After Bubba took care of Connecticut, we now head back towards home with a quick stop in West Virginia. It is the Greenbrier Classic held at The Greenbrier Resort in White Sulphur Springs, WV. This is a wonderful resort for the sportsperson in your life - championship golf courses, shooting ranges and hunting, trout fishing, and couch-burning for your undergraduate children.
But they do hold a PGA Tour event here every year (since 2009), and I think paid some pretty big bucks to do so. Earlier on, it was under the guise of Tom Watson as Pro Emeritus, but since they kicked him out, I think they just write bigger checks. Either way, it's a nice course, a nice resort (Both Bubba and John Smoltz are property owners/members here), and the golf is exciting. Like shooting a record 59 kinda exciting.
It's set up for 7,200 yards and par 70 (like the 4th week in a row for less than par 72, which strikes me as odd). And it's in pristine condition. The course favors those who are aggressive, so we will see some low scores again this week. And don't count on keeping the lead... no 54 hole leader has ever won. Matter of fact, 3 of the 5 winners have come from 4 or more shots back on the final day. I like to think that the leader goes to sleep Saturday night with a grasp on the lead only slightly less tenuous than Bill Stewart's grasp on the reins of the Mountaineers. (Wait, the DawgSports producers are telling me something in my earpiece.... oh really? Huh.) Correction, I meant Dana Holgerson's grasp on the reins of the Mountaineers.
Tiger Woods returns to competition this week, and he's a guy who needs to burn a couch under the arch to get his mojo back. Louis Oosthuizen, of made-US-Open-even-more-interesting fame is back this week, as are 6 of the world's top 30. This week and next will have mixed fields as the Open Championship (British Open) is July 16-19th, so players are either resting up, getting ready for the jet lag, or are honing their game on a completely different type of course. But we have a strong Athens contingent this week with a lot of the familiar names. Here's who to root for, with World Golf ranking and FedEx Cup ranking in parentheses:
Erik Compton (122,111): Erik could use a few good bounces on the course as he's missed his last two cuts and 3 of his last 6. But he's stated he's concentrating on his game, even in the face of increased scrutiny for off the course issues (we should all be so lucky, blessed, and full of class).
Russell Henley (59,54): He was on a tear earlier, not missing a cut this season. But he's missed his last 2, and 3 of 5 since the Masters. Though he is qualified for St. Andrews and is in good shape for the playoffs.
Kevin Kisner (46,14): No one wants a piece of Kisner right now; he's playing as good as almost anyone. 7 straight made cuts and 4 top 10s. Moved up 200+ spots in the world golf ranking and over 100 in the FedEx Cup race.
Hudson Swafford (260,92): Swafford needs to turn up the heat. I've been saying it, but he needs to cash some checks to keep his playoff hopes alive. He will need a top 5 finish or a win the next two weeks to qualify for the British Open, and I'm not positive about his PGA Championship status.
Brendon Todd (51,58): He's been a little inconsistent of late, but two top 20 finishes help.
Bubba Watson (3,3): I've thought about a little write-up on Bubba, but there have been plenty of those. What is happening now is that his game is starting to get just as loud as his public persona. Here's his season so far: 2 wins, 2 second places, 3rd, 10th, 11th, 14th, 38th, 42nd, and one missed cut. That equates to $3.9M in earnings, and back up to 3rd in the world. Since 2010, he has more wins on Tour than anyone other than Rory McIlroy. I've also heard he owns several lumberyards, but doesn't spend much time there.
Brian Harman, Chris Kirk and Harris English are taking the week off (Harman finished solo 3rd last week, English finished top 25 last week, Kirk did not play). But as a quick aside, those UGA golfers already qualified for the British Open are: Henley, Todd, Bubba, Kirk, and Harman. There are 4 possible qualifiers from this week, so maybe Compton, Kisner, or Swafford can sneak into the field.
Television times are pretty standard fare: Thurs/Friday 4:00-7:00 pm ET on Golf Channel, Sat/Sun 1:00-2:30 pm ET on Golf Channel, and 3:00-6:00 pm ET on CBS.
So while you're celebrating our nation's birthday, and the wonderful freedoms that our Constitution and form of government provide, remember to kick back with a sparkler and your favorite beverage and watch Georgia take down West Virginia.*
*Don't worry - this is not the 2006 Sugar Bowl.