A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier Classic kicks-off the new 2019-20 PGA Tour season, with Kevin Na returning as the defending champion.
The venue is the Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia, a 7,286-yard par 70 where the tournament has been played since 2010. The course was designed by Seth Raynor and Charles Blair McDonald and it celebrated its centenary in 2014.
Stuart Appleby shot a 59 here in 2011, so the committee decided to make it harder before the 2012 edition. In total, 16 holes were changed, with a total of 241 yards added, whilst all the greens were changed to Bentgrass. The changes made an instant impact, with the scoring being much higher.
The course was forced into making further changes in 2016, when it was devastated by rain. Keith Foster was the man brought in to bring it back to life, which included the strategic repositioning of 20 bunkers.
The greens, which run about 12 on the stimpmeter, were also softened to accommodate more testing pin positions.
Of course, technology has taken the game several steps forward since and Kevin Na shot –19 on his way to victory in 2018. However, this is a course that tests all element of a golfer’s game, with Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods having missed the cut here in the past having struggled with correct clubbing at altitude.
In 2018, the Old White TPC Course ranked as the 27th of the 50 courses played on the PGA Tour.
The last Greenbrier Classic took place in July 2018, which meant it wasn’t part of the 2018/19 PGA Tour season, as it was always the intention to move the tournament to a new place in the PGA Tour schedule and use it to kick-start this new season.
Greenbrier Classic 2019 Analysis
Bryson DeChambeau is the highest-ranked player in this week’s field, and it’s interesting that the world number 12 is looking to get off to a fast start after making his only other appearance here in the 2017 edition. “The Scientist” shot a 72-hole total of –9 to finish five shots behind winner Xander Schauffele, but opening and closing rounds of 66 and 64 suggested he has the game to win at Old White TPC. He certainly wasn’t at his best in the second half of last season, but he finished seventh on his final start of the season and has had three weeks to get his game in good order for the first event of the year.
Considering the next highest-ranked player is world number 24 Marc Leishman, DeChambeau looks overpriced at 12/1.
Another player that will be keen to start the season on fire is second-favourite Viktor Hovland, who turned pro after the 2019 US Open and made an instant impact with a string of top-25 finishes including finishing fourth at the Wyndham Championship. The 21-year-old has had a few weeks to reflect on the merit of those performances and he’s expected to make an impact this season similar to the one that John Rahm made in his first full season on golf’s most high-profile tour.
If you’re looking to back some course specialists this week, the two players that stand out are Russell Henley and Robert Streb. Henley has finished 5/5/10 in the last three editions and, whilst he’s not the most consistent golfer on the planet, this ace putter did finish second in the John Deere Classic just four starts ago.
Making a case for Streb is a little harder, but he did finish third in a low-key renewal of the Barracuda Championship two starts ago and his form in the last three renewals of this event read 2/2/11.
There are not many other players in this year’s field who boast more than one decent performance in this event, so it could prove an ideal launching pad for some of the last year’s graduates from the Korn Ferry Tour.
The one that sticks out is Scottie Scheffler who finished top of the pile in both the combined points list and the Finals points list in 2019. Having already secured his full PGA Tour playing rights for this season, he could start strongly with a view to quickly moving up the world rankings.