasn’t posted a top 30 in five tries since his team win at the Zurich. However, he was T2 at the midpoint of the U.S. Open recently, so his game isn’t that far off. Prepping for his sixth Greenbrier appearance, he has finished of T29, T16, and T12 to his name. Lots of wedges and slight elevation both play into his hands. As a Las Vegas resident, Piercy is used to practicing in altitude at or above 2,000 feet. You might say the same about any other Las Vegas or Scottsdale residents.

Kevin Chappell

Hasn’t found a top 25 since March so this pick is tough to trot out with confidence. However, Chappell clearly likes the layout here at The Old White TPC. He’s been T17 or better thru 36 holes in each of his last four trips here. Only two of those were converted into top 20s by week’s end but the upside is definitely there.  If you need an off-the-radar sleeper with big upside, the out-of-form Chappell could be a nice option.

Webb Simpson

Has led or co-lead at the midpoint of 11 different events. Two of them have come here at The Old White TPC (2011, 2012).  One of them came at TPC Summerlin, a correlated course with similar altitude. Simpson also has a runner-up finish at TPC Scottsdale. Not everyone can make on-the-fly yardage adjustments and trust them but it would appear that’s a strength for Webber. His most recent starts have yielded WIN-MC-T10-MC…. If that trend continues then another top 10 should be in store, right? No, that’s not my actual logic. I just think Simpson is a great fit here and arrives with plenty of good results in his recent timeline.

Tony Finau

Checks in as the favorite this week which is a bit odd if you ask me. On a quick glance, he’s posted top 15s in two of his last three starts. However, he’s been outside the top 20 after 14 of his last 17 rounds played. He’s not exactly knocking the winner’s door down recently. On the bright side, he’s finished T13 and T7 in two trips to the Greenbrier. I think he’s a reasonable play but this is also a course that won’t give him many looks at eagle and his form is deceptively worse than it looks. He might be a bit overvalued in the betting markets.

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