Greenbrier Classic Preview, Picks & Analysis
THE Greenbrier Classic is a tournament that tends to throw up first time winners. Of the past six champions, four were men for whom this was their maiden victory - Scott Stallings in 2011, Ted Potter Jr in 2012, Danny Lee in 2015 and last year’s champion Xander Schauffele. And although 2014 winner Angel Cabrera had won The Masters and the US Open, this was first and, to date, only regular tour success.
It was won in 2013 by Sweden’s Jonas Blixt. The tournament was not played in 2015. Schauffele, of course, went on to cap a memorable rookie season by winning the Tour Championship at East Lake.
The event is played at The Greenbrier’s Old White TPC Course, with 156 players competing for a total purse of $7.3m. One of the highlights of the week is the PGA Tour’s Military Tribute, with Independence Day being celebrated during the tournament in a way that only America can mark an event such as this, with tremendous pomp and ceremony and no little measure of patrotism.
Schauffele’s victory was a memorable one as he ground it on on the final day, making a three-foot birdie putt on the 18th green to claim the trophy ahead of Robert Streb. Schauffele closed with a 3-under 67 and finished at 14-under 266 to cap a day-long battle with Streb and third-round leader Sebastian Munoz.
Schauffele, 24, who took up golf after giving up football because his coaches wanted him to switch from attack to defence, had earlier qualified for the US Open and tied for fifth place at Erin Hills. "The US Open was a huge moment in my career," Schauffele said. "It was one of the biggest stages, and for me to be calm and collected throughout the week and just kind of hang on and tie for fifth was huge for me mentally. It kind of gave me the confidence and allowed me to play to win this week.”
Munoz, Streb and Schauffele traded the lead all day with each having their share of troubles. As Schauffele reached the 161-yard 18th with a pitching wedge, Munoz and Streb heard the crowd's roar from the par-5 17th green and both missed birdie putts. Streb then found the left rough on 18 and his chip that would have forced a playoff came up short. Munoz needed to ace the 18th to tie it, but settled for par.
Munoz couldn't become the first-to-wire winner of the tournament, which no third-round leader has ever won. The rookie also led the FedEx St. Jude Classic at the halfway point last month, but tied for 60th. Sunday marked his first top-10 finish. "I'll take it as a positive," he said. "It's my best finish ever. It's not like I can be mad about it.”
Munoz's putter was his strength in the first three rounds and his downfall Sunday. The 24-year-old Colombian made four bogeys on the front nine, including a pair of three-putts. Streb had his second straight narrow miss in the tournament. He lost in a four-man playoff in 2015. Streb retook a share of the lead with Munoz with a 32-foot birdie putt at No. 14, only to witness Schauffele pull it out in the end.
"I heard the racket. You could see it," Streb said. "I had my chances and just didn't do very well with them.”
Lovemark doubled-bogeyed the first hole to fall five shots back and made three birdies over his next 12 holes but never held the lead. He had his fourth top-10 finish this season. At age 53, Davis Love III fell short in his bid to become the oldest-ever winner on tour. Love started his round four strokes back, bogeyed the first two holes and was never a threat. He shot 75 and tied for 29th at 5 under.
Bubba Watson. Having the season of his life
Matt Jones. Too good not to come again soon
Bubba Watson. Still doing it his own way
Matt Jones. Fabulous swing
Bronson Burgoon. Four top 25 finishes this season
Charles Howell III. The money man
Brandt Snedeker. Getting there, slowly, but surely
Cody Gribble. Looking for some consistency
Bill Haas. Class act
Ryan Moore. Grooving in new-look swing
Nick Watney. Now playing with confidence again
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