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On the Tee: Greenbrier Classic

by | Senior Golf Columnist
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Scott Stallings became the feel-good story of last year's Greenbrier Classic. (Getty Images)  
Scott Stallings became the feel-good story of last year's Greenbrier Classic. (Getty Images)  

Everything you need to know about the Greenbrier Classic:

Nuts and bolts

Tee times | Hole by hole | Past champions

Defending the throne

It was one of the more memorably poignant moments of the 2011 season, bar none.

Rookie Scott Stallings had just staked a short-iron shot into the 18th green and won a playoff to deliver his first PGA Tour victory when it was noted during the TV broadcast that he had just ensured himself of a first trip to the Masters the following spring.

Stallings broke into a huge grin. Even bigger than the one he'd already had seared into his mug, if that was possible.

As if on cue, reached into his pocket and produced a golf pencil he'd been using for weeks, with Augusta National emblazoned on its side, flashing it to the TV camera for the full Cinderella effect.

Back this week for its third iteration, the newest event on the tournament block has upped the ante by landing commitments from Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, seemingly at whatever cost. But the wild ending authored by Stallings last year, or the win in 2010 by Stuart Appleby, who closed with a 59, will be tough to top.

Stallings, 26 at the time, stoically held off veterans Bill Haas and Bob Estes in the playoff, which ended on the 18th, one of two par-3 closing holes in annual use on the tour. Moments earlier, Stallings had birdied the 18th in clutch fashion to force his way into the playoff.

The crowd was clearly behind the underdog and erupted when he made the winner to end the playoff on the first extra hole. Stallings, who has an engaging personality and an easygoing way with fans, could hardly believe it.

"I've wanted to do this since I was a little kid," Stallings said. "I was that little boy running around chasing autographs and yelling at guys because they wouldn't stop and sign my golf balls."

A year earlier, with massive grandstands surrounding the green, Appleby birdied the 168-yard 18th to shoot a record-tying 59, edging hard-luck Jeff Overton by a shot.

Venue and you

Not only is the Greenbrier open to the public, the new ownership will practically send a car to your house to facilitate golfers showing up to play. Since the flagging resort was purchased a few years ago by deep-pocketed local Jim Justice, he's been pouring staggering sums of cash into repositioning it as a vacation venue. The course has even been added to the national TPC portfolio, for good or bad, which means tee times can be booked online from anywhere. Warning: Fees range as high as $385 for those not staying at the resort, which is awfully steep for a venue far off the beaten path.

Track and field

Expect to hear plenty of discussion and speculation about the cash that owner Jim Justice is tossing around behind the scenes this week to land a quality field. Was it money well spent? Perhaps. Last year, the Greenbrier event drew one player from the world top 15 and six from the top 50. This year, those numbers have leaped to four of the top 15 and 14 of the top 50.

Three whacks from short range

 For the second year, Phil Mickelson is in the field at Greenbrier, where he is said to be pulling down a six-figure fee for a personal-services deal. Hope it turns out better this time around for Jim Justice, because Mickelson missed the cut last year and wasn't around when fans showed up on the weekend.

 After players torched the Old White Course during the first staging of the Greenbrier in 2010, which included a tour-record-tying 59 by Stuart Appleby, the course was toughened up and 200 yards was added. How much did it help? The scoring average last year was 70.6 shots, up from a pretty laughable 68.5 in 2010.

 Here's an interesting statistical nugget to consider as Tiger Woods plays this week, hot off his win at the AT&T National on Sunday. While many have posited the notion that his consistency is on the mend -- he has a tour-best three wins in the States this season -- it's a matter of degree as to how accurate that statement truly is. Even with the victories, Woods last recorded back-to-back top-10 finishes in official PGA Tour play in 2009. In other words, before the scandal. So there is work left to be done.

Odds and evens

Odds on winning, via Golfodds.com and the Las Vegas Hotel & Casino:
Tiger Woods 7/2
Webb Simpson 15/1
Phil Mickelson 20/1
Dustin Johnson 20/1
Steve Stricker 20/1
Jim Furyk 25/1
Keegan Bradley 30/1
Brendon De Jonge 30/1
Bill Haas 40/1
Jonathan Byrd 40/1
Jeff Overton 40/1
K.J. Choi 40/1
Brandt Snedeker 40/1
Seung-Yul Noh 40/1.

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