Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's A Military Tribute At The Greenbrier Tips 2019

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Welcome to the 2019/2020 PGA Tour season! Just 2 weeks after crowning Rory McIlroy as the 2018/19 FedEx Cup Champion, the 2019/20 PGA Tour kicks-off in West Virginia at the uniquely entitled A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. Despite its establishment as recently as 2013, the wraparound season format still takes some getting used to and 2020 will yet again see some considerable changes. The 2020 Olympics adds complexity to the foreshortened season format we saw climax for the first time a fortnight ago. We also have another fresh look this autumn with the PGA Tour visiting Japan for the first time in October with a stellar field assembling for the ZOZO Championship, followed by a new alternate event running alongside the WGC-HSBC Champions – the Bermuda Championship.

2020 still sees the Players Championship in March, with all 4 Major Championships contained within a 14-week window between 9th April and the 19th July. The Rocket Mortgage Classic moves from June to May to generate a spot for the Olympic Men’s Golf Competition in late July.  2020 sees the 3 tournament FedEx Cup PlayOff format include the Northern Trust played for the first time at TPC Boston, the host course to the defunct Deutsche Bank Championship, with further returns to TPC Harding Park (PGA Championship), St Georges G&CC (RBC Canadian Open), Winged Foot (U.S. Open), Royal St Georges (Open Championship) and Olympia Fields (BMW Championship).

So the 2019/20 season starts with a visit to Old White TPC for the A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier. Played on a classical style, Par 70 in West Virginia, this tournament used to be played in the height of summer, but as per the Houston Open has now been moved to the wrap-around portion of the year. Bryson DeChambeau, Viktor Hovland, Marc Leishman and Bubba Watson feature, with a swath of Korn Ferry Tour graduates making their PGA Tour debuts.

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Course Guide: The spa town of White Sulphur Springs – and West Virginia in general – suffered tremendous flooding on the 23rd June 2016, resulting in 23 deaths. Old White TPC, along with 3 other courses at the resort, was flooded with water covering the course up to 6 feet in depth. Naturally the 2016 Greenbrier Classic was cancelled and a whole new renovation project kicked-off to get the course ready for 2017. Architect Keith Foster led the work which saw the whole course re-seeded. Re-surfacing, re-contouring and re-seeding of all 18 green complexes took place and every bunker on the course was re-built. In essence though the course hasn’t changed much. It’s very classical in nature and tree-lined with a 34/36 front/back split – indeed the front 9 features no par-5s and the closing hole is a 179 yard par-3.

The Old White TPC, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia: Designer: MacDonald/Raynor 1914, with PGA Tour Design renovation 2010/11, Keith Foster renovation 2016; Course Type: Classical, Mid-Score; Par: 70; Length: 7,292 yards; Water Hazards: 9; Fairways: Bentgrass with Poa Annua; Rough: Kentucky Bluegrass 3″; Greens: 6,500 sq.ft average featuring V-8 Bentgrass; Stimpmeter: 10.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 69.78 (-0.22), Difficulty Rank 27 of 49 courses. 2013: 69.87 (-0.13), Difficulty Rank 25 of 43 courses. 2014: 70.10 (+0.10), Rank 26 of 48 courses. 2015: 69.17 (-0.83), Rank 35 of 52 courses. 2017: 69.86 (-0.14), Rank 27 of 50 courses. 2018: 69.31 (-0.69), Rank 34 of 51 courses.

Old White TPC Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Old White TPC and how they compare to recent courses that we’ve seen on Tour:

  • Old White TPC: 250 yards from the tee: 36 yards wide; 275:34; 300:34; 325:35; 350:32.
  • East Lake: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:26; 300:25; 325:24; 350:22.
  • Medinah No 3: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:29; 350:27.
  • Liberty National: 250 yards from tee: 36 yards wide; 275:33; 300:30 325:31; 350:26.
  • Sedgefield: 250 yards from tee: 29 yards wide; 275:28; 300:26 325:23; 350:22.
  • TPC Southwind: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:29; 300:28; 325:31; 350:25.
  • Montreux G&CC: 250 yards from the tee: 37 yards wide; 275:41; 300:42; 325:40; 350:38.

