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The Greenbrier Classic Preview + Tips

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This week we are at the Greenbrier Classic, which was first played in 2010, so a relatively new tournament on Tour. The event, which is played in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, replaced the Buick Open on the Tour Schedule, and has since seen provided the Tour with two first-time winners, in the shape of Scott Stallings and Ted Potter Jr. The first winner of this event however, was 9-time PGA Tour winner Stuart Appleby who posted the 5th ever round of 59, on Day 4 at the Old White TPC Course. This is also the very same course that saw Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods miss the cut, in the same event for the first time ever on the PGA Tour. For the first two editions of the event it was played in late July, but last year was moved to early July, and the contract for the event has now to been extended through to 2021.

Last year Ted Potter Jr grabbed his first win on Tour, here at the Greenbrier Classic, and put up some impressive numbers, on his way to beating Troy Kelly on the 3rd play-off hole. He finished his round eagle-birdie on his final two holes, to force the play-off with Troy Kelly and did not look back. After both players made par on the first two extra holes, Potter Jr had a 4ft putt for birdie on the third hole, and got himself the win. On route to victory Potter Jr finished 1st in Strokes-Gained Putting, T3 in Total Putts and Driving Accuracy, whilst only being 21st in Greens in Regulation and 37th in Driving Distance, suggesting that finding the fairway and playing the greens well, when finding them were the two main reasons he got the win. With Ted Potter Jr winning on extra holes this became the 2nd play-off victory in the Tournament’s three year history, whilst Stuart Appleby won by just the one stroke, which leads me to believe there won’t be a runaway victor this year.

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The market leaders for this event are three former major winners, closely followed by last weeks victor Bill Haas who comes in this week at 22/1. The three heading the market are, this years U.S Open runner-up Phil Mickelson at 14/1, Webb Simpson at 18/1 and Bubba Watson who is available to back at 20/1. All three of these players know how to win, however this course has not been much of successful stomping ground for 41-time PGA Tour winner Phil Mickelson who has missed the cut both times he’s played here, while this is Bubba Watson’s first appearance at this event. The one player of the three who has enjoyed relatively good form here at Old White TPC is Webb Simpson, who came T7 here in 2012 and T9 in 2011 after missing the cut back in 2010. Not only that but in the last two years Simpson has held the third round lead in 2012, and also led going into the final 9 holes back in 2011. His last 9 holes in the last two times out have seen him make 7 bogeys and these final 9 holes may just be Webb’s Achilles heel. He will look to put himself in the same position again this year, however this time close the deal. Let’s take a look at how the course will set up, and what the players may have to do to get the win here at the Greenbrier Classic.

The Course:  The Old White TPC, 7,274 yards, par 70.  In 2011, the course was increased from 7,020 yards to the current yardage of 7,274 yards. This is somewhat of a long Par 70, and although it features generous fairways, the sloping greens are enough to frustrate even some of the best putters on Tour. With that in mind, players playing from the fairway and hitting it close to the flag will definitely put themselves in a good spot this week. Add a steady putter to those two requirements and you may just find your winner this week. As mentioned above, Ted Potter Jr was 1st in Strokes-Gained Putting and also T3 in both Driving Accuracy and Total Putts, which backs up the previous suggestion. The course doesn’t seem to favour any one player so far with Brendon De Jonge (2010-11)  Jimmy Walker (2010-2011) and Webb Simpson (2011-12) are the only three players to have multiple top-10s in the events short history, so these players may just draw confidence from that. Players without a win, will again look at this event as a good chance to get their first win on Tour, just as both Scott Stallings and Ted Potter Jr have previously, and there are some superb candidates in that situation.

To summarise, there isn’t many “obvious” picks this week, with maybe the exception of one or two, however I will be looking at a mixture of both outsiders, and players who fit the bill in terms of statistics mentioned. There is definitely value to be found this week, when looking at previous winners of the event, and what prices they would of gone into the week at. Bearing this all in mind, here are my picks for the 2013 Greenbrier Classic.

