Winner’s Share: $1,170,000
It was mixed emotions at the Quicken Loans National last week with our outside shot Shawn Stefani narrowly losing out to the king of grinding, Justin Rose. But we love the Englishman and cannot deny how well he played, especially after that outrageous bogey putt on the 18th in regulation play! Non-the-less, it was a much-needed profitable week, with Fabrizio Zanotti also taking the spoils over in Germany.
The Greenbrier Classic once again presents an opportunity for players who have not already qualified for The Open. The top 4 finishers inside the top 12 who have not already qualified, will be on a plane to Royal Liverpool in a few weeks time. So everyone has incentives to do well this week.
Judging by the previous 4 winners (Appleby, Stallings, Potter Jnr and Blixt) it is a tournament where lower ranked players have tended to do well. Only Walker, Haas and Simpson have top 10’s to their name at this event of the ‘big’ players there. And it is also an event where not one particular part of a player’s game is really needed, apart from putting! Blixt ranked near the bottom in both accuracy and distance statistics last year but topped putting average. So as long as you possess a bit of form coming into this and are confident on the greens, you could do well. The course plays 7,287 yards and is a par 70.
Scoring has the potential to go low and the fact Stuart Appleby shot a 59 around here in 2010, you need your man to jump on board the birdie train from time to time.
Webb Simpson (22/1 Paddy Power)
It was a tough call between this man, Haas and Todd for who would sneak into our picks this week. But Simpson has been given the call with his superior putting ability (although Todd has been on another level of late) and relative consistency both at this event and in recent weeks.
Without ever really contending last week, Webb produced some solid golf and ended up ranked 19th in putting average on what were very tough greens. Combine this with a 7th in 2012 and 9th in 2011, we have a player who should do well here. The only worry we have is the trend of lesser-known players winning, continues. Simpson also ranks 9th strokes gained-putting and 32nd scoring average.
Brendon De Jonge (40/1 BetFred)
He has been on our radar for a few weeks now and we even went there to no avail a couple of weeks back. But this course seems like the perfect fit for someone who has outstanding ability with the short stick and spends most of his time at tournaments on the aforementioned birdie train.
The Zimbabwean has lacked sufficient bottle in his career so far to take a title and the number of bogeys he racks up does not help matters. But what we saw from him at the tough Quicken Loans was his putting and grinding abilities working to the max. If he can take that to an easier track this week, he could go very low. He ranked 2nd in putting average last week on his way to an 8th place finish. Has two top 4 finishes in the last 4 years and finished 17th last year.
Chris Stroud (66/1 Stan James)
The American fits everything for us this week and that is often actually a bad omen! He finished 9th in 2010 and 18th the year after whilst his form has been relatively consistent of late with two top 20’s in his last 3 starts.
His game is very rounded and we are sure he can go onto to do big things in the game. And he is putting well, ranking 49th strokes gained-putting, 55th GIR and also 13th in 1-putts, which could be crucial.
Morgan Hoffman (125/1 SkyBet)
This guy always pops up at the top of the leaderboard when you least expect it. He is yet to bring any sort of week on week consistency to his game but we have a sneaky feeling about him coming into the Greenbrier.
Last week he ranked 6th in putting average and despite his poor finish because of his tee to green game, it will be a completely different test this week. Putting is key as we said and he finished 23rd in his first try last year which will give him more confidence. He ranks 14th strokes gained-putting and 18th 1-putts.
Andres Romero (125/1 Coral)
Another player we are quietly confident in and after South American success in Europe with Zanotti, we stay loyal to the continent with Argentinian Romero.
Andres is an iron-player specialist who has the ability to hit it long, putt well and go low. At these sorts of odds he is someone who definitely takes our fancy. 5th last week shows how well he is now playing and ranked T13 in putting average. Also has a 4th place finish here in 2011.
Stuart Appleby (140/1 Bet 365) and David Lingmerth (200/1 SkyBet)
Aussie Appleby holds the course record 59, won the same year and has been enjoying somewhat of a renaissance of late. Was T35 putting last week, 32nd for the season and 16th 1 putts. Lingmerth will be looking to follow countryman Blixt in winning this and took a liking for the course last year finishing 9th. Ranked 11th putting at this event last year and finished with 3 rounds in the 60’s. Form has been sporadic, but a best of T5 at the Crowne Plaza in May will give him confidence.