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Golf Channel's Tilghman makes long-awaited visit to W.Va.

Jul. 31, 2011 @ 12:00 AM

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- Kelly Tilghman has a formula she follows on the air for The Golf Channel.

Tilghman stresses the tournament field of players, the golf venue and the finishing holes on whatever golf course she's reporting from. This week her focus has been The Greenbrier Resort, Old White TPC and the closing holes players face.

She said this year's tournament has a strong field, although only 11 of the top 30 players in the PGA Tour FedExCup standings showed up.

"If you run on Tiger's (Woods) schedule, that's one thing," she said Friday morning after getting in some tennis at the resort. "Don't judge on star power. There are some good players here."

Phil Mickelson, No. 4 in the FedExCup race, led the way along with Greenbrier pro emeritus Tom Watson. Both missed the cut.

"This is as good a spot as you can get," she said. "It helps being in West Virginia. It's a run-up to Akron (WGC Bridgestone Invitational next week) and the PGA (two weeks away in Atlanta). For Phil, it's a tuneup for a major and family retreat (he took in the Black Eyed Peas concert Friday night). Tom Watson has star quality. There are a lot of storylines."

Tilghman, who grew up in North Myrtle Beach and played college golf at Duke, is visiting The Greenbrier for the first time. She knows the history, starting with renowned architect C.B. McDonald's unveiling in 1914. There have been three makeovers since to restore the original design and toughen up the course for the pros.

"With the name C.B. McDonald attached, you're off and running," she said. As for the renovations, she said, "Call it restoration. It's beautiful."

Next year the Greenbrier Classic moves to July 2-8, a respected slot between major tournaments, Tilghman said.

"It's a good spot," she said. "You're between majors. You're closer to the British Open than the U.S. Open. It's a chance for the players to spread their wings again."

Tilghman, 41, has been with Golf Channel since it first went on the air in 1995. She's handled many roles. She became an anchor in 2007.

Growing up, Tilghman said her mother, Kathryn, wanted to take the family to The Greenbrier. This week she finally made it.

"It was drivable, but things didn't work out," she said. "When I told my mom I was coming here to cover the event, she was jealous."

WOW: Golf Channel analyst Brandel Chamblee played in the pro-am Wednesday. He noted he hit from the front tees, but still enjoyed the experience going around an old-style golf course.

"It has all the things that make a course magnificent," he said. "The architecture is evident in the work everywhere. The strategy it requires. It makes you think. You don't know why as you play, but you enjoy the experience. It's a gem."

NUMBERS: A total of 75 players made the cut at 1-over-par 141 compared to 2010 when 85 players at 2-under or better stayed for the weekend. ... Saturday's stroke average on a shortened golf course was 69.347. Leader Anthony Kim, Scott Stallings, Jimmy Walker, Nick O'Hern, Chris DeMarco, D.A. Points and Josh Teater played bogey-free rounds. ... The No. 3 hole, a 205-yard, par-3, played the toughest with a 3.293 average. The 17th, which played 572 yards, was the easiest with a 4.387 average. There were 39 sub-par rounds and 24 rounds over par. ... Chris Baryla is playing the weekend for the first time this season. He had missed 14 straight cuts.

David Walsh is a sports reporter for The Herald-Dispatch. Contact him at 304-526-2759 or dwalsh@herald-dispatch.com.