The Greenbrier Classic is a relatively new tournament to the PGA Tour, having only been held in three previous years at the Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.
To say it's been a welcome addition to the pro golf schedule would be an understatement. Tournament organizers couldn't have hoped for much more drama at the conclusion of the event in its brief but already storied history.
Last year, Ted Potter Jr. was the second first-time tour winner, and he won in a playoff just as Scott Stallings had done. In the inaugural showcase, Stuart Appleby fired a final-round 59 in a rousing comeback to win by one stroke.
Given the star power, another thrilling finish is likely to be in order this year.
Below is an overview of what to watch for when the action gets underway on U.S. Independence Day, along with a preview of the top groups to watch during the first two rounds.
Note: All statistics and past finishes, unless otherwise indicated, are courtesy of PGATOUR.com.
When: Thursday, July 4, to Sunday, July 7
Where: The Old White TPC, White Sulphur Springs, W. Va.
Tee Times: First group is off at 7 a.m. ET. For a complete list of tee times for the first two rounds, visit PGATour.com.
Purse: $6.3 million
FedEx Cup Points: 500
TV Schedule (h/t PGA.com)
Thursday: Golf Channel 3-6 p.m. ET
Friday: Golf Channel 3-6 p.m. ET
Saturday: Golf Channel 1-2:30 p.m. ET, CBS 3-6 p.m. ET
Sunday: Golf Channel 1-2:30 p.m. ET, CBS 3-6 p.m. ET
Groups to Watch
No. 18: Ken Duke, Louis Oosthuizen and Charles Howell III
There might not be a more underrated group in the field. Raise your hand if you knew without looking at the standings that Duke and Howell are ranked 21st and 18th respectively in FedEx Cup points entering this week.
The real surprise is Howell, who is plodding along with a wonderful 2013 campaign, in which he's posted five top 10s.
It's been a quiet season for Oosthuizen thus far, but the 2010 British Open champion and last year's Masters runner-up is too talented to stay down for this long.
The South African is still one of the top 10 players in the world, and if his physical ailments are suppressed well enough, he has to be considered among the favorites to win. Surprisingly, it would be the first triumph on U.S. soil for Oosthuizen if he captured the trophy.
No. 19: Bill Haas, Nick Watney and Webb Simpson
Haas and Watney have each won five times on the PGA Tour, and Haas is coming off a trip to the winners circle at last week's AT&T National. That put him in some rather elite company, per Golf Channel's Jason Sobel:
Bill Haas wins the AT&T National. Fifth career win. Joins Phil Mickelson, Dustin Johnson and Justin Rose as winners in four straight years.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) June 30, 2013
The 2012 U.S. Open champion Simpson finished tied for fifth in Maryland, largely thanks to a final-round 65.
Such a score is a strange coincidence in light of how Simpson has fared at the Greenbrier, as Will Gray of Golf Channel documents:
Webb Simpson has shot 65 in 1st rd at Greenbrier each of last 2 yrs. As a result, he's finished 8 straight rounds in WV inside the top 10.— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) July 2, 2013
Are any of these players truly superstars, though? It's hard to argue against any of them, considering they're all in the top 27 of the Official World Golf Ranking.
Haas has the 2011 FedEx Cup title on his resume, yet he's never really done anything in majors. Watney has proven he can win, but his inconsistency is baffling, and he hasn't had a top 10 since early May.
Then there's Simpson, who has won a major and is the youngest of this American trio at the age of 27. However, it's unclear whether his breakthrough was a sign of things to come or his career-defining moment.
Whatever the case may be, these are three of the more interesting careers to monitor in American golf over the next five years or so.
The Old White TPC course clearly is to Simpson's liking, but Watney is also due to snap out of his funk. Meanwhile, maintaining a high level of play after winning is difficult for anyone, so Haas may not be as much of a factor.
No. 31: Boo Weekley, Billy Horschel and Scott Stallings
Few lineups promise to be a captivating as this group of Americans. While the previously analyzed bunch aren't as demonstrative on the course, that will be made up for by these gents.
To go in reverse order, Stallings is the 2011 winner of this event, which marked his first victory on the tour circuit. He played the Crowne Plaza Invitational, the Memorial and St. Jude Classic in consecutive weeks recently and finished tied for fourth, tied for fourth and tied for second in those tournaments, respectively.
It's been a bit of a struggle since then, and Stallings couldn't carry it over to the year's second major and missed the cut. However, it wouldn't be surprising to see him turn it back around at a venue where he's had such special success.
On the other hand, it seems as though Horschel is the type of player who thrives completely on momentum.
A recent Q-school graduate, he has hit the ground running and ranks fifth in the FedEx Cup points standings, missing just one of 17 cuts and winning the Zurich Classic.
The U.S. Open didn't faze Horschel either in his maiden major start, where he finished tied for fourth.
Horschel didn't play well at another U.S. Open site in Congressional this past week, but a more generous track in West Virginia should serve him well—especially since he's No. 2 in birdie average.
Raging success and a rapid rise to stardom haven't gotten Horschel's head, according to PGATour.com's Amanda Balionis:
Great answer by @BillyHo_Golf on success "The only thing that changed is I can help the people that have been a big influence in my life"— Amanda Balionis (@Amanda_Balionis) June 28, 2013
Another big-time birdie specialist is Weekley, who is also among the most entertaining characters on the course and in the press room.
The statistic of strokes gained putting may look horrendous to many, but it's a bit deceiving. Weekley is fifth in greens in regulation and averages a 10th-best 33'5" proximity to the hole.
Since he so frequently finds the putting surface, it's difficult to sink so many one-putts. However, he is eighth on tour in putts made from over 25 feet. If he can just knock in the short ones, Weekley should be in contention come Sunday.
No. 32: Phil Mickelson, Ted Potter Jr. and Bubba Watson
Perhaps the best for last here—and all three are lefties.
We haven't seen Mickelson since his latest self-described heartbreak at the U.S. Open. It was his sixth runner-up finish, which was preceded by an identical joint second at St. Jude Classic.
Mickelson has had enough time to recover from the disappointment, but he interestingly missed the cut in each of his previous two appearances at the Greenbrier Classic.
Who will win the Greenbrier Classic?
The defending champion Potter has one of the oddest swings you'll ever see. The fact that he's not been able to manage more than one top 10 since his win last year suggests it's not quite clicking.
Potter is as resilient as they come, though. He missed the cut in all of his 24 starts as a Nationwide (now Web.com) Tour rookie in 2004 but somehow made his way through the ranks of professional golf to make it to the big stage.
Signs of life came from Watson after a relatively lackluster year ahead of the Travelers Championship. If not for a triple bogey on the 70th hole, he likely would have prevented Duke from his first win.
Still, the tie for fourth shows that Watson is back on point, and he's in the top five in greens in regulation and birdies this season. He is 66th in strokes gained putting this season. Should that hold true, it would be his best finish in the statistic of his career.
Bubba is always fun to watch due to the crazy shots and power he flashes. If his flatstick continues to be kind, a first victory in 2013 can't be far off.