This week’s Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, is the comeback story of the year so far on the PGA TOUR.
The deadly flood from torrential rain storms last June devastated the entire region, displacing thousands from their homes and causing countless millions in property damage. The Greenbrier Resort, which actually served as a respite for some of the homeless, didn’t escape. Four of its courses were badly damaged, including the Old White TPC, which has been host to the Greenbrier Classic since 2010.
The restoration of the layout, overseen by architect Keith Foster, has been a year-long process, and the course still hasn’t reopened to the public. But after the event was cancelled last year, it will once again welcome the PGA TOUR’s finest, and the course originally designed by Charles Blair Macdonald, will open to the public following the tournament.
Twelve major champions, including resort ambassador Phil Mickelson and two-time Masters winner Bubba Watson, who has a summer home there, lead a field of 156 players in the $7.1 million event. Another major winner to watch is Davis Love III, while his son, Dru, is among the players who received a sponsor exemption.
Danny Lee, who won the 2015 edition, is the defending champion, albeit having to wait an extra year.
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Veteran CBS Sports broadcaster Gary McCord provides his views on the tournament’s comeback and what to look for this week.
What can we expect of Phil Mickelson going forward without his longtime sidekick Jim “Bones” Mackay?
The same things you could expect before, just with a lot less conversation in between. I think there is a bigger adjustment for all of us watching than there is for Phil, who has his brother on the bag. I’ve played golf with Tim at home enough to know he’ll be quite competent and help him. It’s just that we all have to get used to not seeing Bones out there next to him talking over things. But Phil isn’t going to be different. He won’t play differently. He will be as entertaining as always.
How great is the comeback story for this golf course and for West Virginia in general?
You’re not only talking about devastation of a golf course or a resort, but an entire area of the country, with a lot of folks impacted. You have to feel for them. So seeing this tournament return after one year off, it’s great for everyone involved. It’s something that took tons and tons of effort and hard work from a lot of people. It’s going to be very interesting as we remember the pictures of the ravaging of the golf course and the area and seeing it all green again.
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This week’s field is well attended by major champions from top to bottom. How important is that to the storyline we just mentioned?
It is nice to see a strong field, lots of good names, major winners. This tournament deserves to have that kind of support. Right now, this is a part of the schedule where another major is looming and some guys decide to play and others take off. But this is a great opportunity for someone to get their year started or to build some more momentum.
What’s the biggest challenge for the players?
Tee to green it’s pretty much the same golf course. But the greens are different, so everybody is going to have to clear out their memory banks and just pay attention in the practice rounds. There is a lot going on this week, and everyone sort of starts on a level playing field. We really don’t know what to expect, which adds to the intrigue.
Give us your favorites and dark horses.
This might be a great place for Brian Harman, the way he is playing and moving it around. He would be my top pick. I like Patrick Reed, because he seems to be really getting things back in order. Stewart Cink had a nice little run there in May and early June, and his play has really picked up. He’s definitely due for a win.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.