Flair for the dramatic
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- There's one thing that can't be denied about The Greenbrier Classic since its inception.
The final day of the PGA Tour event has always had a flair for the dramatic.
Whether it was the inaugural tournament's final day with Stuart Appleby's 59 to win the tournament in 2010 or the excitement of playoff victories in 2011 and 2012, The Greenbrier Classic provided some of the most exciting final round action the PGA Tour had to offer.
With the 2013 tournament now a month away (July 4-7), is this the year a superstar name emerges as champion or will the trend continue of The Greenbrier Classic being a tournament that either initiates or re-ignites a player's career?
"We're really happy because, I mean, what a thing -- to jump start new careers or revitalize old careers," said Jim Justice, Greenbrier Classic chairman and owner of The Greenbrier Resort. "At the same time, we'd love to see the superstars (get one). We'd love to see a Phil (Mickelson) and Tiger (Woods) battle and go down to the wire. Wouldn't that be something else?"
With Tuesday's announcement that Mickelson will return to The Greenbrier Classic, that gives a little bit of star-power to the list.
In addition to Mickelson, other notable stars who have committed include 2012 U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson, Greenbrier golf pro emeritus Tom Watson, John Daly and former Greenbrier Classic champions Stuart Appleby, Scott Stallings and Ted Potter Jr.
Stallings captured the 2011 crown in a playoff with Bob Estes and Bill Haas while Potter's 2012 crown came in much more dramatic fashion as he surged late to force a playoff with Troy Kelly. Potter hit a 30-foot eagle putt on the par-5, 17th hole to pull within a stroke before his birdie on the par-3, 18th forced a playoff, which he won on the third extra hole.
Potter was back at the scene of his first PGA Tour win Tuesday for Greenbrier Classic media day and fielded questions about the moment that he said changed his life as a golfer.
"I had struggled last year at the beginning of the year, so coming here and winning here brought a good vibe for the rest of the season and made it more comfortable for me on the PGA Tour," Potter said.
Potter said the magic started on the 17th hole where he hit a drive into the fairway and a 260-yard 3-wood before nailing a 30-foot eagle putt.
"I don't hit the ball 300-plus like some of the guys on tour, so for me to reach the green in two was very special," Potter said.
Potter said returning to the tournament this year has a different feel because even though he's won events on other tours, he's never been faced with defending a PGA Tour title.
This will be a new experience for the 29-year-old left-hander.
"It's definitely a little bit more pressure this year, coming back and defending," Potter said.
Given the recent tradition of the tournament, it will be hard for Potter to repeat.
Justice said he expects the same excitement as in the previous three years with scores going low and excitement going high.
"We want people to make birdies, that's the thing," Justice said. "We could let this rough grow out to four or five inches and you could just bring people to their knees here because the greens are firm. You could make this a monster test, but we want people to make birdies. We want this to be a fun place."
If Justice has his way and The Greenbrier Classic holds true to form with a first-time winner, the next could be Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old Chinese golfer who has made headlines this year.
Justice confirmed he has reached out to Tianlang's family, but things have to fall into place with the PGA in regards to the tournament's exemptions for Tianlang to be able to compete.
The tournament gets underway on the Fourth of July and runs through July 7 at Old White TPC at The Greenbrier.
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