Before you read, please check out one half of DownThe18th’s weekly blog with Golf Monthly – The Open Qualifying
The 4th edition of the Greenbrier Classic will take place this week in West Virginia as the Old White TPC Course plays host.
This was the scene for that magical round in 2010 where eventual champion Stuart Appleby became only the 5th golfer to shoot 59 on the PGA Tour, which does mean that this is indeed a course that low scores are possible.
It has proven to be more difficult in the following years, but this is still a track where plenty of birdies are on offer. Last year’s winner Ted Potter Jnr and Troy Kelly both shot –16 to force a playoff, so the tight and technical challenges are a thing of the past at the moment and scoring is everything.
The course measures at 7,274 yards and is a par 70 with bentgrass greens, so we will be looking at the players who have reasonable length off the tee, although that is not particularly crucial, however the putting stats is where the winner will most likely come from. Especially 20 ft and below, because if the GIR are consistent then this is the sort of distance the players will be faced with.
Paddy Power are offering 6 places this week!
Billy Horschel (33/1 Ladbrokes)
This guy has come so far in a short space of time. He’s been around full time on the Tour for a few years now, but never has he been regarded as one of the ‘top players’. But with the way he is playing at the moment, I think you can call him just that. In 17 starts this year he has 7 top 10’s, a 3rd, 2nd and a win at the Zurich Classic. And with his confident nature and youthful exuberance, we can see him making it 2 wins this week. The course for the Greenbrier will be all about shooting low and holing those putts. We’ll give you some statistics that we think will show you why we can’t look anywhere else. 1st total birdies, 2nd rounds in the 60’s, 5th total putting, 7th total driving, 13th scoring average, 3rd birdie or better conversion. We could go on, but to summarise: Horschel has the ability to shoot low, has been shooting low, and probably will shoot low this week. And let’s not forget his T4 finish at Merion showing he’s not just a birdie machine. As regarding his price, we were expecting 18/20 when we first picked him, so we will certainly snap up 33/1! Billy had a respectable 33rd here last year as well when he wasn’t really on the radar, so who knows what the new Billy can do round here.
Charles Howell III (66/1 Various)
Charles on his day has one of the best games on the circuit and it is quite surprising that he only has 2 PGA titles to his name. And when we knew what sort of player was needed for this course, he was one of the first names we thought of. After a couple of weeks off, Charles did miss the cut last week but with a game like his, he won’t worry about previous performances. After all, his last top 10 finish came off the back of two consecutive missed cuts. And with that missed cut, we do feel the American is someone who will go under the radar this week, which is shown by his odds. Statistically, he is someone who really takes our fancy. 21st scoring average, 13th strokes gained-putting, 6th top 10 finishes, 6th rounds in the 60’s, 19th total birdies and he’s even 3rd in scrambling. For us, those are enough to be very confident this week. And he did record a 9th place in 2010 on this course, which means he enjoys it around here. It’s also interesting to note that on the courses at the start of the year, where scoring low was imperative, he finished T3 and 2nd with scores of -17 and -25.
Ryan Palmer (55/1 BetVictor)
I’m sure you are all thinking “again?!” as we are ourselves, but time after time Ryan Palmer keeps being the right fit for the week. We just have to look at each week with a clear mind and think “would we back him if we hadn’t already last week” and our answer this week was yes. Shooting low is the American’s middle name, 6th in total birdies, 11th scoring average, 8th rounds in the 60’s, 25th total putting and 16th in top 10 finishes. We can’t stress enough how Palmer will win sooner or later, it’s just a matter of when. He has 4 top 10’s to his name this year and in those he pushed the eventual winner very close. And just like Charles Howell, earlier in the year on the birdie-fest courses, he recorded a T6 and 5th with scores of -23 and -19. So that combined scoring ability with some really solid putting, it could finally be the week for Ryan. Because of his lack of win this year, his odds are great value. Hopefully this is his week.
Russell Henley (50/1 Stan James)
Now obviously we have focused heavily on the ability of shooting low, but putting will be vital this week too. And in Russell Henley, you have one of the best putters around. 14th in total putting and 16th strokes gained-putting is where he finds himself statistically with the short stick. His season has been a bit of a roller-coaster with 3 top 10’s, a couple of top 25’s but then 5 missed cuts. And he bagged his 1st PGA title at the start of the year, shooting -24 to win the Sony Open. But we feel the American is looking very similar to how he did when he took that title in January. Before his T34 last week at the AT&T, Henley shot rounds of 64 and 62 at the CVS Caremark Charity Classic which indicates to us he has his birdie boots on. And don’t worry about his ability to shoot low, 33rd rounds in the 60’s, 15th birdie average, 40th scoring average whilst he also ranks 16th in total driving. We think you will struggle to find many better than Henley at the odds he finds himself at.
Bob Estes (125/1 Paddy Power)
The 47 year old has done enough to be our outsider for the week. Simply because he’s been playing ok, has great course form and statistically is really quite good. Estes recorded a 2nd place here in 2011 and has made the cut either side of that finish. He hasn’t missed a cut in nearly 3 months now and has a best of T7 at the Valero Texas Open. His T16 at the Humana at the start of the year saw him shoot -20, meaning he can definitely shoot low when he’s on his game. He ranks 25th scoring average, 31st total putting, 4th scrambling and 26th rounds in the 60’s. He obviously won’t excite you as much as our other 4, but he has the perfect game for this course. Can he replicate what Ken Duke did a couple of weeks ago and do it for the ‘old guys’ once more!