- A full preview of A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier, including field information, course info, history, odds and picks.
While its name might not make it totally clear, there is indeed a PGA Tour golf tournament being played this week at A Military Tribute at the Greenbier, the event formally known as the Greenbrier Classic.
What's behind the name change? The Greenbrier Resort, located in White Suphur Springs, W.V., has a long military/government history. It is currently owned by West Virginia governor Jim Justice, a former Democrat who flipped to the Republican party during Donald Trump's presidential campaign. (Trump himself spoke at the resort on Tuesday). During the Cold War, it was the site of a massive bunker complex that could house Congress in the case of a nuclear holocaust. Going back further, it was used as a military hospital for American soldiers during World War II.
The golfing history is also rich—the resort hosted the first-ever U.S. vs. Europe Ryder Cup in 1979; for years, Sam Snead was the resort's golf professional; today Tom Watson holds that title while Lee Trevino is head pro emeritus. There are four courses on the property, but it's the Old White TPC that plays host this week.
If that read like an advertisement for the Greenbrier, that was not my intention. Anyways, let's get back to the important stuff. Here's everything you need to know.
The golf course
One of four golf courses on The Greenbrier Resort property, the Old White TPC is a 7,286-yard, par-70 course that plays a little shorter than its yardage. That's because it's situated in the Allegheny Mountains at nearly 2,000 feet above sea level.
The course, which was designed by famed architechts C.B. McDonald and Seth Raynor (the duo is responsible for classic tracks like Chicago Golf Club and Fishers Island Club), opened in 1914. As is the case at most McDonald/Raynor designs, a number of holes are modeled after classic holes in Europe—the 8th is a Redan hole modeled after the original redan at North Berwick, 13 after the Alps at Prestwick and 15 after Eden at St. Andrews. The course was lengthened to its current yardage in 2013 and suffered damage when the resort was flooded in 2016. That year, the tournament was cancelled. It's a remarkably green layout with treelined fairways, and it's bordered by mountains at all four sides that form a beautiful visual backdrop.
Here's a picture of the Redan (which is a par 3 where the green slopes from front right to back left).
For full golf-course architecture geeks, here's PGA Tour player/design aficionado Zac Blair's breakdown of the layout for PGATour.com.
I wore that last week's Quicken Loans National might be the weakest non-opposite event field of the calendar year, but the Greenbrier can give it a run for its money. For the second straight week, the European Tour event—this time the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open—will award more Official World Golf Ranking points to the winner (38) than the Greenbrier will (33). There are zero top-10 players teeing it up in West Virginia this week, as world No. 12 Bubba Watson is the highest ranked player competing. Phil Mickelson (No. 20) is the only other top-20 player in the field. A number of players who are on the Ryder Cup points standings bubble are, unsurprisingly, playing—Players champion Webb Simpson (currently No. 9, the top eight qualify automatically) is giving it a go, as is the 2017 Greenbrier champ Xander Schauffele (14th in the standings). Brian Harman (12th), whom I predicted would be a captain's pick, will be there, as will Tony Finau (13th), who took solo fifth at the U.S. Open.
Other notables in the field: Kevin Kisner, Jimmy Walker, Joaquin Niemann, Jim Furyk, Aaron Wise and Norman Xiong, the 19-year-old phenom out of Oregon who won the Nickalus award as college golf's top player. He's making his professional debut this week.
A full list of tee times can be found here, but here are a few notable groupings (all times EST):
James Hahn, Jim Furyk, Charles Howell III - 7:30 a.m.* Thursday/12:30 p.m. Friday
Aaron Wise, Xander Schauffele, Austin Cook - 7:40 a.m.*/12:40 p.m.
Bubba Watson, Patton Kizzier, Ted Potter Jr. - 7:50 a.m.*/12:50 p.m.
Webb Simpson, Brian Harman, Tony Finau - 12:40 p.m./7:40 a.m.*
Phil Mickelson, Kevin Kisner, Brandt Snedeker - 12:50 p.m./7:50 a.m.*
* denotes 10th-tee start.
The past champions
2017 - Xander Schauffele (-14)
2016 - Tournament cancelled (flooding)
2015 - Danny Lee (-13)
2014 - Angel Cabrera (-16)
2013 - Jonas Blixt (-13)
2012 - Ted Potter, Jr. (-16)
2011 - Scott Stallings (-10)
2010 - Stuary Appleby (-22)
Bubba Watson +2000 - Looking for fourth win of the year and second in two starts
Tony Finau +2000 - Fighting tooth and nail for Ryder Cup exemption
Phil Mickelson +2200 - First start after that U.S. Open moving ball snauf
Russell Henley +2200
Webb Simpson +2200 - See Finau, above
Xander Schauffele +2500 - See directly above
Brian Harman +3300 - See directly above
Charles Howell III +3300
J.B. Holmes +3300 - Been in news recently for slow play
Jimmy Walker +3300
Joaquin Niemann +3300 - Former world No. 1 amateur still looking for PGA Tour breakthrough
Brandt Snedeker +4000
Danny Lee +4000
Kevin Na +4000
Ryan Moore +4000
Andrew Putnam +5000 - Three straight top 30's, including a solo 2nd in Memphis
Anirban Lahiri +5000
Bill Haas +5000 - Hasn't quite returned to form since
Brian Gay +5000
David Lingmerth +5000
Our two-week hot streak of picking winners ended last week as Beau Hossler, who had a share of the lead after 36 holes, faded somewhat down the stretch en route to a T-6 finish. Still, the momentum is alive and well, and I fully intend to parlay it for yet another week.
I'm picking Tony Finau this week, and not just because I interviewed him before the U.S. Open. He played fantastic at Shinnecock and has done basically everything this year except win. He's got four top 10s, a T-2 at Riviers, top 10s at both majors (including at the Masters, when he famously/embarassingly twisted his ankle while celebrating a hole-in-one at the Par 3 contest). And he has a good history at the Greenbrier—T-7th last year and T-13 in 2015. Finau picks up his second PGA Tour win and puts himself right into the Ryder Cup mix.