This time, Greenbrier Classic had perfect weather
A year removed from torrential rains that left much of central West Virginia deluged with death, millions of dollars in damage and the cancellation of the Greenbrier Classic golf tournament, the professionals and the resort staff were back in place.
Resilience. Pluck. Cooperation and selflessness. Determination and courage.
The Greenbrier had not only survived the vicious storm that killed more than 20 in the swirling, brown waters that raged through the valleys and towns in their way but had rebuilt the Old White Course as if grit and bravery were as important as sand, top soil, sod and heavy machinery.
Only soft, cotton-colored clouds shuffled past the Greenbrier Resort course, where last year deep, death-causing water could be seen covering much of the historic golf venue.
The greens were at their tongue-biting best. The fairways immaculate. The traps and bunkers invited errand shots to their bogey-causing whiteness.
The Greenbrier was back after a year of soul-searching … and some old-fashioned hard work provided by volunteers and paid help in a cooperative effort.
Known as a tournament where first-time winners come from the ranks of the anonymous to win the million-dollar-plus, first place prize money, the Greenbrier Classic did just that again.
Xander Schauffele, an American with a gift for finding the fairways with his driver, lifted his tee shot within three-feet of the cup on the par-three 18th hole … and then calmly rolled in his birdie putt to ease past fellow American Robert Streb and win by a single stroke.
Schauffele began his last-day tour of the Old White Course trailing three-day leader Sebastian Munoz. But Munoz, who made electrifying putts from 20, 30, and over 40-feet during his first three rounds, missed several mid-round putts of less than six-feet to fall out of the lead.
Streb inherited the leader’s robe, but when he hooked his mid-afternoon drive into an unplayable lie near a creek, he went back behind the leader himself.
Streb then overhauled Schauffele and the two, playing together, went to the final hole all even.
It was the slightly-built Schauffele who plopped his lofted iron near the hole … and his resulting birdie gave him the championship over Streb (-13), Jamie Lovemark (-12) and Munoz (-12).
It was first-round 64 (six under par) that had positioned the first-time winner. Streb had cast a 65 on the leaderboard in his first round, while Munoz was the early leader with an opening round 63.
Phil Mickelson made his first cut in four tries on the Old White and finished with a six-under score of 274. Former Greenbrier Classic winners Angel Cabrera, Jonas Blixt, and Stuart Appleby all missed the cut as did crowd-favorite John Daly.
Bubba Watson, who has a house on the Greenbrier grounds and gave thousands of dollars to the clean-up effort and people of the area, finished with a score of three-over par.
Gentle breezes, mild temperatures, classic blue skies with only white puffs of clouds and a manicured golf course were the features of the four-day tournament .. with only brief, but indelible, moments of remembering last year’s disastrous waters in attendance.