Course Overview: Keith Foster’s renovation is one of those PGA Tour courses where any type of player can win. Kevin Na and Xander Schauffele are polar opposites, as are Angel Cabrera and Ted Potter Jr, but all have won here at Old White TPC. We wondered how the revised course would play with new green complexes and bunkers, but to all intents and purposes the challenge of this tournament remained the same. Wide fairways here give inaccurate drivers every chance, which at 34 yards wide at 300 yard carry make them far wider than recent Par 70s we have seen at Colonial, TPC Southwind, TPC River Highlands and TPC Potomac. Bentgrass green complexes at an average of 7,000 sq.ft are also large – remember this is a golf course within a popular golf resort – so it’s a little bit of a surprise that Old White very much plays as mid-score winning golf course. It’s certainly no pushover and it ranked as the 15th toughest for Par Breakers last season.

With wide fairways and large green complexes, the main defence of the course is the bunkering and greens themselves. Old White’s sand traps are some of the hardest on the PGA Tour, so bunker avoidance helps massively. The re-laid green surfaces themselves were particularly non-receptive 12 months ago, which is often the case with new greens. A year down the line they should have bedded-in far more, but traditionally the greens here always rank in the bottom 12 for Birdie or Better Conversion. Winning here is not that easy and to put the challenge into context this week, out of the 28 rounds played by the previous seven champions of this tournament, the only winner with a round in the 70s is Scott Stallings in 2011. With relatively difficult greens, traditionally this turns into a putting contest – so those with form with the flat stick tends to be vital here.

Another point to take on board is that the course and surrounding Greenbrier resort is within a National Park in the Appalachian mountain range and the track is 2,000 feet above sea level – this is a great advantage for the shorter hitters who can easily add 15 yards to their driving. Some golfers struggle with the calculations needed in thinner air where the ball travels further.

Winners: 2018: Kevin Na (-18); 2017: Xander Schauffele (-14); 2016: No Tournament; 2015: Danny Lee (-13); 2014: Angel Cabrera (-16); 2013: Jonas Blixt (-13); 2012: Ted Potter Jnr (-16); 2011: Scott Stallings (-10); 2010: Stuart Appleby (-22).

Tournament Stats: We’ve published some key player statistics for this week’s event that are well worth a look. Naturally they’ll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes | Combined Stats.

Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Bryson DeChambeau, Marc Leishman, Sungjae Im, Brendon Todd, Kevin Na, Harry Higgs, Kristoffer Ventura, David Lingmerth, Denny McCarthy and Grayson Murray.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Open Championship / Barbasol Championship and includes PGA Tour, European Tour and Playoff events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Henrik Norlander; 2) David Hearn; 3) Chris Baker; 4) Roberto Castro / Brendan Steele; 6) David Lingmerth; 7) Austin Cook; 8) Alex Cejka; 9) Kramer Hickok; 10) Viktor Hovland; 11) Ryan Armour / Jason Dufner / Tyler Duncan; 14) Cameron Percy; 15) Sepp Straka; 16) Kevin Na / Brendon Todd; 18) Brice Garnett; 19) Scott Brown / Martin Laird.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Matthew NeSmith; 2) Viktor Hovland; 3) Scottie Scheffler; 4) David Hearn; 5) Bo Hoag; 6) Tom Lewis; 7) Jason Dufner; 8) Joseph Bramlett / Jim Herman; 10) Byeong Hun An / D.J. Trahan; 12) Doug Ghim / Jason Kokrak / Anirban Lahiri; 15) Scott Harrington; 16) Chase Seiffert; 17) Marc Leishman / George McNeill; 19) Brian Harman / David Lingmerth / Brendon Todd / Bubba Watson.
  • Top 20 Scrambling: 1) Byeong Hun An; 2) Matt Every; 3) Scottie Scheffler; 4) Jason Kokrak; 5) Bronson Burgoon; 6) Fabian Gomez; 7) Matt Jones / Richy Werenski / Vincent Whaley; 10) Chris Baker / Alex Cejka / Anirban Lahiri / Cameron Tringale; 14) Sungjae Im; 15) Bryson DeChambeau / Brice Garnett; 17) Rob Oppenheim; 18) Bill Haas / Sung Kang; 20) Zac Blair / Tyler Duncan / Scott Piercy.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Lanto Griffin; 2) Ryan Armour; 3) Brandon Hagy; 4) Austin Cook / Zach Johnson; 6) Mark Hubbard; 7) Roger Sloan; 8) Sungjae Im; 9) Roberto Castro / Grayson Murray; 11) Sebastian Cappelen / Viktor Hovland; 13) Nate Lashley / Peter Uihlein; 15) Sepp Straka; 16) Brian Stuard; 17) Bud Cauley / Tyler McCumber; 19) Rod Pampling / Richy Werenski.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 20 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Open Championship / Barbasol Championship, which includes PGA Tour events only. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 20 SG Off The Tee: 1) Jason Kokrak; 2) Josh Teater; 3) Austin Cook; 4) Jason Dufner / Tom Hoge; 6) Keegan Bradley; 7) Cameron Tringale; 8) Martin Laird; 9) Robert Garrigus / Sepp Straka / Boo Weekley; 12) Bryson DeChambeau; 13) Brice Garnett; 14) D.J. Trahan; 15) Sungjae Im; 16) Dominic Bozzelli / Fabian Gomez; 18) Joel Dahmen / J.B. Holmes; 20) Scott Piercy.
  • Top 20 SG Approach: 1) D.J. Trahan; 2) Shawn Stefani; 3) Josh Teater; 4) Brendon Todd; 5) George McNeill; 6) Roberto Castro; 7) Byeong Hun An / Joaquin Niemann; 9) Harold Varner III. 10) Jonathan Byrd; 11) Jason Kokrak; 12) Sungjae Im; 13) Matt Jones; 14) Bronson Burgoon; 15) Zack Sucher; 16) Marc Leishman; 17) Seamus Power; 18) Joel Dahmen; 19) Martin Laird / Bubba Watson.
  • Top 20 SG Around The Green: 1) Branden Grace; 2) Brian Harman; 3) Byeong Hun An; 4) Robert Streb; 5) Richy Werenski; 6) Kevin Na; 7) J.B. Holmes; 8) Billy Hurley III; 9) Whee Kim; 10) Matt Jones; 11) Bryson DeChambeau / Russell Henley / Cameron Smith; 14) Adam Schenk; 15) Denny McCarthy; 16) Tom Hoge; 17) Marc Leishman / Sam Ryder; 19) Bill Haas; 20) Brice Garnett  / Seamus Power.
  • Top 20 SG Tee to Green: 1) Byeong Hun An / Shawn Stefani; 3) D.J. Trahan; 4) Josh Teater; 5) Jason Kokrak; 6) Brian Harman; 7) Tom Hoge; 8) Russell Henley; 9) Sungjae Im; 10) Matt Jones / Harold Varner III; 12) Bryson DeChambeau; 13) George McNeill; 14) Bronson Burgoon; 15) Jason Dufner / Joaquin Niemann; 17) Marc Leishman; 18) Brendon Todd; 19) Joel Dahmen / Sepp Straka.
  • Top 20 SG Putting: 1) Patton Kizzire; 2) Billy Hurley III; 3) Bill Haas; 4) Peter Uihlein; 5) Ryan Armour; 6) Sebastian Munoz; 7) Sungjae Im / Roger Sloan; 9) Alex Cejka; 10) Austin Cook; 11) Cameron Davis / Matt Every; 13) Joaquin Niemann; 14) Johnson Wagner; 15) Jason Kokrak; 16) Marc Leishman; 17) Mackenzie Hughes / Josh Teater; 19) Bud Cauley; 20) Bryson DeChambeau / Andrew Landry / Kevin Na.
  • Top 20 SG Total: 1) Josh Teater; 2) Jason Kokrak; 3) Sungjae Im; 4) Byeong Hun An; 5) Fabian Gomez / Joaquin Niemann; 7) Billy Hurley III; 8) Brian Harman / Sebastian Munoz; 10) D.J. Trahan; 11) Shawn Stefani; 12) Bryson DeChambeau; 13) Russell Henley; 14) Marc Leishman / Richy Werenski; 16) Alex Cejka /  George McNeill; 18) Dominic Bozzelli / Roger Sloan / Sepp Straka.

