WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - As The Greenbrier owner, Jim Justice happens to be quite the host.In addition to providing lunch and golf for media members at the resort's clubhouse on Tuesday, he took the time to spin a couple of humorous yarns, and all that seemed to be missing was a campfire.While the Greenbrier Classic has attracted some of the biggest names in golf, the Old White TPC course has been fairly unkind to some of the world's best players, namely Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson.Neither player made the cut last year and Mickelson has missed it two years in a row, prompting some to assert that the tournament has lost some luster over the weekends.As it turns out, Justice has approached this issue with Mickelson himself and in a direct way.He spoke of an event in Florida in November in which he played golf with Jack Nicklaus and former President Bill Clinton. Mickelson was a guest at dinner that evening, and when Justice spoke he pulled no punches."I said in this world there's three ways you can make a friend," Justice said. "You can tell a secret, make a confession, or ask a favor."[Mickelson] was all decked out and looking real good and I said, 'Now Phil, let me tell you this. There's a lot of people that would regard you as friends in West Virginia. Let me make a confession to you and say that it really meant a tremendous amount to me for you to commit and come to our tournament.'
"Then I said, 'Let me tell you a secret, Phil. There are several West Virginians that can get pretty dad-gum rowdy.' Then I said, 'Phil, let me ask you a favor, for God sakes, make the cut.'"He's bewildered by the golf course. He says, 'I can play that golf course, I can really play it.' "As it turns out, Mickelson will have another opportunity to prove it this year as Justice announced on Tuesday that the world's No. 10 player would be returning for the third straight year.While Mickelson's commitment was a large topic of conversation on Tuesday, it was far from all that Justice touched upon as his conversation ranged all the way from the golf course to his lap-band surgery to Will Ferrell.Indeed, it seems that in a funny moment that almost made national television, Justice did his best Ferrell impersonation while grandstanding CBS TV's Jim Nantz.
"[The movie 'Semipro'] can get a little over the top but in one of the scenes in the movie Will Ferrell is promoting the game and he's going to wrestle a bear," Justice said. "He walks up to the cage and his manager tells him, 'Just do a little bit and let's get out of here.'"The bear breaks through the cage and tears through the arena and [Ferrell] has the microphone and he says, 'Everybody, be still, listen, there's a wild animal loose in the arena. Be still everybody.' Then he says 'Run for your life' and he screams at the top of his lungs.
"Last year at the end of the tournament there was a thunderstorm coming and this is my best moment. Jim Nantz comes running down onto the green and I just reach over and grab the microphone from Jim Nantz. I'm thinking CBS is going full-throttle here and I have no idea why in the world I do this, but this is my best moment. But I said, 'Everybody, be still, listen to me.' And then I screamed, 'Run for your life!'"But they cut all that out. I thought they were going to put it on TV but they cut it all out."While Justice's comedic antics weren't seen by the golf-watching world, his tournament surely has been as it has continued to grow over the past couple of years.And while his storytelling ability is terrific, the story of the Old White TPC and The Greenbrier Classic continues to unfold before our eyes, and Justice has had the biggest hand in driving that development.But health concerns have also been an issue for Justice of late and he touched on that briefly on Tuesday as well.He underwent lap-band surgery but the procedure interfered with a nerve, sending his heart rate spiraling down and causing him to be placed in ICU at Johns Hopkins for six days.
Justice had to have the procedure reversed, but despite being 'in trouble,' Justice played it off."It's hard to look at this body and think, 'I've had lap-band surgery two times,' but I have," Justice said."I'm a living fatty with two lap-band surgeries."Reach Ryan Pritt at 304-348-7948, firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him at twitter.com/Rpritt.