Lost in the midst of World Cup fever and the NBA free-agent frenzy, the PGA Tour continues its fast track to The Open Championship with this week's Greenbrier Classic.
Set at The Old White TPC in West Virginia, the event was founded in 2010 and is still getting its footing in terms of landing the game's biggest names. Tiger Woods, who made his not so triumphant return from back surgery last week, will not be in attendance. Neither will Rory McIlroy, Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Henrik Stenson or Matt Kuchar.
Of the game's 10 top-ranked players, only one (Bubba Watson) will be in the field this week. In fact, the highest-ranked player after Watson (No. 3 in the world) is Jimmy Walker (No. 17).
What the event lacks in star power, however, it makes up for in the national introduction of some unknowns. Ted Potter Jr. and Scott Stallings got their first wins at the Greenbrier. Last year's event made many fans familiar with Jonas Blixt, who now has two top-five finishes in the last three majors.
If nothing else, every stop on the PGA Tour is worth checking out because it could be your first opportunity to see a contender pop out of the woodwork.
Plus, who really likes seeing Woods competing on Sunday, anyway? (Everyone? Oh, crap.)
With that in mind, let's check in on when everything is going down in West Virginia and preview the 2014 Greenbrier Classic.
Greenbrier Classic Information
When: July 3 - July 6
|2014 Greenbrier Classic TV Schedule|
|Thursday, July 3||3 p.m. - 7 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Friday, July 4||3 p.m. - 7 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Saturday, July 5||1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|3 p.m. - 6 p.m.||CBS|
|Sunday, July 6||1 p.m. - 2:30 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|3 p.m. - 6 p.m.||CBS|
|Greenbrier Classic Thursday Tee Times (Hole No. 1)|
|7:00 a.m.||James Hahn||Thorbjorn Olesen||Gonzalo Fdez-Castano|
|7:10 a.m.||William McGirt||Shawn Stefani||Michael Putnam|
|7:20 a.m.||Brian Davis||Martin Flores||Kevin Kisner|
|7:30 a.m.||Sang-Moon Bae||Rory Sabbatini||Stuart Appleby|
|7:40 a.m.||J.J. Henry||Davis Love III||Mike Weir|
|7:50 a.m.||Marc Leishman||K.J. Choi||Charles Howell III|
|8:00 a.m.||Chris Kirk||Scott Brown||Kevin Na|
|8:10 a.m.||Woody Austin||Charlie Beljan||Tommy Gainey|
|8:20 a.m.||Sean O'Hair||Heath Slocum||Tag Ridings|
|8:30 a.m.||Ricky Barnes||Peter Hanson||Robert Streb|
|8:40 a.m.||Scott McCarron||Troy Kelly||Brice Garnett|
|8:50 a.m.||Doug LaBelle II||Patrick Cantlay||Will Wilcox|
|9:00 a.m.||Scott Gardiner||Benjamin Alvarado||Rod Perry|
|12:00 p.m.||Andres Romero||Chris Stroud||Billy Hurley III|
|12:10 p.m.||Pat Perez||Greg Chalmers||Chad Collins|
|12:20 p.m.||Roberto Castro||Brian Harman||Richard H. Lee|
|12:30 p.m.||Johnson Wagner||Tim Clark||Robert Allenby|
|12:40 p.m.||Jonathan Byrd||Y.E. Yang||Angel Cabrera|
|12:50 p.m.||Brendon Todd||J.B. Holmes||Bubba Watson|
|1:00 p.m.||Webb Simpson||Keegan Bradley||Tom Watson|
|1:10 p.m.||Ted Potter Jr.||Kyle Stanley||Bryce Molder|
|1:20 p.m.||Stephen Ames||Brendon de Jonge||Daniel Summerhays|
|1:30 p.m.||Steve Marino||Josh Teater||Danny Lee|
|1:40 p.m.||Jamie Lovemark||Kevin Foley||Jeff Curl|
|1:50 p.m.||Alex Prugh||Hudson Swafford||Mikey Moyers|
|2 p.m.||Miguel Angel Carballo||Kevin Tway||Brian Anania|
|Greenbrier Classic Thursday Tee Times (Hole No. 10)|
|7:00 a.m.||Paul Goydos||Neal Lancaster||Charlie Wi|
|7:10 a.m.||Jason Bohn||Chad Campbell||James Driscoll|
|7:20 a.m.||Brendan Steele||Joe Durant||Jeff Maggert|
|7:30 a.m.||Mark Wilson||David Toms||Scott Verplank|
|7:40 a.m.||Michael Thompson||Ben Curtis||Darren Clarke|
|7:50 a.m.||Patrick Reed||Bill Haas||Steve Stricker|
|8:00 a.m.||Jimmy Walker||Scott Stallings||Jonas Blixt|
|8:10 a.m.||D.A. Points||Jhonattan Vegas||Justin Leonard|
|8:20 a.m.||David Lingmerth||Troy Merritt||Scott Langley|
|8:30 a.m.||John Daly||Spencer Levin||Andrew Svoboda|
|8:40 a.m.||Will MacKenzie||Trevor Immelman||John Peterson|
