A new name but a familiar event for the PGA Tour this week. “A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier” is the rebranded version of the Greenbrier Classic, an event that has been on the PGA Tour since 2010. This tournament has been a mainstay on the PGA Tour since its inception, apart from in 2016 when tragic floods in the area meant the event had to be cancelled.
An event that often fails to attract the strongest of fields, due to its spot in the schedule, there is often some surprise names on the winners’ list and it is a particularly happy hunting ground for those looking for their first PGA Tour win.
Xander Schauffele will be defending this week, after winning his first of two PGA Tour titles here 12 months ago. Schauffele followed in the footsteps of Danny Lee, Ted Potter Jnr and Scott Stallings who also secured their maiden PGA Tour wins here, and there will be plenty looking to take inspiration from these four before them.
Despite this not being the deepest of fields, there are still some star names headlining as Schauffele is joined by Bubba Watson, who picked up his third win of the season last time out, Phil Mickelson, who tees it up for the first time since his U.S. Open debacle, Players Champion, Webb Simpson and Bryson DeChambeau, who won three starts ago.
With four Open Championship spots up for grabs this week there is of course extra motivation to finish inside the top-5 this week, if the players needed any more reason to push for success this week.
The Course and what it will take to win here
The Old White TPC, 7,286 Yards, Par 70
This classical tree-lined test was designed by Seth Raynor, who was also responsible for Waialae Country Club, the host venue for the early-season, Sony Open.
From 2001-2006 there was a big restoration here, and of course after the horrendous flooding in 2016, the course needed to be re-seeded and greens resurfaced etc, but they tried to get it back to normal, in keeping with the original design as much as they could.
Since Stuart Appleby finished the week on 22-under-par, scoring a 59 in the process, they toughened it here and since then the scoring has been very consistent. Scott Stallings won on 10-under-par and since then the scoring has been between -13 and -16 and the winning score should be around the same this week. If you get to 14-under-par this week, you are going to have a great shot of being in contention.
What you do off the tee here is largely unimportant, and for a change, hitting greens regularly may not be as imperative as it usually is.
Here is the ranking of each of the seven winners here in Greens in Regulation, Par 4 Scoring, Par 4 Birdie or Better %, SG: Putting and Scrambling.
Xander Schauffele (2017) – GIR: 1st P4 Scoring: 6th P4 BoB%: 10th SG: Putting: 6th Scrambling 68th
Danny Lee (2015) – GIR: 43rd P4 Scoring: 21st P4 BoB%: 9th SG: Putting: 7th Scrambling: 47th
Angel Cabrera (2014) – GIR: 1st P4 Scoring: T1 P4 BoB%: 3rd SG: Putting: 5th Scrambling: 52nd
Jonas Blixt (2013) – GIR: 43rd P4 Scoring: 15th P4 BoB%: 9th SG: Putting: 2nd Scrambling: 3rd
Ted Potter Jr. (2012) – GIR: 21st P4 Scoring: 3rd P4 BoB%: 4th SG: Putting: 2nd Scrambling: 9th
Scott Stallings (2011) – GIR: 2nd P4 Scoring: 14th P4 BoB%: 12th SG: Putting: 44th Scrambling: 66th
Stuart Appleby (2010) – GIR: 40th P4 Scoring: T1 P4 BoB%: 6th SG: Putting: 3rd Scrambling: 2nd
It is a very mixed bag here, but as expected of a Par 70 course, what you do on the Par 4’s is of great importance this week. Every winner ranked inside the top-12 for Par 4 Birdie or better % and all ranked inside the top-21 for Par 4 Scoring total.
Scott Stallings was an outlier when it comes to putting, but generally speaking a top-7 rank in SG: Putting is imperative here and whilst in the last three years it hasn’t come in to play as much, a top-10 ranking in Scrambling was certainly advantageous in three of the first four outings.
Hitting greens is always a bonus, and to have enough birdie looks to go low here, you will have to hit your fair share, but it is surprising that four of the seven winners here have ranked outside the top-20, including three 40th or worse in that regard. With that said Stallings, Cabrera and Schauffele ranked 2nd, 1st and 1st respectively so it is certainly still something to factor in.
Schauffele’s win here last year was the third by a Tour rookie and also continued the trend of come-from-behind winners. Each of the seven renewals here have been won by a player who was off the pace going into the final-round, so do not be surprised if the 54-hole leader fails to convert this week.
Of the seven winners only Lee had played the course before getting his win, with the others all debutants in this event so again, this event is slightly strange in that regard and course form should not be of too much concern this week.
