The Greenbrier Classic is appearing on the PGA tour schedule for a third year, and this time we see a very strong field make the trip to West Virginia. Included in the field is last week’s winner, Tiger Woods, who is starting to look not dissimilar to his old invincible self, as well as Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and US Open winner Webb Simpson.
Looking at the leaderboards from 2010 & 2011, it’s important to note that some major changes were made to the Old White TPC between these two years. Following Stuart Appleby’s final round 59 on his way to victory in 2010, tournament organisers had to take action to make the course more of a challenge, and thus over 200 yards were added to the length of the course, the fairways were narrowed, and all 18 greens reseeded.
As expected, scoring was tougher with a winning total of -10. However, there are still plenty of birdies out there as both Jimmy Walker and Anthony Kim proved by shooting third round 62s.
There are two things I’m looking at to narrow down the field this week, and the first is Driving Distance. Although playoff loser Bob Estes and 4th place Brendon de Jonge can be vaguely questioned in this attribute, the remainder of last year’s top-10 are all reasonably long off the tee, with eventual winner Scott Stallings ranking 11th in this stat over the course of last season.
Next up, I’ve noticed something of a course link between here and Innisbrook, host of the Transitions Championship. Scott Stallings had finished 3rd at the Transitions Championship last season before his win here, and three other players (De Jonge, Woodland & Simpson) had posted top-5 finishes at Innisbrook before finishing in the top-10 here.
Here are my 7 picks for this week’s event:
Webb Simpson – I’m taking a bit of a chance that Tiger won’t be able to reproduce last week’s form and going for US Open winner Webb Simpson as my top pick this week. Whilst Tiger looked like the force of old last week, we shouldn’t forget that the AT&T National is his own tournament on a course he clearly loves. This week, on the other hand, will see Woods’ first competitive start at the Old White TPC and I think Webb has one over on him with two years of course experience under his belt. Although Simpson missed the cut here in 2010 amidst an up and down rookie year, he finished inside the top-10 last time around, which could easily have been better were it not for a disappointing level par 70 in the final round. Simpson finished in a tie for 10th in this year’s Transitions Championship and leads the tour in Birdie Average. For me, Simpson’s best ally is his mental strength, and nowadays he’s simply not the type to shrink under pressure.
5pts win only (20/1 Coral)
Seung-Yul Noh – After bringing in each-way returns at the tough AT&T National last week, I don’t feel I can desert Seung-Yul Noh this week on a track which should suit his game perfectly. Noh ranks 19th on tour in Driving Distance and 1st in Total Birdies, and he’s clearly got a good swing coach on board in the form of Sean Foley. It’s been a pretty impressive rookie season for the South Korean overall, in which he’s posted seven top-20 finishes, three of which have come in his last three starts on tour. It may be Noh’s first look at the Old White TPC this week, but there’s every chance he could go close again.
2pts each way (50/1 Ladbrokes)
Jeff Overton – Although his price didn’t leap off the page this week, it’s understandable that bookies want to keep former Ryder-cupper Jeff Overton on side this week. After all, Overton notched one of his four PGA tour runner-up finishes on this very course in 2010, shooting a total of -21. In all honestly, he would have notched his maiden tour win were it not for the heroics of Stuart Appleby with his final round 59. Overton ticks the right boxes this week – he’s not short of distance off the tee, he finished tied 5th at this year’s Transitions Championship, and he’s finished inside the top-25 in each of his last two starts on tour.
2pts each way (50/1 Ladbrokes)
Carl Pettersson – Big Carl brought in a 60/1 win back in April at the Heritage tournament, and I get the feeling he’s not done just yet for 2012. After his top-10 finish at the Players Championship two months ago, Pettersson hasn’t been playing his best golf, but he’s had two weeks since his missed cut at the US Open to rest up and iron out any problems in his game. Pettersson’s Greenbrier form reads 51-18, with the latter finish coming post-course changes and he improved as the week progressed last time around, shooting 70-70-69-66 over the four rounds. Pettersson ranks inside the top-40 on tour in Driving Distance and he’s deadly with the long putter.
1.5pts each way (66/1 Coral)
Charley Hoffman – Two time tour winner Charley Hoffman didn’t have the most successful 2011 campaign, and things started off in the much the same way in 2012. However, he seems to have turned things around in recent months and has five top-15 finishes to his name since March, including a tie for 14th in the aforementioned Transitions Championship, and a runner-up finish in the recent Travelers Championship. Although Hoffman brings with him little in the way of course form (he finished tied for 83rd in 2010), he’s a big hitter who’s more than capable of going low, and I fancy he can carry on his good run of form this week.
1.5pts each way (66/1 widely available)
John Rollins – The Greenbrier Classic is something of a home event for three-time tour winner John Rollins who grew up in Richmond, Virginia. What Rollins does well, in a nutshell, is just about everything from tee to green. The 36 year-old ranks 1st on tour in Total Driving (a combination of Driving Distance and Driving Accuracy) and 20th in Greens in Regulation. The only thing holding Rollins back from more tour wins is his putting, which is not terrible by any means, but sees him just inside the top-100 on tour. After a pair of missed cuts at Colonial and TPC Southwind, Rollins re-discovered his form last time out when he finished in a tie for 4th at the Travelers Championship, and he can carry this form to the Old White TPC this week, where he’s teed it up in each of the last two years.
1.25pts each way (70/1 Coral)
Harris English – One rookie who has been closely monitored by many a punter this year is Harris English. The 22 year-old has already notched six top-20s on tour, and he seems to like old-style tracks as he finished inside the top-10 at both Harbour Town and Colonial. After three indifferent performances recently, bookies are happy to ease English out to a triple-figure price this week which makes him excellent each-way value. Although English has no experience of this track, the Old White TPC should be right up his ally with his distance off the tee coupled with his GIR percentage.
1pt each way (100/1 widely available)