|8:50 a.m.||Jim Herman||Tyrone Van Aswegen||Patrick Rodgers|
|9:00 a.m.||Brad Fritsch||Edward Loar||Brian Agee|
|12:00 p.m.||Nicholas Thompson||Kevin Chappell||Tim Wilkinson|
|12:10 p.m.||Camilo Villegas||Jason Gore||Jim Renner|
|12:20 p.m.||Luke Guthrie||Ben Martin||D.H. Lee|
|12:30 p.m.||Derek Ernst||Brian Gay||Harrison Frazar|
|12:40 p.m.||Ken Duke||John Huh||Vijay Singh|
|12:50 p.m.||Gary Woodland||Nick Watney||Carl Pettersson|
|1:00 p.m.||Steven Bowditch||Chesson Hadley||George McNeill|
|1:10 p.m.||Matt Bettencourt||Troy Matteson||Morgan Hoffmann|
|1:20 p.m.||Daniel Chopra||David Hearn||Justin Hicks|
|1:30 p.m.||John Rollins||Nick Faldo||Cameron Tringale|
|1:40 p.m.||Bud Cauley||Wes Roach||Bobby Wyatt|
|1:50 p.m.||Andrew Loupe||Peter Malnati||Oliver Goss|
|2:00 p.m.||Alex Aragon||Bronson La'Cassie||Robert McClellan|
Greenbrier Classic Preview
If you're looking for an early group to watch when it comes to this course, look no further than the two-day threesome of Blixt, Stallings and Walker. Stallings is the 2011 champion here, Blixt took the event last year, and Walker is the second-best player overall in the field.
Since taking the Greenbrier, the past 12 months have been an up-and-down affair for Blixt. The Swede finished fourth in the 2013 PGA Championship and nearly won the whole thing at Wimbledon, but his results have been otherwise inconsistent. He comes into this week having been cut in two straight events and three of his last four dating back to Augusta.
Stallings has added two more trophies to his mantle over the last three years, including the Farmers Insurance Open in January. But his successes have been intermittent, and he wasn't even in the field for last month's U.S. Open.
Realistically, Walker is the one with the best chance to take this event. He's moved into the top 20 this season after breaking through with three victories and consecutive top-10 finishes at major championships. At age 35, it's something of a weird time for a breakout. Walker turned pro in 2001 and didn't even qualify for a major championship between 2003 and 2009.
During that period, he bounced back and forth between the PGA Tour and the Nationwide Tour. Walker is on a shortlist of the least likely top 20 players in recent golf history. One member of this trio will compete deep into the weekend. Heck, maybe two of them will. But it will be interesting to see how this group shakes out given the variance between the players.
Most eyes will be fixed on Watson, the Masters champ who is also trying to get through a recent patch of struggles. Watson struggled miserably at Pinehurst en route to missing his second cut in his last three major appearances.
The lone one between was, of course, Augusta, so it's not all bad. But we've come to expect more from top-five players, and Watson's inability to put it all together for long stretches continues to plague his reputation.
The game's longest driver currently sits just inside the top 100 in driving accuracy and has been miserable pitching out of the sand all season. That, along with poor putting, was his undoing at the U.S. Open.
If there's anywhere Watson can get back on track, though, it's here. He and his family recently moved to Greenbrier resort, giving him the advantage of using the Old White TPC whenever he pleases for a practice round.
"I've played it probably five times in the last two weeks, so I have been able to see it and have been able to familiarize myself with it," Watson told reporters. "That doesn't mean when the pressure is on and the conditions are right I'll play good. It just means I have a better chance of seeing the course a few more times."
When it comes to an event like this, any advantage matters—no matter how small Watson wants to make it seem. He should be considered a significant favorite this week given the relative lack of competition and the ability to sleep in his own bed.
Other notables who could contend include Steve Stricker, Kevin Na, Webb Simpson and Keegan Bradley.
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