Greenbrier Classic back after flooding, Lefty’s fresh start
The Greenbrier Classic is back. And in one respect, Phil Mickelson is starting over.
The Old White TPC at the Greenbrier Resort was devastated by record flooding a year ago in West Virginia that left tournament officials no choice but to cancel the tournament. Golf wasn’t the highest priority last summer, not with the number of residents who suffered so much damage and property loss.
The flooding was so severe that Bubba Watson, who has a summer home at The Greenbrier and lost power during the flooding, wasn’t sure workers would be able to get the golf course ready for this year’s tournament. Watson says it was one time he was glad he was proven wrong .
So after a year off, The Greenbrier Classic returns, with Danny Lee as the defending champion from two years ago.
The star attraction figures to be Phil Mickelson, and not just because he’s one of the biggest names in golf. Mickelson hired Jim “Bones” Mackay to be his caddie when he turned pro for the 1992 U.S. Open at Pebble Beach — a year before Jordan Spieth was born — and they had been together ever since . That’s why it was such a surprise when they announced they were splitting up.
Mickelson’s brother, Tim, will be his caddie at The Greenbrier.
The strongest field of the week is at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open, where Rory McIlroy is the host and defending champion. The tournament moves this year to Portstewart in Northern Ireland. Also playing are Jon Rahm, Justin Rose and Tommy Fleetwood, who is coming off a victory in the French Open.
The LPGA Tour has a new tournament in Wisconsin, the Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic. So while the tournament is new, fans in Wisconsin will get yet another dose of golf. This is the third tournament in four weeks in Wisconsin, following the U.S. Open and the American Family Insurance Classic on the PGA Tour Champions.
The PGA Tour is sure to celebrate the revival of the Old White TPC because of its recovery from the devastating floods. One of these years, it might actually celebrate a 54-hole leader going on to victory. All six winners of the Greenbrier Classic had to come from behind on the final day.
The most famous of all was the first one — Stuart Appleby — who rolled in a birdie putt on the last hole for a 59 . At the time, it was only the fifth 59 in PGA Tour history. Since then, Jim Furyk has shot a 59 and a 58, and Justin Thomas shot a 59.
Lee won a four-man playoff at The Greenbrier in 2015 that included Kevin Kisner, who lost in a playoff for the third time that year. Kisner eventually got his due.
Also at stake this week are four spots to the British Open for those not already eligible who finish among the top 12.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3-6 p.m. (CBS).
McIlroy proved the adage that it can be tough winning at home. He missed the cut three straight years in the Irish Open. And then last year, he lived up to his reputation as having one of the purest swings in golf. The European Tour put together its shots of the week, and McIlroy was awarded the best two — both with a 3-wood .
He outlasted Russell Knox to win before the Irish crowd, and McIlroy returns this year with plenty of company.
This is the second straight week the European Tour has a stronger field than the PGA Tour, and it will stay that way next week at the Scottish Open.
The continental stretch of France, Ireland, Scotland and The Open Championship at Royal Birkdale is the best part of the European Tour schedule.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 5:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 7:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. (Golf Channel).
The Thornberry Creek LPGA Classic near Green Bay is an example of Commissioner Mike Whan’s effort to build the LPGA Tour schedule, and not just overseas. The LPGA also is playing plenty in the Midwest. They already have played twice in Michigan, are coming off a major in Illinois and still have Indiana and Ohio on the schedule, not to mention that little exhibition in Iowa called the Solheim Cup, the biggest event on the schedule.
While the tournament is new in Wisconsin, the women have plenty of history there. The most famous of all was the 1998 U.S. Women’s Open at Blackwolf Run, where Se Ri Pak rose to fame with her playoff victory over Jenny Chuasiriporn.