Where: At The Greenbrier resort, White Sulphur Spings, W.Va.
When: 3 p.m. Thursday, Golf Channel; 1-2:30 p.m., Golf Channel, and 3-6 p.m., WDBJ, Saturday and Sunday
Thursday, July 4, 2013
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Jim Justice didn’t duck the question.
“Well, of course it would,” he said.
Of course it would.
Of course it would mean something to The Greenbrier Classic — the PGA Tour event he’s poured millions of dollars into — if a big star were to get into contention on Sunday.
Of course it would enhance the reputation of the 4-year-old tournament if a household name could hoist the trophy.
Of course it would bring more eyeballs to the screen, more fans to the ropes, more money to the cash registers.
Of course it would.
“I mean, we’ve had great champions,” said Justice, the resort owner. “Stuart Appleby, Scott Stallings, Ted Potter Jr. — great story lines from the standpoint of young men on their way starting.
“[But] if one of the superstars, one of the real true champions that have been out there through countless licks and everything, have earned their stripes to win or be in the running coming down the stretch, that would be great.”
Phil Mickelson, we’re looking in your direction.
This is the year Lefty needs to contend. For Justice. For the fans. For the tournament.
And most of all, for himself.
At 1 p.m. today, Mickelson tees off for the first time since his gut-wrenching near-miss at the U.S. Open. He’s hungry for a good showing after finishing runner-up in that major a record sixth time.
Mickelson called this year’s U.S. Open his “best chance of all of them.” He held at least a share of the lead at the end of each of the first three rounds. He topped the leaderboard three times on the final day.
But ultimately, he couldn’t close, finishing two strokes behind Justin Rose.
And you know what? The Greenbrier Classic gladly would take something like that. A Mickelson victory would make big headlines, but fans probably would be thrilled just to see him make the cut.
They haven’t seen it yet. Mickelson has missed the weekend both previous years he’s played Old White. Tiger Woods, who isn’t playing this year, missed the cut here last year, too. So those who couldn’t get off work for Thursday or Friday rounds have been denied a chance to see two of the sport’s biggest stars.
That doesn’t mean they haven’t seen drama. Appleby shot a final-round 59 to win the inaugural Greenbrier Classic. In 2011, Stallings won in a playoff. And last year, Potter won a three-hole playoff to become the second consecutive golfer to get his first PGA Tour victory in the Mountaineer State.
And there’s something to be said for that. The joy those guys exhibited after winning was heartwarming. Those are life-changing moments — something that isn’t true for the biggest stars.
As the defending champion, Potter will tee off in the same featured group with Mickelson and 2012 Masters champion Bubba Watson.
“It’s going to be different,” Potter said. “I’m definitely not used to seeing that many people spectating out there in the group. It looks like a big old wall down both sides of the fairways with people.”
And we all know who they’re there to watch. No offense, Ted.
The previous two years, Mickelson has gushed about the amenities at The Greenbrier. He’s talked about how many great activities there are for his family, how friendly the people are, how much he enjoys coming to this out-of-the-way tournament.
His golf? There hasn’t been much to talk about there. Mickelson put up a 1-over 71 in each of his two rounds last year to miss the cut by three strokes. In 2011, he shot a 73 on Friday to finish two strokes out of making the weekend.
Would it be nice to see something a little more Lefty-like this week?
Well, of course it would.