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Grant Traylor: Featured trio puts three left-handers in same group

Jul. 04, 2013 @ 12:18 AM

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- The first round of The Greenbrier Classic tees off Thursday and there is something unique about the featured pairing of Phil Mickelson, Bubba Watson and Ted Potter Jr.

In the 156-player field there are only seven left-handers. The featured trio has three of them.

Even though, the group was hand picked -- Mickelson and Watson because of their star power and Potter as the 2012 Greenbrier Classic winner -- the chances of having three southpaws playing together is pretty amazing.

Mickelson and Watson, two of the biggest names on the PGA Tour, have only been paired together six times previously.

Jim Justice, owner of The Greenbrier Resort and tournament chairman, said Monday prior to the pairings being announced that he hoped to see Mickelson and Watson paired for the weekend as well.

"If I had my wish right now, I'd like to see Phil and Bubba playing it all, going right down to the wire," Justice said. "It'd be great."

If previous history serves correctly, they will undoubtedly feed off each other -- whether feast or famine. In their six previous meetings, their were substantial parallels in their games.

Their most recent pairing was a success at the WGC Cadillac Championship in March. Mickelson finished 14-under-par to tie for third place while Watson was 7-under to end tied for 18th.

Their first pairing came in the 2011 Farmer's Insurance Open when Watson birdied the 18th to outlast Mickelson at Torrey Pines for the win.

The next week, they were paired together for the first two rounds of the Waste Management Phoenix Open and finished tied for 29th at 10-under.

They later struggled that year in the BMW Championship with Watson finishing tied for 53rd and Mickelson ending in a tie for 56th.

The 2012 season didn't bring success when they saw each other at The Memorial and the U.S. Open. Watson missed both cuts while Mickelson withdrew from The Memorial before finishing the U.S. Open in a tie for 65th.

RYDER CUP NEWS: Tom Watson, captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup team, announced during a press conference Wednesday that he appointed Andy North as vice-captain for the 2014 U.S. Ryder Cup team.

"I'm certainly happy to have Andy on my side and in my ear helping me make the decisions that will bring this Cup back home from Europe this time," Watson said. "It's been way too long."

North is a two-time U.S. Open champion, having won the event in 1978 and 1985. He also represented the U.S. in the 1985 Ryder Cup.

The native of Wisconsin said he was "absolutely giddy" about helping the American team, led by his good friend Watson.

"I've been lucky enough to cover it for ESPN, and I get emotional covering it," North said. "It's going to be a great experience, and the bottom line is we get a W at the end of the week."

The 40th edition of The Ryder Cup, which pits the United States against Europe, is Sept. 23-28, 2014, at Gleneagles in Perthshire, Scotland.

HOME IS WHERE WATSON IS: Tom Watson has perceived The Greenbrier Resort as a second home for many years -- ever since he had to leave the 1979 Ryder Cup at The Greenbrier for the birth of his child.

Now, there is another Watson -- this one Bubba Watson -- who has taken a great appreciation for what The Greenbrier has to offer.

Watson said The Greenbrier Classic is a tournament that will certainly be in his future on the PGA Tour.

"We love it here, so obviously, it's going to be a stop for a few years now," Bubba Watson said.

Furthermore, John Klemish, broker-in-chief and adviser to Greenbrier Classic chairman Jim Justice, said since Bubba Watson arrived last week he's talked about potentially buying a home on the grounds.

"Bubba is amazing and he just absolutely loves The Greenbrier and everything about it," Klemish said. "Quite frankly, he's really thinking about buying a lot and building a home here, so that's pretty special."

Grant Traylor is a reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or gtraylor@herald-dispatch.com. Follow him on Twitter (@GrantTraylor).

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