Winners & Prices: 2018: Na 45/1; 2017: Schauffele 66/1; 2016: No Tournament; 2015: Danny Lee 150/1; 2014: Cabrera 100/1; 2013: Blixt 125/1; 2012: Potter Jnr 500/1; 2011: Stallings 175/1; 2010: Appleby 80/1; Past 5 Renewals Average: 90/1. Average: 155/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2018: Thursday: Partly cloudy. High of 86. Wind S 4-8 mph. 0.07 inches of rain fell overnight Wednesday. Due to inclement weather, round one was suspended from 3:51 p.m. until 5:46 p.m. Friday: Due to the threat of inclement weather, the start to round two was delayed 30 minutes, from 7 a.m. until 7:30 a.m. Mostly cloudy. High of 77. Wind WNW 4-8 mph. Saturday: Mostly sunny. High of 77. Wind E 4-8 mph. Sunday: Sunny. High of 79. Wind ESE 4-8 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 80. Wind WSW 10-15 mph. Friday: Early morning showers moved through the area before clearing and becoming partly cloudy with a high of 80. Wind WNW 10-15 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy with a high of 82. Wind NW 10-15 mph. Sunday: Sunny with a high of 80. Wind light and variable 4-8 mph.
  • 2015: Thursday: Cloudy, with afternoon showers amounting to .2 inches of rain. High of 76. Wind WSW at 5-10 mph. Friday: Steady showers, with periods of heavy rain in the morning followed by clouds in the afternoon. High of 73. Wind variable at 4-8 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy, with intermittent rain and brief periods of sunshine. High of 76. Wind WNW at 5-10 mph. Sunday: Mostly cloudy, with light showers. High of 74. Wind ESE at 5-10 mph.

Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, is here. West Virginia has been very dry in recent times. Less than 100mm of precipitation since the start of July is less than half the rainfall we have seen preceding June renewals here, so I’m expecting fast conditions at least from tee to green. But with temperatures up to 30 degrees Celsius a 50% chance of thunderstorms softening the course and with no significant wind forecast, expect watered greens and therefore low scores.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the last 8 winners here since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2018, Kevin Na (-19). 323 yards (18th), 67.9% fairways (32nd), 73.6% greens in regulation (34th), proximity to hole 31’5″ (40th), 78.9 % scrambling (2nd), 1.60 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2017, Xander Schauffele (-14). 318 yards (15th), 75.0% fairways (14th), 81.9% greens in regulation (1st), proximity to hole 31’10” (18th), 66.7 % scrambling (7th), 1.75 putts per GIR (14th).
  • 2015, Danny Lee (-13). 287 yards (53rd), 76.8% fairways (17th), 72.2% greens in regulation (43rd), proximity to hole 31’1″ (51st), 65.0 % scrambling (47th), 1.63 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2014, Angel Cabrera (-16). 307 yards (11th), 82.1% fairways (4th), 79.2% greens in regulation (1st), proximity to hole 28’5″ (7th), 60.0% scrambling (52nd), 1.65 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2013, Jonas Blixt (-13). 292 yards (48th), 62.5% fairways (60th), 66.7% greens in regulation (48th), proximity to hole 34’10” (62nd), 79.2% scrambling (3rd), 1.60 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2012, Ted Potter Jnr. (-16). 305 yards (36th), 80.4% fairways (3rd), 72.2% greens in regulation (21st), proximity to hole 31’0″ (24th), 80.0% scrambling (3rd), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2011, Scott Stallings (-10). 324 yards (5th), 62.5% fairways (54th), 79.2% greens in regulation (2nd), proximity to hole 32’7″ (24th), 40.0% scrambling (62nd), 1.72 putts per GIR (19th).
  • 2010, Stuart Appleby (-22). 307 yards (21st), 73.2% fairways (45th), 79.2% greens in regulation (40th), proximity to hole 28’11” (40th), 93.3% scrambling (2nd), 1.63 putts per GIR (2nd).

