Bubba coming to Greenbrier
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- It's official: Bubba Watson will continue to pursue the form of his 2012 Masters championship at the Greenbrier Classic.
Tournament director Monte Ortel confirmed the commitment Tuesday afternoon, along with that of 34-time winner Vijay Singh, rising star Billy Horschel and award-winning collegiate golfer Michael Kim, among others.
Ortel had expected some big names to drop after the conclusion of the U.S. Open, and that process apparently has begun. The visit of Watson, the self-taught left-hander who wields the pink driver, gives the Classic another popular figure to complement Phil Mickelson.
A year ago, resort owner Jim Justice was optimistic he could eventually get Watson, who with wife Angie had just adopted son Caleb. After his spectacular victory at the 2012 Masters, Watson played just six tournaments in four months.
This is the first time he has played two weeks before a British Open for which he has qualified. He is playing this week at a familiar stop, the Travelers Championship at Cromwell, Conn.
"Masters champion, you'd love to have him attend your event," Ortel said. "This year, it worked out with his schedule. I think he's really going to enjoy the golf course and the amenities. He's bringing his family, and I think it matches what he's looking for in an event."
The Greenbrier has become well known around the PGA Tour as a place where families can enjoy themselves and golfers don't have to arrange their living quarters for the weekend - and can break away from the crowds when they leave the course.
Don't underestimate the latter factor. In Watson's case, he and his wife were stalked for more than a half hour on the streets of Columbus, Ohio, early in the week of the 2012 Memorial.
Still ranked 19th in the world, Watson hasn't slipped far from his post-Masters perch of fourth, but wants to regain the form that earned him $4.6 million and a 13th-place finish in the FedExCup standings.
He has two top-10 finishes this year - a fourth in the Tournament of Champions and a ninth in the Accenture Match Play event. He has three other top-20s, but has finished 37th at The Players, 29th at the Memorial and 32nd at the U.S. Open.
Another reason for Watson to come to White Sulphur Springs: He stands 11th in the President's Cup standings. The top 10 automatically qualify for the matches pitting United States players against the world (minus Europe), scheduled for October at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio.
The 50-year-old Singh, a World Golf Hall of Fame member, hasn't won since his three-victory season in 2008, but did hold the world No. 1 ranking briefly in 2010. He led the 2012 Classic after a first-round 63 last season, but shot a 74 the next day and finished 33rd.
Veteran Australian Robert Allenby has committed to making his Classic debut, along with five-time winner Nick Watney. Watney has been one of the Tour's best in recent years, winning five times and finishing in the top 12 of the points standings each of the last four years.
Horschel is back at the Classic for the third year in a row, and he has rocketed out of obscurity. He has risen to 39th in the world after a fourth-place showing in last weekend's U.S. Open and is fifth in the FedExCup standings. He is expected to clinch a British Open bid at the Classic.
Kim also received some TV time at the U.S. Open. He was 4 over par after three rounds, a few strokes behind leader Mickelson, before shooting a final-round 76 to finish 17th. The sophomore at California won the Haskins and Nicklaus awards, both given to the nation's top collegiate golfer.
Other commitments announced included Brendon de Jonge, the Zimbabwean who has enjoyed a home-crowd advantage in White Sulphur Springs as a Virginia Tech graduate. He is one of two Classic entrants who own two top-five finishes. His Hokie teammate, Johnson Wagner, also has committed to his fourth Classic.
Other new names include Jimmy Walker, who owns two top-five Classic finishes, John Senden, who sneaked into the FedExCup top 30, Jeff Maggert and Pat Perez.
The name of Tom Watson, the Greenbrier's pro emeritus, was also added to the commitments list. He made the cut at age 62 last year.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.
Players committed to play in The Greenbrier Classic
(Field subject to change; deadline for entering is 5 p.m. on June 28.)
Charles Howell III
Brendon de Jonge
Ted Potter, Jr.