On the PGA Tour only the trips to Hilton Head Resort and Kapalua for the season opening Tournament of Champions rival the Greenbrier Classic for the relaxed holiday-maker type atmosphere. Generally it's not just golf on the mind for the current stop on the calendar and perhaps that would go some way to explaining the names of some recent contenders and winners around the Old White TPC.
Some bigger names have struggled in this event, including Phil Mickelson who has missed three from three cuts. Mickelson cited poor distance control at altitude (Greenbrier is played a few thousand feet above sea level) as the reason he can't quite get to grips with the Old White TPC and I'm going to factor this, as well as the course / event experience theme in this week. Yes there have been a handful of winners here on their first outing (all four in fact) but I think those with tournament form behind them will have a significant advantage this week.
Indeed players with well documented anxiety and temperament issues have performed well here: Charlie Beljan at 251.00 nearly went all the way in 2012, Jeff Overton was pipped at the post in 2010 and Steven Bowditch, who has course ties through his wife and was runner up last year, is available at 101.00. Pat Perez is 67.00 and averages 14th position in three starts and this may be an angle worth delving deeper into!
The Course - Old White TPC
A par of just 70 measuring a yardage now just under 7,300yds, Old White TPC played differently in its inaugural year. Stuart Appleby blitzed the track on the Sunday in 2010, posting the magical 59 number to knock the aforementioned Overton off pole position. Since then tree-lined fairways have been lengthened and tightened, with greens reconstructed. In saying that, the course is still conducive to low scoring, especially for the longer hitters. Premium will be on putting though as defending champion Jonas Blixt showed when well down the driving distance and accuracy stats in 2013. As alluded to earlier, good distance control at altitude may be an advantage and a look towards the Reno leaderboards may be worth it.
Three from the pack
Straight on to the Reno link here and this is what pointed me in the direction of big Gary Woodland. Woodland is having a very solid season off the back of plenty of work with Butch Harmon. Showing progressive form of 57-52-46 "Woody" is a Reno-Tahoe Open winner at altitude and owns a 4th place here at Greenbrier back in 2011. Woodland has carded a handful of top 20s in 2014 and is ready to push on and win again at 41.00 or 9.00 the top five finish.
Patrick Reed doesn't really fall under any themes except one of being a top quality player who once again got himself into a great position in a top quality field at Congressional. Of course he has the ability to shoot the low numbers required at Greenbrier. Reed was the 54 hole leader and back in form after a new recent addition to his family. He capitulated down the stretch on Sunday which is the reason he's a relatively bigger price than the market leaders at 36.00 or 8.00 the place.
Andres Romero at 81.00 or 17.00 posted 66-65 over the weekend at Old White TPC in 2011 to finish just one shot shy and the Argentine birdie machine was the clubhouse leader for a time at the Quicken Loans National last week. Romero finished 41st at Greenbrier in 2013 and has plenty of experience here. Congressional wouldn't necessarily be a course I'd expect Andres to do well on as he can be wild with the driver but Greenbrier is more up his street. Romero can take it very low when his driving is on.
I mentioned Stuart Appleby earlier in the preview and the Aussie is simmering at the moment and worth backing at 101.00 or 19.00 the place. Course specialist Scott Stallings is my strongest bet in this department though and he's priced at 67.00 or 14.00 the top five. Stallings found himself in with a chance - albeit slight - after 54 holes at the Quicken loans and owns course form of 1-56-23 at Greenbrier with the win coming in 2011. The American can show up out of the blue as he did to take down Torrey Pines earlier in the year, and being a big family orientated man, maybe it's the aforementioned holiday type atmosphere he enjoys here.
Bet on the Greenbrier Classic now!