Tournament Skill Averages:

Driving Distance: 26th, Driving Accuracy: 29th, Greens in Regulation: 24th, Proximity to Hole: 33rd, Scrambling: 22nd, Putting Average 6th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2018, Kevin Na (-19). SG Off the Tee: 35th, SG Approach: 8th, SG Around the Green: 4th, SG Tee to Green: 5th, SG Putting: 2nd.
  • 2017, Xander Schauffele (-14). SG Off the Tee: 2nd, SG Approach: 30th, SG Around the Green: 39th, SG Tee to Green: 6th, SG Putting: 6th.
  • 2015, Danny Lee (-13). SG Off the Tee: 24th, SG Approach: 21st, SG Around the Green: 51st, SG Tee to Green: 22nd, SG Putting: 7th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 20th, SG Approach: 20th, SG Around the Green: 31st, SG Tee to Green: 11th, SG Putting: 5th.

So let’s take a view from players as to how Old White TPC has played in recent years and what specific skills it requires:

Kevin Na: “My gosh, yesterday morning it was soft. You were throwing darts at the flag. Today I was hitting middle irons thinking about landing it 70 paces short of the flag. When you’re in the rough, I landed one with a pitching wedge 15 paces short of the flag and rolled it over the green. It’s just totally different. Yes. I mean, before I came out this morning, I was like, oh, I’m thinking, if I can shoot another 63 today, it would be great, and I showed up this morning and I saw the putting green, and I was like, oh, maybe a 66 would be okay. The greens have really firmed up, and they’re at least a foot to foot and a half faster, and you have to be below the hole and you have to hit the fairway to have any spin on it going into these greens, and the scoreboard just shows – obviously there’s some low scores out there, but in general the scoring average is going to be a shot and a half to maybe two shots higher.”

Brendan Steele: “The difficulty on this course is definitely on the greens. You have to be careful where you leave it. They’re quick and got a lot of slope. A few have tons of slope. Nos. 3, 4, 8, these holes, like if you get on the wrong side you’ve got no chance. As the week goes on it’s going to firm up. If you’re out of position it’s going to be almost impossible to hold the greens, as it was last year. I think even though there are some shorter holes that they’re really good strategically because they have areas where you can’t be always. So you know, okay, if I’m going to lay up here I need to lay up left so I can come in this way or you have the tree in your way or there is a bunker on the other side. If you’re hitting good shots you can score well, and if you’re not hitting good shots it’ll penalized you a little bit.

Xander Schauffele: “The greens are awesome. I mean, they were concrete and we got a ton the rain. Expect them to be much, but I guess they needed some rain because they’re absolutely perfect right now. On the 18th, it was 157 front, 162 pin, there was a little bit of altitude up here, so my caddie and I, we looked at a pitching wedge and 9-iron and, under the gun, you never want to swing something soft, so we grabbed the pitching wedge real quick.

Danny Lee: “For some reason I just read the greens really nicely here. I feel like everywhere on the green I just feel like I can make every putt, so all I was trying to do is hit the fairway and just trying to get it on the green somehow and try to give it the best chance with my putter. I think this course really suits my game.

Jonas Blixt: “I mean, considering last year it was quite soft, I thought the golf course just had a few holes where you needed to make pars, and the rest of the golf course was pretty much birdieable everywhere. Hitting a good shot on 16 to get a good chance to making birdie, 16, 17, the same thing. There are a bunch of birdie holes, and that’s why I was so surprised that I found myself in contention where I didn’t make any birdies the last day, a bunch of pars and maybe one or two bogeys and I was right there.

