For years it has been the Safeway Open that has triggered the start of the fall schedule but this time around it's A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier that gets the honors.
Typically played around the 4th of July, the move to September will likely bring some different weather but the family atmosphere will remain the same. This event is always a big hit for the family men on TOUR who like to explore the great outdoors with activities like fishing and falconry.
There is another big change to go along with the move on the calendar. This event will be the first that uses the new cut-line rule which is now Top 65 and ties with no MDFs to deal with. When you think about it, it's just 4 or 5% fewer golfers that make it through the cut line but every percent counts when you are playing fantasy golf and trying to get all your golfers through the cut line. It should actually make it much tougher for those that play DFS. Just ask those gamers that play Euro Tour DFS and have been dealing with top-65 cuts for years now.
The Old White TPC has been a fixture of the White Sulphur Springs community since 1914 when C.B. MacDonald and Seth Raynor laid the groundwork here. It's hosted since the inaugural 2010 edition of this event. The course had to undergo some major renovations after the flooding that canceled the 2016 edition.
Described as a true classical layout, this course gives you options off the tee. You can take less-than-driver on a lot of holes around here if you desire.
Playing as a par 70 around 7,300 yards this course sounds a little long at first. Then you remember that it's situated about 2,000 feet above sea level so you're getting an extra 5% or so of added distance. Plus or minus a few percents, depending on the other weather variables which maybe only Bryson DeChambeau will be tracking.
Is length a big deal at the course? It depends on who you ask but the numbers suggest a big 'no' in that regard. The course has one of the largest penalties for missing a fairway which plays into the hands of shorter, more accurate types. However, some bombers have talked about their length being very useful on the par 3s here. Three of them are played at 205 yards or longer so it helps to have a shorter club in hand when attacking those holes.
For turf talk, it's bentgrass at The Old White TPC and the greens generally run at 11 to 11.5 feet on the stimp. Pretty average speed for the PGA TOUR.
Sifting through some past quotes, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Jason Kokrak: "I think I get to hit a lot of irons off the tees. Make a couple of those shots easier. I can reach all the par-5s. You know, well, besides 15, that’s a tough one to get to. But I think the par-3s suit me well too because I hit my long irons pretty far and pretty high, so that helps out. "
Brandt Snedeker: "it just seems like if you’re on your game here, there are a lot of wedges in your hands, a lot of birdie opportunities. So you can be aggressive, and if you’re driving the ball on the fairway, you really take all the danger out of play. There’s about four or five holes that can kind of get by you, and the rest of them are all birdie holes pretty much. And the greens her are perfect. "
Phil Mickelson: "Given the altitude being significantly higher than sea level, getting dialed in with the altitude and how different the ball flies for different trajectories. The higher you hit it the greater the percentage difference, and the lower you hit it the percentage decreases, so getting accustomed to that. "
Steve Stricker: "I was talking to somebody earlier. I don’t know if it favors any type of golfer here. I don’t think it favors a bomber. I don’t think it favors a short hitter. I think you’ve got to hit it straight. You’ve got to stay out of the rough, and you’ve got to hit some decent iron shots. The greens are putting well. They’re rolling true. So it kind of takes a complete game here, I think. "
J.B. Holmes "this is a good golf course because on some holes it does give me the advantage and some holes you do have to reel it back a little bit. I think it’s a good golf course. It’s one of those weeks where you don’t usually see a big hitter always winning it or a short hitter always winning it or great short-game player. The tournament’s kind of had all kinds of winners."
Overview: The consensus seems to be that the greens are pure and there is no distinct player profile that excels here. It's not a bombers paradise but bombers aren't punished either. It's a classic course that requires all-around good play to contend.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
Sedgefield CC (Wyndham)
Torrey Pines (Farmers)
Pebble Beach Pro-Am
TPC Kuala Lumpur (CIMB Classic)
Three of the courses that pop are poa annua venues so it appears that comfort on cool-season grasses is a big deal. Sedgefield and TPC KL have different grass types but they are both courses that give you a lot of wedges if you're keeping it in the fairway.
Thursday: A 30% chance of afternoon storms. Sunny with a high of 87 degrees. Calm winds.
Friday: Partly sunny with a 50% chance of afternoon storms. High of 84 degrees. Calm winds.
It looks like afternoon storm season in the mountains of West Virginia. Hopefully they are spotty or miss the course altogether but given the continued threat of electricity, I'm guessing we'll get a few delays this week.
Golfers to Watch
Finished T14 here back in 2017 and this will be his first return visit. He prides himself on accounting for all variables but he really struggled with the altitude in Mexico last year. Could this be a science experiment week where he's just collecting additional altitude data? Or is he looking to lead the FedExCup wire-to-wire? Either way, he's one of the favorites to hoist the hardware at week's end.
Ranks 1st in the field in SG Ball-Striking (Off-the-Tee plus Approach) over the last year. He's taking the TOUR by storm and just needs a field-average short game performance to contend.
He's a property owner here at The Greenbrier so he has that going in his favor. There are pros and cons to that. One, it means that he has a good grasp on the course and how it plays in all conditions. On the flip side, it means it's easy for him to commit to play here even if he doesn't put in his max effort. Watson is 5-for-5 here with three top 20s and I'd expect another similar showing.
He put himself in the spotlight two years ago but he's no longer the shiny new toy for gamers. Don't overlook him because he's still too young to legally drink in the United States and he'll be seeing this course for the third time which is probably as much course experience he'll bring to any event this season.
It was Sungjae who stood out of last year's Korn Ferry class and this year it's Scheffler in that spot. He is one of the early favorites for Rookie of the Year alongside Hovland.
He's talked fondly of the layout here. "I think I get to hit a lot of irons off the tees. Make a couple of those shots easier. I can reach all the par-5s. You know, well, besides 15, that's a tough one to get to. But I think the par-3s suit me well too because I hit my long irons pretty far and pretty high, so that helps out. " Finished T3 in 2018 but had nothing better than T41 in his first four trips. Don't go overboard on his quote but certainly take note of his stellar year-long form.
Played his way back into full status and now he's greeted with a course that's yielded five top 30s in seven visits for the Canadian. If you like course horses then Hearn is your guy this week.
We are seeing the first PGA TOUR action in a while for names like Jamie Lovemark and Kevin Chappell. Adjust your expectations accordingly. Sam Burns is also returning to action sooner than I expected. He broke his ankle in late July so his return is on the early side of the expected timetable.
Ranking the Field
1. Viktor Hovland
2. Bryson DeChambeau
3. Marc Leishman
4. Jason Kokrak
5. Sungjae Im
6. Joaquin Niemann
7. Byeong Hun An
8. Bubba Watson
9. Scottie Scheffler
10. Keegan Bradley
11. Bud Cauley
12. Tom Lewis
13. Harold Varner III
14. Cameron Smith
15. Doc Redman
16. J.B. Holmes
17. Harry Higgs
18. Scott Piercy
19. Austin Cook
20. Kevin Na
Check back on Tuesday afternoon for our DFS Dish and Wednesday morning for the Expert Picks.