Power Rankings: The Greenbrier Classic

July 02, 2012
Rob Bolton, Fantasy columnist

With Tiger Woods locking up his 74th title on the PGA TOUR at last week's AT&T National, the only man standing above him in all-time victories is Sam Snead with 82. There's no better segue to lay the foundation for Woods' first appearance at The Greenbrier Classic at The Old White TPC, where Snead became head pro in 1944.

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The Old White TPC has hosted the first two editions of The Greenbrier Classic, yet two very different golf courses have greeted the field in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., located in the extreme southeastern portion of the state along the Virginia border.

In its debut in 2010, the par 70 rolled over for a scoring average of 68.536. It was the second-easiest of 14 par 70s utilized on TOUR that season. The course measured 7,031 yards and surrendered a birdie average of 3.82. It ranked 40th in fairways hit (70.52 percent) and 48th in greens in regulation (77.24 percent). Stuart Appleby became the fifth in history to card a 59 (in the final round); he won the tournament at 22-under 259.

In response, The Old White TPC was lengthened to the current 7,274 yards. Sixteen holes underwent changes, and all 18 greens were reseeded with Bentgrass. As a result, scoring soared to 70.593 in 2011. That placed the track sixth of 14 par 70s used in non-majors last year. Driving accuracy dipped to 66.20 percent (ranking 33rd). GIR plummeted to 64.06 (23rd) and proximity to the hole from the rough increased from 36'4" in 2010 (39th) to 45'2" (ninth). It was no coincidence that the birdie average dropped to 3.10.

Rookie Scott Stallings emerged with a victory in a playoff with Bill Haas and Bob Estes, all of whom completed 72 holes in 10-under 270. After finishing with six birdies on his inward nine, including at the par-3 18th -- one of just two closing par 3s on the schedule (East Lake) -- Stallings would again birdie 18 on the first hole of the playoff to secure his lone TOUR triumph.

The one staple that has spanned the two versions of The Old White TPC is putting. In 2010, it checked in with a putting average of 1.793, ranking T17. Last year, it rose only slightly to 1.808 to rank 13th. Therefore, tee-to-green specialists with an above-average skill on the greens should populate the final leaderboard.

The violent storms that impacted Congressional last week didn't spare The Greenbrier Resort. Several dozen trees fell, including one sycamore on the 16th green. Numerous physical pieces of property were either damaged or destroyed. Yet, owner Jim Justice proclaimed that the tournament will "go off without a hitch."

More inclement weather is expected throughout the week. Not until Saturday does the threat diminish, but rain cannot be ruled out on any day. Temperatures will rise into the high 80s and low 90s. Winds are forecast to be calm.

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Power Rankings: The Greenbrier Classic
Rank Player   Comment
The PGA TOUR's only three-time winner this season. Suffered a field-low five bogeys (and nothing worse) at Congressional last week. Ranks fifth in total driving, 10th in greens in regulation, 14th in Strokes Gained-Putting and first in adjust scoring.
The U.S. Open champion is emitting the vibe that his title at Olympic Club won't affect him short- and long-term. He co-led the Greenbrier at the midpoint last year en route to a share of ninth place. Ranks 12th in GIR and first in birdie average.
Making his debut at The Old White TPC. Won the FedEx St. Jude Classic four weeks ago in what was his first appearance at TPC Southwind. Ranks 19th on the PGA TOUR in adjusted scoring and 10th in proximity to the hole from the rough.
Returns after a one-year hiatus. Shared ninth in 2010. Stumbled to a T34 at the AT&T National where he ranked outside the top 55 in both greens hit and birdies. Overall, he's fifth on TOUR in fairways hit, 30th in GIR and third in adjusted scoring.
First-timer at The Old White TPC. Took two weeks off following a T15 at the U.S. Open. Sits 39th on the PGA TOUR in fairways hit, 32nd in greens in regulation and 30th in birdie average. Also second in proximity to the hole (fourth from the rough).
Took a week off following a T4 at the Travelers Championship, his fifth top 10 of the year. Leads the PGA TOUR in total driving and ranks 20th in greens in regulation, 11th in birdie average and 19th in the all-around. Placed T21 here in 2010.
Tearing it up with nine consecutive cuts made dating back to the Valero Texas Open. Five have gone for top 20s including a career-best T4 at last week's AT&T National. Currently 30th in the all-around ranking, thus supporting his tee-to-cup balance.
Faded to a T29 at the AT&T National but he's shown flashes all season, resulting in eight top 25s in 16 starts. Tied for ninth place here in his only appearance in 2010. Ranks 29th on TOUR in total driving, 44th in greens hit and 14th in birdie average.
Missed the cut by two strokes in his debut here last year. Recorded a forgettable T65 in his last start at the U.S. Open, but he's 47th on TOUR in greens in regulation, 12th in Strokes Gained-Putting, seventh in birdie average and 17th in adjusted scoring.
Quiet since a T10 at THE PLAYERS, making just one of four cuts (T26, Colonial). However, he ranks ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting, 25th in birdie average and fifth in birdies or better on par 4s. Closed out a T18 here last year with a bogey-free 66.

In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Here are five other players Rob Bolton likes at the Old White TPC:

11. Brendon de Jonge ... Coming off a Sunday meltdown at Congressional, where he settled for a T11. However, he's finished solo third and T4 in the first two years, respectively, at this event. Owns an actual scoring average of 66.75 at The Old White TPC.

12. Ken Duke ... With one top 10 in each of the last five months, he's due for another in July. Ranks fifth in total birdies and 47th in birdie average. Also 38th in fairways hit, 24th in Strokes Gained-Putting and 33rd in the all-around.

13. Jimmy Walker ... He tied for fourth place in each of the first two editions of this event and has averaged 67.00 during his eight rounds. Finished one stroke out of the playoff last year. His third-round 62 was co-low for the week. Ranks 21st in Strokes Gained-Putting.

14. Bill Haas ... Lost in a playoff here last year despite ranking outside the top 20 in fairways, greens, putting and birdies. Succeeded by carding just five bogeys all week. Scuffling of late with only one top 25 in his last nine stroke-play starts (T25, THE PLAYERS).

15. Kevin Na ... He's posted five top 10s this year, including on tracks where finding the correct angles is critical, like Bay Hill (T4), Harbour Town (T8) and TPC Sawgrass (T7). Ranks 132nd on TOUR in greens in regulation but 46th in birdie average and 49th in adjusted scoring.