Steve Stricker: “Yeah, it’s a good course. I was talking to somebody earlier. I don’t know if it favours any type of golfer here. I don’t think it favours a bomber. I don’t think it favours a short hitter. You’ll have to give yourself opportunities out of the fairway, for sure. The rough is just thick enough where it’s hard to control. If you’re in the rough, you can’t be as aggressive into the green. So it’s playing pretty long too. The fairways are soft, but they’ll dry out a little bit as we get going on. But it’s going to take a well rounded player playing at the top of his game this week. You’re not going to fake it around here at all, I don’t think. It’s a good course, and it’s a good test.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 8 winners:

  • 2018 – Kevin Na – Round 1: 64th, Round 2: 8th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2017 – Xander Schauffele – Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 7th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2015 – Danny Lee – Round 1: 2nd, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 5th.
  • 2014 – Angel Cabrera: Round 1: 31st, Round 2: 13th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2013 – Jonas Blixt: Round 1: 9th, Round 2: 7th, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2012 – Ted Potter Jnr: Round 1: 41st, Round 2: 23rd, Round 3: 6th.
  • 2011 – Scott Stallings: Round 1: 42nd, Round 2: 4th, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2010 – Stuart Appleby: Round 1: 11th, Round 2: 18th, Round 3: 8th.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the last 8 winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 2018 – Kevin Na: Round 1: 8 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2017 – Xander Schauffele: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 3 back.
  • 2015 – Danny Lee: Round 1: 1 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2014 – Angel Cabrera: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2013 – Jonas Blixt: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2012 – Ted Potter Jnr: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 4 back.
  • 2011 – Scott Stallings: Round 1: 6 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2010 – Stuart Appleby: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 8 back, Round 3: 7 back.

Incoming form of winners since 2011:

  • Kevin Na: 64th TPC Potomac/5th Korean Open/MC Memorial/4th Colonial.
  • Xander Schauffele: 35th TPC Potomac/14th TPC River Highlands/5th US Open/52nd St Jude.
  • Danny Lee: 21st Travelers/MC US Open/MC Memorial/34th TPC4S.
  • Angel Cabrera: 24th Congressional/11th Travelers/MC US Open/MC Colonial.
  • Jonas Blixt: MC Congressional/43rd Travelers/2nd Nordea/11th Colonial.
  • Ted Potter Jnr: 51st United Leasing/MC St Jude/MC Quail/MC TPC Louisiana.
  • Scott Stallings: 22nd Canada/22nd JDC/MC Aronimink/MC Travelers.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2018 – Simpson – PM -9/61 – 28/1.
  • 2017 – Munoz – PM -9/61 – 250/1.
  • 2015 – Langley – AM -8/62.
  • 2014 – Blixt – AM -6/64.
  • 2013 – Gainey / Wagner – Both AM -8/62.
  • 2012 – Singh – AM -7/63.
  • 2011 – Immelman – AM -6/64.
  • 2010 – Compton / Every – AM/PM Split -7/63.

For the record, here’s the breakdown of pure Bentgrass green PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

  • 5 – Zach Johnson.
  • 4 – Bubba Watson.
  • 3 – Bryson DeChambeau, Kevin Na.
  • 2 – Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Brian Harman, Marc Leishman.
  • 1 – Stuart Appleby, Sang Moon Bae, Jonathan Byrd, Bill Haas, Jim Herman, Billy Hurley III, Michael Kim, Russell Knox, Martin Laird, Danny Lee, Ted Potter Jnr, Scott Stallings, Kevin Streelman, Brendon Todd, Nick Watney, Boo Weekley.

