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Greenbrier Classic changes name, keeps players

By Staff | Jun 22, 2018

Being situated two weeks ahead of the hallowed British Open and played the week of the Fourth of July hasn’t helped the now-named “Military Tribute at The Greenbrier” draw many of golf’s most familiar names or biggest stars.

When it first replaced the Buick Open in 2010, the tournament, produced by Greenbrier owner and now-West Virginia governor Jim Justice, had the name “The Greenbrier Classic” and listed Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, John Daly and Bubba Watson as participants. Stuart Appleby won the inaugural tournament when he shot a 59 on the final day.

The 2016 event had to be cancelled because of devastating flooding in the White Sulphur Springs area of Greenbrier County. In its return last year, the tournament had 23-year-old Xander Schauffele as its 72-hole champion.

This year’s four-day playing schedule takes place from July 5 through July 8. There will be 156 players entered and they will chase a $7.3 million purse.

You won’t find any of the well-known foreign players – like Rory McIlroy, Justin Rose, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Jon Rahm or Tommy Fleetwood – in the field. They usually are preparing for the British Open, which is played from July 19 through July 22 this year at Carnoustie in Scotland.

Justice has prevailed upon Mickelson to return, bringing his family with him for fun and games away from the Old White TPC golf course.

Daly has also returned, and Watson had endeared himself to locals with his generous monetary contributions to those harmed by the 2016 flooding.

Mickelson and Woods didn’t fare well in the tournaments, both missing the cut the first two times they played.

Owner Justice was stung by the golfing world critics, who said his course was too short and too easy after Appleby burned through it with his last-day score of 59.

When attempting to restore sections of the flood-ravaged course in preparation for last year’s event, tee boxes were moved, holes lengthened and fairways made more narrow.

Schauffele’s winning score was 14 under par, a manageable number in anybody’s line of criticism.

Few players ranked in the top 25 in the world will come to The Greenbrier. Most played in the U.S. Open and will skip the intervening events to go abroad to Scotland to participate in the British Open. A few others will play in this week’s Travelers in Connecticut or next week’s National in Potomac, Maryland.

The Greenbrier, with its elegant West 44 Prime Steak House, falconry, skeet, sumptuous rooms and trumpeted amenities, gives any professional golfer and his family a glimpse of what the royals in England are greeted by every day.

West Virginia native and NBA Hall of Fame basketball player Jerry West is the proprietor of the steakhouse bearing his name.

The Old White Course plays to a par 70 for this PGA event, and its finishing hole is a par 3 over Howard’s Creek, the same destructive force that flooded the entire fairway of the first hole and covered the green of that 18th hole when destroying millions of dollars of property in 2016.

There have been several first-time winners on the PGA tour sailing through The Greenbrier Classic. And none of the world’s best players has ever won it. But it’s competitive, and the accommodations provided by Justice to the players are second to none on the tour.