Webb Simpson 18/1 (StanJames) 3pts win: As mentioned previously, Simpson is one of only three players to finish in the top-10 of this event on more than one occasion, and after missing the cut by an absolute mile in 2010, he bounced back to finish T9 in 2011 an T7 in 2012. Also mentioned earlier was Webb Simpson’s struggles on the back 9 of this course, and in my eyes this is the only thing against him this week. If he can learn from his play on the back 9 in the last two years, and not make costly mistakes on that section of the course, then he to me becomes the favourite of this event. To me he is the player with the stand out chance this week and his last two results, even after his collapses on the final round back 9 really do highlight how well he hits the ball around Old White TPC. He is 67th in Driving Accuracy and 47th in Total Putting so although neither of these excite me, he really is now established is one of the main players on Tour, and another win must surely be coming his way. His T5 at the Travelers Championship after his T32 at the U.S Open is certainly encouraging and I don’t think it will be long before he gets over the line again. Simpson is a short price, but his play at this course definitely matches his price, especially when you compare him to Phil Mickelson 14/1 (two missed cuts) and Bubba Watson 20/1 who is making his debut.

Roberto Castro 66/1 (StanJames) 1pt e/w: Castro is not a player at the forefront of my mind most weeks, and certainly wasn’t when he came 2nd at the AT&T National last week, but he has shown some great signs so far this season, and I believe he looks ready to win his first event on Tour. His 2nd at the AT&T National was by far his best result on Tour so far in his 2 season career, and hopefully he can take that, plus his good finishes this year into this week. After leading at the end of Round 1 of the Players’ Championship, he eventually dropped to T19, and for someone who is still finding his feet on the PGA Tour that was still a respectable finish. Since then he has two top-25 finishes at both the Memorial Tournament (T21) and the FedEx St.Jude Classic (T18) and although he missed the cut the week after at the Travelers Championship, he proved he has good mentality and game, with the 2nd place at the AT&T. Castro fits the first-time winner trend, and also places 15th in Driving Accuracy, which can only help him here this week. Castro also places 30th in Proximity to the Hole, which will help, considering his position in Total Putting (165th) and if he is consistently hitting it close, the pressure should be off with the putter, which looks to be improving .  He made his first appearance at the Greenbrier Classic in his first season on Tour last year and finished a superb T7, and with that in mind I can’t see why he can’t go one better a year on. He is starting to become consistent feature on the leader boards this year, after missing 7 of his first 12 cuts. At 66/1 he looks good value in this field, and will certainly be brimming with confidence after his superb effort last week.

David Hearn 100/1 (Coral) 1pt e/w: David Hearn has been in steady form in recent weeks, and will certainly be looking to add to that here, at a course he has proved he can play well at. His last four finishes since after missing the cut at the Crowne Plaza, have seen him finish, T21, T18, T21 and T44, so he is playing some good consistent golf. His second T21 came at the U.S Open, which was only his 2nd appearance in a Major Championship, his first coming again at the U.S Open back in 2005. In his two Greenbrier Classic appearances, Hearn has finished T18 in 2011 and T12 here in 2012, so he certainly knows his way round the track and will look to go better again third time around. Although he doesn’t completely fit the package, when looking at Driving Accuracy (108th), he’s certainly Putting well enough, which will be key. He ranks 4th in Total Putting and 20th in Strokes-Gained Putting, and if he can keep that up here, whilst building on good course and current form he could certainly contend this week. He’s playing some of his better golf at the moment, and his form figures are the best they’ve been going into the week of this tournament, so at 70/1 I’m happy to give the Canadian a chance of his first PGA Tour victory.

Morgan Hoffmann 80/1 (BetVictor 1-6) 1pt e/w: Hoffmann was my outside pick for the U.S Open this year, and although he missed the cut at Merion, he has certainly bounced back in the perfect way. Since his disappointment at the U.S Open he has placed in the top-10 in both events he had played in, the Travelers Championship (T9) and last week at the AT&T National, where he finished T8, and this is a fantastic sign for the young American. Although he does not stand out in any of the categories on Tour this season, he in currently T29 in Total Putting, and he will need to keep that up if he wants to go well here. He is also 22nd in Par-4 performance, and considering this is a long par 70, that could also be a factor. He is the epitome of perseverance, considering that he was only getting into Web.com events last year from Sponsors exemptions and Monday Qualifiers and still managed to place 19th on the Money List, which was good enough to get his card. He is starting to take full advantage of his playing rights, and I firmly believe he could win in the near future, preferably this week at the Greenbrier Classic.

Points staked on PGA Tour this week: 9

Total points staked this week (inc European Tour): TBC

Profit/Loss for 2013: 125.9

After a disappointing week on the PGA Tour last week in terms of picks, I’m hoping that the players above can give us a run for our money, and I expect them to be involved come Sunday. My picks for the Open de France will be up tomorrow evening, so be sure to check those out. You can follow me on Twitter @TomJacobs8