2019 sees the Greenbrier added to the wrap-around segment of the PGA Tour for the very first time. It takes the place of the Safeway Open which has been the first tournament on the Tour schedule going back to 2013. The Greenbrier tournament itself tends to be a putting contest where short game specialists or in-form ball-strikers can contend. Player interviews from previous tournaments here quote that the Greenbrier has a ‘small event’ feel to it, so it’s no real surprise to see that Xander Schauffele, Danny Lee, Scott Stallings and Ted Potter Jnr all won their first ever PGA Tour titles here and that the tournament is perennially contended by a host of Tour maidens and players who can hardly be described as multiple winners. Take Kevin Na in 2018, whose victory here was only his 2nd PGA Tour title, despite his top 70 Official World Golf Ranking

Spreading things slightly broader and taking the first tournament after the Tour Championship into account across the last 9 seasons – naturally this includes the ‘Fall Series’ from 2010 through to 2013 – 7 of those 9 tournaments have been won by players ranked in the top 90 in the Official Golf World Rankings. Bae (2014) and Tway (2018) won with OWGR ranks of 195 and 138 respectively.

  • Bill Haas – 2010 Viking Classic – OWGR 89 – 22/1
  • Kevin Na – 2011 Shriners Open – OWGR 76 – 60/1
  • Ryan Moore – 2012 Shriners Open – OWGR 44 – 14/1
  • Jimmy Walker – 2013 Open – OWGR 66 – 30/1
  • Sang-moon Bae – 2014 Open – OWGR 195 – 150/1
  • Emiliano Grillo – 2015 Open – OWGR 72 – 50/1
  • Brendan Steele – 2016 Safeway Open – OWGR 88 – 50/1
  • Brendan Steele – 2017 Safeway Open – OWGR 59 – 33/1
  • Kevin Tway – 2018 Safeway Open – OWGR 138 – 66/1

My selections are as follows:

Marc Leishman 2pts EW 25/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

Marc Leishman jumps to front of mind for the Greenbrier and I’m pleasantly surprised to see the price about him. After all he’s the second highest ranked player in the field at 24th in the OWGR and he’s hardly out of form finishing 3rd at the WGC St Jude Invitational, 19th at the BMW Championship and 20th at the Tour Championship across his past 3 outings.

Second by a considerable distance in my published Predictor Model, Leishman in my 8 week tracker sits 17th for Greens in Regulation, 19th for Strokes Gained Approach, 17th for SG Tee to Green, 17th for SG Around the Green, 17th for SG Tee to Green, 16th for SG Putting and 14th for SG Total. He’s playing sweetly enough and a look at his CV highlights an elite player who likes short courses. Indeed 3 of his 4 PGA Tour wins have come at TPC River Highlands (6,841 yard, Par 70), Conway Farms (7,208 yard, Par 71) and TPC Kuala Lumpur (7,005 yard, Par 72), with his wins at the 2012 Travelers Championship and the 2017 BMW Championship both on courses featuring Bentgrass-base greens.

16th here at TPC Old White on debut in 2010 shooting 68-68-65-66, if this turns into a low scoring event this week then it’s noteworthy that Leishman’s last 2 wins have come at -23/261 and -26/262. 5th at the 2016 CIMB Classic, 2nd at the 2017 CJ Cup and 1st at the 2018 CIMB Classic,  Marc has a history of starting his wrap-around season very quickly post-FedEx Cup Playoffs and with the Royal Melbourne Golf Club-hosted President’s Cup looming in December, he’ll undoubtedly want to build towards that with confidence-building performances. Result: WD

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Sung-jae Im 2pts EW 28/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Coral

Of the Tour maidens on show this week, Viktor Hovland, Jason Kokrak, Joaquin Niemann, Byeong Hun An and Harold Varner III are all sure to have their supporters. Traditionally the Greenbrier stop off has produced first time winners aplenty since 2011 in the form of Scott Stallings, Ted Potter Jnr, Danny Lee and Xander Schauffele. Indeed the first tournament of the wrap-around PGA Tour season has also seen the likes of Jimmy Walker (2013), Emiliano Grillo (2015) and Kevin Tway (2018) capture their first PGA Tour titles at the Safeway (nee Fry’ Open

