WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS -— Greenbrier Classic host Jim Justice got his man. The larger-than-life entrepeneur/high school basketball coach secured a commitment from Phil Mickelson some time ago. Mickelson and Tiger Woods (who played in the Greenbrier Classic last year when he missed the cut) were the two headliners the 6-foot-7 Justice most wanted for his fourth-year PGA tournament.
[cleeng_content id="297622997" description="Read it now!" price="0.49" t="article"]Woods declined to play. He just missed playing this past weekend in his own AT&T Tournament at the Congressional Country Club in Bethesda. A wrist injury has kept Woods from playing for some time and he hopes to be ready for next week’s British Open, one of the tour’s four majors.
Justice has seen his share of excitement in his first three Greenbrier Classics. In 2010, Stuart Appleby shot a closing round 59 to win by one stroke. In 2011, Scott Stallings won in a three-way sudden death playoff. And last year Ted Potter Jr. won in a playoff against Troy Kelly.
The tournament is played on the Old White TPS course, a par 70 layout that measures 7,274 yards and features a par-three closing hole with an elevated tee shot over a large pond.
Fairways are more snug and the second cut of rough is higher than when Appleby torched the course in winning with a 22-under-par score in 2010.
A number of holes have been lengthened since Appleby stormed through the valley with his pulsating 59. Stallings won with a 10-under score and Potter, Jr. came in with a 16-under reading for his 72 holes of golf in the lap of luxury.
The 18th hole is just 162 yards in length but the other three par three’s measure a demanding 205, 234 and 217 yards and have meant the tournament wasn’t won on the short holes.
The just-completed AT&T tournament should have brought a smile to Justice’s face that would be almost as wide as he is.
Bill Haas posted his first win of the year and has now won at least one PGA event for four straight years. Joining Haas in the Greenbrier Classic after high-up finishes in the AT&T are second-place Roberto Castro, third-place D.H. Lee, sixth-place Jordan Spieth (19 years old), seventh-place Charlie Wi and eighth-place Graham DaLaet.
Also in the field will be crowd favorite Kenny Perry, who just won the PGA’s Senior Open championship this past Sunday.
Justice has a number of players who figure prominantly in the important FedEx Cup standings.
Mickelson is fourth in the FedEx points standings.
Haas moved to seventh with the 500 points he got for winning the AT&T. Boo Weekley, a recent winner on the tour and former Ryder Cup player, is currently ninth.
Webb Simpson is 14th and D.A. Points is 15th on the FedEx list. Crowd favorite Charles Howell III is in 18th place. Ken Duke, a tournament winner just two ago, is in 21st place. DaLaet is in 23rd place, Bubba Watson is in 39th and Castro moved to 41st with his second-place finish behind Haas at the AT&T.
Justice fervantly sought the services of the charismatic Bubba Watson, a Masters champion in the recent past. The Greenbrier’s Pro Emeritus, Tom Watson, will return to play this year as he did in 2012. Justice was exerting his powers of persuasion on Tom Watson and got his man.
Some of the other long-time or more familiar tournament names coming to the 2013 Greenbrier Classic are John Daly, Davis Love III, Sean O’Hair, Louis Oosthuisen, Carl Petersson, Mike Weir (former Masters winner), K.J. Choi, Ben Curtis, Ricky Barnes and Vijah Singh.
In league with the golf tournament are two concerts that will feature Kenny Chesney on Thursday, July 4, and Aerosmith on Saturday, July 6. The concerts take place at the state fair grounds in Lewisburg and come as part of the golf tournament badge. No concert tickets are sold separately.
If there are no last-minute cancellations, it will be a full field of 156 players chasing after shares of the $6 million purse. The winner gets over $1 million.
The course has been readied for some of the world’s best players. There are only a pair of par five’s, both on the back nine, and they measure 568 yards and 616 yards.
Justice has been kidding Mickelson about missing the cut in both his Greenbrier Classic appearances. If Justice had his druthers he’d see Saturday’s leaderboard showing Mickelson, Bubba Watson, Tom Watson, Daly, Perry, Haas, Simpson, Weekley, and teenager Spieth all in the top 10.
If Mickelson misses another cut, Justice just might throw the left-hander’s clubs in the pond in front of the 18th hole.