Next up on the PGA Tour we visit White Sulphur Springs and the Greenbrier resort in West Virginia. This stop is one of three on the schedule where golf doesn't necessarily take precedence for all competitors.There have been tweets aplenty from PGA pros about their families loving the venue, with all sorts of entertainment available at the holiday resort. This may or may not be a part of the reason as to why we've seen some strange leaderboards and strange trends here down the years.
The relaxed atmosphere may bring out the best in some highly strung players and guys with issues like Charlie Beljan - 101.0 - and Steven Bowditch have featured strongly at Greenbrier. Highly strung Bubba Watson - 11.00 - joined Greenbrier's team of golf professionals in 2013 and he even has a property in the area now as he likes it so much. Bubba leads the market off the back of victory at the Travelers Championship.
Another reason for the strange leaderboards may be the altitude. At almost 2,000 feet above sea level, big names are on record saying they've struggled with the distance on approaches here at Greenbrier. Tiger Woods - 67.00 - tees it up this week and he said after a previous visit: "the ball was just going forever. I know we're at altitude but I just couldn't get the ball pin high no matter what I did, and subsequently I made some bogeys", while Phil Mickelson had this to say: " I've posed over a lot of iron shots and they end up not just a yard or two from where I figure but 10 or 12 yards off"
The course - Old White TPC
Although the Old White TPC has been made tougher since Stuart Appleby's 59 on the Sunday in the inaugural edition won him the tournament, scoring has still been low, with the course there to be attacked. The track has been lengthened, fairways tightened and greens renovated but birdies will still be the brief. The aforementioned distance control at altitude will be the premium on a track measuring 7,287 yards to a par of 70. Tee shots are forgiving and the Old White TPC is there to be taken advantage of by the bigger hitters. Coming in from the rough has not hampered here in the past and we've seen numerous rounds in the low sixties.
Three from the pack
Webb Simpson - 26.00 or 6.00 - was also added to the Greenbrier's team of golf pros in 2013: "To be an ambassador for the Greenbrier and all that it represents is an honor beyond words - it is the highlight of our tournament year and my family and I look forward to spending time at the Greenbrier for many years to come" and Webb stands out like a sore thumb here. Simpson is an ever present at Greenbrier and he's recorded three top 10s in the 5 starts, and seems to be challenging here every year. Simpson closed with a 63 in the 2014 renewal to post a T3 and opened with a 64 in 2013, eventually posting a T41 for his worst finish by far in the last 4 years at Greenbrier. In 2012 Simpson was clear at the top after three rounds but had an uncharacteristic final day collapse. This was on the back of a 2011 appearance where he looked to have the run of the greens and seemed to bounce back from every mistake; he just missed out in the end on a bunched leaderboard.
Chris Stroud - 61.00 or 13.00 - propelled himself onto the radar last week at the Travelers Championship and he made sure he was seen, wearing luminous trousers on the Sunday en route to a top 10! If not for those trousers I may have missed a man who owns a form line here at Greenbrier of 4-mc-18-9. Not a lot really stands out for Chris in terms of stats but his two best finishes this year have come in birdie fests in Louisiana and at TPC River Highlands last week where he hit a GIR clip of 72.22%. Stroud ranks 21st in approaches from 125-150 yards.
Steven Bowditch - 81.00 or 17.00 - has been in contention here in the past and narrowly missed out in 2013, posting a T2. Bowditch recorded a top 20 in 2011, the first of 4 starts here for the Aussie. His wife's family are members at Greenbrier and he visits regularly and knows the course well. As alluded to earlier Bowditch has suffered from depression and again, the relaxed holiday atmosphere may help him here. He seems to do well in familiar surroundings and his two wins have both come in Texas - the state he now resides. Steven recently won the Byron Nelson Championship at the venue where he got married.
A number of long odds guys guys are worth noting this week but Jon Curran - 101.0 or 21.00 - is on my one to watch list this year and this is the type of event he was targeted for. With sneaky form including two top 10s in his last three, Curran also had a little confidence booster during the week, winning the CVS Charity classic alongside good friend Keegan Bradley. Curran is a short hitter so he should benefit from the extra carry at altitude in the Greenbrier. He won at a not too dissimilar venue in Brazil on the Webcom tour last year where his putter was on fire. Curran sits 19th in both scrambling and proximity to the hole.