Sung-jae Im therefore takes my interest on the basis that I think Old White TPC will suit him greatly. The only Tour rookie to make the top 30 of the FedEx Cup points and qualify for East Lake, the South Korean never disgraced himself finishing 15th in Atlanta. The next logical step is his first Tour victory following on from a couple of Korn Ferry Tour wins in 2018. Now starting his second season at the highest level, Im must be relishing the challenge ahead after top-5 finishes at Silverado, Bay Hill and Copperhead last season, supported by top-10s at TPC Scottsdale, Corales, Hamilton and Sedgefield.

26th for Birdie Average, 39th for SG Putting, 11th for Putts from 5-10 feet and 46th for Putts from 15-20 feet across last season, the South Korean undoubtedly has the game to garner wins and he’s also had plenty of experience now of mixing it in the late starting Sunday groups. In my 8 week tracker, Sung-Jae sits 9th for SG Approach, 9th for SG Tee to Green, 7th for SG Putting and 3rd for SG Total across this field, and in terms of extra motivation – if needed – Im sits with the likes of An, Grace, Grillo, Hadwin, Janewattananond, Niemann and Van Rooyen all looking for a Captain’s Pick from Ernie Els for the President’s Cup. The cut-off is post HSBC Champions in 7 weeks time.  Result: T19

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Adam Schenk 1pt EW 100/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

One who’s impressed me of late is Adam Schenk who showed plenty of bottle last time out at Liberty National where he mixed it with the world’s very best. Book-ending 67s on Thursday and Sunday in New Jersey saw Adam finish 71st in the FedEx Cup and miss out on the BMW Championship by a single spot. Indeed Schenk’s second season on the main Tour was a real success with 3 top-7 finishes across Jackson Country Club, TPC San Antonio and Deere Run, backed up with top-15s across Silverado and Quail Hollow.

Last 4 appearance form of 6(John Deere Classic)-18(Barbasol Championship)-MC(Wyndham)-24(Northern Trust) is strong enough and the 27 year-old, who studied at Purdue University and hails from Indiana, must be driving eastward along IS64 to West Virginia looking forward to the Greenbrier. A growing resume on the PGA Tour highlights a player who’s blossoming and becoming confident at the highest level. 43rd for Birdie Average, 33rd for SG Putting and 10th for Putts from 15-20 feet is a great combination for the Old White TPC Par 70 test. A winner on Bentgrass greens at the 2017 Lincoln Land Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour, I think Schenk could be a factor on his second visit to White Sulphur Springs.  Result: MC

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Patton Kizzire 1pt EW 125/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Finally a speculative punt on Patton Kizzire. The sort who performs both at altitude and at the start of the wrap-around season, its been noticeable of late that Kizzire is finding something with his game. 34th at the 3M Open started with an opening round -6/65 and closing -5/66. On to the John Deere Classic where Patton delivered -5/66 and -6/65 Thursday and Friday to be 3rd going into the weekend. Late tee times on Saturday and Sunday with Sungjae Im and Carlos Ortiz saw Kizzire get to -15, good enough for 13th spot – his best finish since the Sony Open in January. And that’s the deal with the OWGR Number 162, who delivers little from February to August, but plays well across the autumn and January. 2nd at TPC Summerlin (October 2015), 4th at Country Club of Jackson (November 2015), 2nd at Silverado (October 2016), 4th at TPC Summerlin (November 2017), 1st at El Camaleon (November 2017), 1st at Waialae (January 2018) and 8th Kapalua (January 2019).

Kizzire loves low scoring and courses where he can exploit his fantastic putting. 7th for SG Putting last season, he’s a very strong converter from 5-10 feet and 15-20 feet. With wide fairways and large greens which are pure, if he hits upwards of 70% of Greens in Regulation this week – as per recent outings at TPC Twin Cities and Sedgefield – I can see him potentially getting in the mix this week. Result: MC

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:30BST 9.9.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.