Russell Henley 20/1 (General) 1pt e/w:
If you can look past the likes of Watson, Mickelson and Simpson here, Henley certainly stands out as an outstanding player in this field and whilst he is only 20/1 this week, he looks a good bet to me, to make it four wins on the PGA Tour.
It seems like an eternity since Henley came out and won on his PGA Tour debut at the Sony Open in Hawaii in 2013, and five years on he still continues to impress. That win is of course of interest, given the same designer was responsible for both that course and the one this week.
Only two wins have followed since, a 2014 victory at the Honda Classic and a win at the Shell Houston Open last year, but he certainly keeps popping up on leaderboards.
Henley is certainly a player who you can expect repeat performances from, backing up his win at the Sony Open with two more top-17 finishes there, and also another T13 finish at PGA National, but it his alarming consistency at the site of his other victory which adds reason for optimism here.
At the Shell Houston Open, the last event Henley won (2017), he has finished inside the top-8 in each of his last five starts there and he looks to be putting together similar form here at Old White.
In his three starts here, Henley has finished 30th on debut in 2013, and then 5th in both 2015 and 2017 and a win this time around, would be the icing on the cake. Whilst we have clearly established that course form here is certainly not imperative, it cannot hurt that Henley is comfortable with this layout. He comes into the week with a T6 last time out at the Travelers which followed a T25 at the U.S. Open.
That T25 finish at the U.S. Open promised to be much better after 36 holes, but a third-round 77 halted his efforts and in the end, he could not advance any higher.
Henley has six top-25 finishes in 2018, including his 6th last time out and the T8 finish at the Houston Open and he will certainly look to go even better this week, at a course he clearly enjoys.
Anirban Lahiri 70/1 (Betfred and UniBet) 1pt e/w:
Anirban Lahiri rose to prominence in 2015, winning twice on the European Tour, in both Malaysia and his home Country of India, whilst also going on to finish T5 at the PGA Championship. This prompted a split schedule across both Tours, which Lahiri looks to have struggled with at times.
Generally speaking though, he is a very solid player who when he shows sign of form can find himself in contention, something I expect from him this week.
Lahiri comes into his Greenbrier debut off the back of five straight made cuts, which include T13 and T9 finishes in the past two weeks. He certainly looks to have had the bit between his teeth since making the weekend at the Byron Nelson, where he eventually finished T26. Finishes of T58 in Fort Worth and T37 at the Memorial followed, and whilst these results don’t immediately jump off the page, he certainly showed positive signs in both weeks as well, to keep the good form going.
Given the form he has shown in the past two weeks, he looks to have every chance of posting his best finish since his T5 at the CJ Cup earlier this season, and possibly eclipse his best effort on the PGA Tour so far, which is a T2 at the Memorial.
A second-round 74 last week really cost Lahiri, who finished the week with a 67 on Sunday, his third round of 67 or better (67,65,67) during the tournament.
With the emergence of countryman, Shubhankar Sharma this season, Lahiri seems to have been cast aside somewhat, but in recent weeks he has proven he is still very much a player to be taken seriously.
This is certainly an event I can see the Indian winning, as the roll of honour is littered with first-time winners and he can be the next. Whilst plenty of respect needs to be given to Watson and co. at the head of the betting, this is arguably one of the weaker events Lahiri has played in this season and he can take advantage of his current run.
Odds of 70/1 were enticing enough given the quality of field and as we have already established, course form and experience is far from the biggest factor this week.
Ryan Blaum 80/1 (Betfred) 1pt e/w:
Ryan Blaum has been in great form of late, finishing 23rd or better in three of his last four, making the weekend in his last three events straight.
A T6 finish at the Byron Nelson four starts ago was his best of the season, and whilst he missed the cut next time out in Fort Worth, he then went on to finish 18th, 12th and 23rd so he certainly has some great form behind heading to West Virginia this week.
Blaum has played here on two occasions, missing the cut on debut in 2013, but 12 months ago he finished T7, which is close to his best finish on the PGA Tour.
He certainly looks confident right now and he can better that T6 finish at the Byron Nelson, which is his best showing on the PGA Tour to date.
Whilst he is neither a course debutant or a PGA Tour rookie, he is still looking for a maiden victory and this certainly looks a good spot for him to secure it.
At 80/1 he perhaps looks slightly on the short side, but I don’t want to miss a trending player’s first victory, when it appears to be an obvious opportunity for him.
Points staked this week: 6
Profit/Loss for 2018: -95.4