The devastating floods that ripped through West Virginia and cancelled the 2016 edition of the Greenbrier Classic forced tens of millions of dollars in repairs and a renovation of the Old White TPC course on which the tournament is held.
The 2016 Greenbrier Classic was the first PGA Tour event cancelled and not rescheduled since the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2009. Players who've returned to the course this week for the tournament marvel at how the White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., community rallied around the resort and helped rebuild it, including the golf course.
Phil Mickelson, the Greenbrier resort's tour ambassador, lauded all those who worked to get the course back in top shape, as well as the effort to help the surrounding communities rebuild and regroup.
"This is a blueprint of how to get back on your feet and what can be accomplished when people come together and work together," Mickelson said. "Everybody has gotten together, worked together to rebuild and the heart of that is The Greenbrier because so many jobs are dependent on the resort."
After the flood of 2016, Old White TPC was closed and completely restored by noted architect Keith Foster. While the routing plan and hole concepts were retained, every green complex was rebuilt, new grasses were introduced to the putting surfaces, fairways and bunker faces and stands of trees were selectively thinned to reintroduce spectacular views and sight lines not seen for decades.
The work is receiving rave reviews from the 156 golfers who will compete at this year's Greenbrier Classic, which begins Thursday.
"This was in my top five of courses on Tour before, and now it has moved up," Davis Love III said Tuesday about Old White TPC, which will host this event for the seventh time.
The Old White TPC was originally designed by Charles Blair MacDonald in 1914 and was restored to its original design by Lester George immediately after the inaugural Greenbrier Classic in 2010. In that restoration, George added 256 yards to the layout, which now plays at 7,286 yards and to a par of 70 for the PGA Tour's 72-hole stroke play event.
The total purse for this week's tournament is $7.1 million, with $1.278 million and 500 FedExCup points going to the winner.
This year's field will include 11 winners of major championships. Mickelson and Bubba Watson, both multiple Masters champions and residents of the Greenbrier area, highlight a roster that also includes eight of top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. That groups includes Patrick Reed (21), Kevin Kisner (24), Si Woo Kim of South Korea (31), Bill Haas (36), Jimmy Walker (38) and Gary Woodland (49).
Also playing this year are crowd favorites John Daly, Vijay Singh of Fiji, Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley, Kevin Chappell and all six previous Greenbrier Classic champions.
New Zealand's Danny Lee, who won The Greenbrier Classic in 2015, is also on the grounds. Lee defeated David Hearn of Canada with a par on the second extra hole. Lee, who entered the final round tied for fifth one stroke behind four co-leaders, won the third playoff in tournament history (2011 by Scott Stallings and 2012 by Ted Potter, Jr.).
Lee said Tuesday that he feels as if he is defending his title, even though it's been two years since the Tour played this course and there is plenty of water under the bridge since 2015. He also applauded the changes that have been made to Old White TPC.
"Tee to green is kind of tricky here and you have to hit the fairway to at least have a birdie opportunity," Lee said. "The second shot is no gimme, especially with the new greens out here. It's a little bit firmer than what I remember couple of years ago. I only played back-nine today, but I heard every hole has a different green and different shape and different slope on it."
Braden Thornberry, the NCAA individual champion from Ole Miss, who finished tied for fourth at the FedEx St. Jude Classic, is playing this event as a sponsor exemption. The same can be said for Dru Love, the son of 2017 World Golf Hall of Fame inductee Davis Love III, who is also in the field.
"Dru will be another kid to try to beat and keep up with," Davis Love III said of his son. "You know, I watched Jay Haas try to hang in there and play with Bill (Haas) some and Raymond (Floyd) with his kids or Jack (Nicklaus) with his kids.
"I feel like I'm hanging on, yes, to play some with him. It's just great to be out with Dru. I know I'm looking at where he might get in, so I want to play there as well really just to watch and to be around and see his first few starts."
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