Justice with the innaugural winner, Stuart Appleby
Greenbrier Resort owner Jim Justice has reason to smile. And it is only partially due to the success of his four-year-old PGA Tour event, the Greenbrier Classic. “I don't know if many of you know this, but I do think we're one of the big corn farmers in the United States, so I am sincere when I say I'm very thankful for the rain,” he said.
On the eve of the Greenbrier Classic, rain continues to dot the Doppler, and many in the field have affectionately called it a family atmosphere. The wet conditions might slow what Justice has termed “the second-firmest greens on the PGA Tour,” but the field for the 2013 event features Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson, Bill Haas, Bubba Watson and Louis Oosthuizen.
Bubba Watson and his family took to falconry earlier in the week and even had a chance to do some fishing on Justice’s farm. Many players have been missing from practice rounds, and some of that has to do with the weather, the activity buffet and the food buffet at the Greenbrier. The weather conditions have made Sam Snead’s old backyard lush and puddled.
For a tournament that has earned a reputation as a “cheese event”—meaning it is between the U.S. Open and the British Open—the Greenbrier Classic has drawn a hungry group of young players. Two of the first three winners, Scott Stallings (2011) and Ted Potter, Jr. (2012), were first-time winners. Stuart Appleby won the inaugural event, shooting a 59 in the final round in 2010.
This year, Justice admits a proven major winner could still help his infant event. He said, “I mean, you know, if one of the superstars, one of the real true champions that have been out there through countless licks and everything, have earned their stripes to win or be in the running coming down the stretch, that would be great."
For Justice, the weather is really secondary since his event dealt with a major storm, a derecho, in 2012. The course was beaten by the wind, and thousands were without power, during last year’s event. “If I would have truly known the magnitude of the catastrophe, we may have said—we may have thrown up the white flag and said we can't do it,” said Justice on Tuesday.
Raleigh, North Carolina native and 2012 U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson plays fiddle to the family week. But as for recruiting other players to West Virginia, he simply says, "It's a laid-back week. You wake up, take a shower and get a little shuttle down to the golf course. I think those details make it where it's easy to talk players into coming here".
Play begins Thursday morning on both nines of the Old White TPC.
All quotes for this article were obtained firsthand.