WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - No new commitments were announced Tuesday at The Greenbrier Classic media day, which was a bit different from the 2011 media day when officials whetted appetites with a list of 30.With Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson already in the fold, officials did confirm a few familiar targets - colorful Masters winner Bubba Watson, world No. 8 Hunter Mahan and Rickie Fowler, one of the most popular players with youngest fans.Jim Furyk and Sergio Garcia are expected back, and Zach Johnson has since announced he is coming. Matt Kuchar, who passed on the Memorial Tournament last week for the first time since his 2007 re-emergence on the PGA Tour, may return here.But really, Classic officials have been more tight-lipped on how the field is shaping up. The new place on the schedule, the Fourth of July week, may have a little to do with that.
The Classic now runs three weekends after the U.S. Open and two weekends before the British Open. The four tournaments running between the majors, in order: The Travelers Championship near Hartford, Conn., the Woods-hosted AT&T National near Washington, The Greenbrier Classic and the John Deere Classic on the Illinois side of the Quad Cities.As players set their summer schedules, the U.S. Open is the first variable - did you qualify, did you make the cut, and if you did, how tired are you? Some good players won't make it to the Olympic Club in San Francisco for the U.S. Open, including seven Tour event winners in the last 12 months.Sitting out the Open will (a) serve as motivation for players to sharpen their game, and (b) cost them a chance at a good paycheck. A number of those will firm up their summer plans this week. Another hope is the location of the strong-field AT&T will provide a convenient two-week play.
The Greenbrier Classic's two weeks before the British Open offers the final variable. For those who have not qualified beforehand, up to three players may punch their ticket - two by way of a special six-event money list, one by being atop the leader board.For those already headed to the British, the Classic can be a good final American stop. The 98-year-old Old White TPC course has some links-style characteristics, though the British weather probably won't be replicated.But more than anything, Classic officials hope the event - and the resort - sells itself. Stuart Appleby, the 2010 Classic champion, thinks the tournament is doing that."When you can get the sweet spot of date, location, ease of getting to, those sort of things, family, testing golf course which you've got now, how do you not turn out to play?" he said. "The question I would ask, potentially, is how many guys who have not played the week before, maybe not playing after, and who are coming purely for this event?"
While competing at the Memorial, a few players shared their plans to come to The Greenbrier last weekend. A few of them have made good money at the resort.Jeff Overton, whose 2010 Greenbrier Classic championship bid was dashed by Appleby's 59 and a missed short putt on No. 17, said he's returning. J.B. Holmes, the Kentuckian who finished 16th in 2010, is excited about his third appearance, as are Virginia Tech graduates Johnson Wagner and Brendon de Jonge. Daniel Summerhays, who has Greenbrier County family connections, is stopping by.De Jonge has made $634,000 in his two tries. He and Jimmy Walker are the only two players with top-five finishes in both Classics.
Resort owner Jim Justice expressed remorse that, with Woods' dramatic victory in The Memorial propelling him back into the world spotlight, the Classic likely will have to cap badge sales.He said 217,000 were admitted onto Old White in the seven days last year, counting those attending multiple days. The goal is to limit the expected bump to a still-manageable number - perhaps 25,000 to 30,000 more.Justice has confidence that all fans who need hotel/campground accommodations can find them. Beckley, Roanoke, somewhere.He was quick to put in a plug for another of his properties."We do have a block of rooms at Glade [Springs]," he said.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or firstname.lastname@example.org