A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier descends upon The Old White at TPC at The Greenbrier this week for the eighth time in nine years – the event was canceled in 2016 due to extensive damage from flooding in West Virginia. Formerly known as The Greenbrier Classic, this annual PGA Tour stop has been rebranded to celebrate and honor the men and women in the United States Military. First opened for play in 1914, the historic Charles Blair (C.B.) Macdonald par-70, 7,286 yard track was the 17th toughest course on Tour last season. Here are five things you need to know about the 8th playing of this tournament.
Inside the Field
Seven of the top-35 players in the OWGR will tee it up in a field of 156 players that includes all seven past Greenbrier champions and 11 winners on Tour this year. Bubba Watson is the only three-time winner on Tour this season and the highest-ranked player in the field. Five-time major champion Phil Mickelson is one of nine players in the field who have won a combined 18 major championships. World No. 24 Xander Schauffele looks to become the event’s first back-to-back champion. Four berths to The Open Championship are available for players among the top 12 not already booked for Carnoustie.
An Undeniable Bond between the U.S. Military and The Greenbrier
Twenty-seven United States presidents have visited the grounds of The Greenbrier. From 1942 through 1946, the U.S. Army took full control of The Greenbrier and used it to operate a hospital that treated more than 24,000 soldiers. From 1961 through 1992, a secret government fallout shelter at The Greenbrier was maintained in a constant state of readiness to house members of Congress in the event of an attack on America. No state in the country has more military members per capita than West Virginia. A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier expands far beyond a mere name change. It’s a complete dedication of the entire tournament to the military and history of the men and women who protected and continue to protect our freedom every day.
The Old White TPC is an Architectural Work of Art
The Old White TPC is a significant part of golf history in the United States and a treasured classic. Originally designed by C.B. Macdonald in 1914, the course features challenging undulations along with risk and reward shots that require strategy and reflection. Macdonald is known as the father of American golf course architecture, and his goal was to incorporate 18 of the world’s best holes into one course. To that effect, MacDonald modeled several holes after famous ones throughout Europe.
The par-3, 234-yard, 8th hole was styled after the Redan hole at North Berwick with a diabolical right-to-left running green. Misses left will bring the deepest bunker on the course into play. Drives down the right side of the par-4, 492-yard, 13th hole will shorten the approach, but also create a blind approach over a deep bunker. Obstructing view of the green is a tough test designed to emulate the Alps hole at Prestwick. The 229-yard, par-3 15th was fashioned after the Eden hole at St. Andrews. An aggressively sloping back-to-front green is protected by a pot bunker in the front, a hill bunker on the left, and two deep bunkers in the back.
The Greenbrier Taps FanDuel for Gambling
After West Virginia lawmakers approved sports betting at their state casinos, The Greenbrier tapped FanDuel to provide retail, online, and mobile sports wagering services at the resort. In an effort to provide the best interactive sports experience on the market, The Greenbrier offers onsite betting at an underground casino that’s open only to resort guests, event participants, golf and tennis members, and Greenbrier Sporting Club members. It’s no secret Phil Mickelson is a big gambler, and he was a late entry joining the field at the deadline. Don’t expect Lefty to bet on himself, however, as he’s crapped out in three of his four appearances here missing the cut.
Key Stats to Win
All seven champions at The Greenbrier have finished 10-under par or better, and they’ve done most of their damage on the par-4s. Par 4 Birdie or Better leaders is the first stat you want to look at. You’re also going to want to look at Strokes Gained: Approach the Green leaders. The Old White TPC features massive fairways that are some of the easiest to hit on Tour and afford the shortest proximity to the hole. Find the short grass and it turns into a ball striking, short game competition. You won’t get in much trouble missing fairways here, but finding them will make sticking it close a lot easier.
Russell Henley is playing well recently and has posted top-25 finishes in four of his last eight starts – including a solid sixth-place finish at The Travelers. Henley is ranked 10th on Tour in Driving Accuracy, and 27th in Strokes Gained: Approach the Green making The Old White an ideal course for his game. With two fifth-place finishes here in his last two starts, Henley has clearly figured out how to play this layout, and this should be the week he finally breaks into the winner’s circle.