The 2014 Greenbrier Classic included plenty of surprises and excitement, but in the end, one of the more decorated players in the field, Angel Cabrera, emerged with the victory.
Cabrera, who has victories at the Masters and U.S. Open on his gaudy resume, shot a combined 12 under par on the weekend at The Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia. That was good enough to take home the top prize in his first non-major PGA Tour victory.
Here is a breakdown of the tournament, featuring daily recaps to illustrated what happened throughout the event.
Day 4 Recap
Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera showed off his superior experience and seasoning in the final round of the Greenbrier Classic on Sunday.
Cabrera got off to a hot start and held on amid a tense back nine to win his first regular PGA Tour event at The Old White TPC, carding a second consecutive six-under 64 and claiming victory by two strokes.
Below is an overview of the top performers for the week:
|T4||Billy Hurley III||-9||68-63-67-73|
One noteworthy name is runner-up George McNeill, who surged up the leaderboard with a magnificent 61. That included a score of 28 on the front side, highlighted by an ace at the par-three eighth hole:
McNeill was putting on a ball-striking display that any golfer would be envious of, per Golf Channel's Justin Ray:
George McNeill's last 25 holes of @GbrClassic - 11-under, 22-of-25 greens hit, 9 approach shots inside 15 feet.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 6, 2014
But Cabrera had some magic of his own to show off. After turning in three-under 31, "El Pato" birdies Nos. 11 and 12 before a majestic iron up the hill that couldn't have been better:
A letdown followed, adding to the suspense in what became a two-man race for the trophy. Cabrera dropped shots at Nos. 14 and 15, but managed to card a par at the 16th. Then his driving prowess was a sight to behold on the par-five 17th, where the powerful Argentine was undaunted by his slim one-shot advantage:
Angel Cabrera just busted one 337 off the tee. Ah, playing conservatively with the lead. Good idea.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 6, 2014
After a two-putt birdie and a routine par at the par-three closing hole, Cabrera's triumph was complete. Gary Williams of Golf Channel offered an interesting take on what transpired:
When Angel Cabrera is right he is grade A all choice tenderloin and I'd imagine he'll have 44 ounces of that tonight at Prime 44.— Gary Williams (@garywilliamsGC) July 6, 2014
Dave Shedloski of Golf World noted an interesting parallel between Cabrera's fabulous final 36 holes and other winners on tour this season:
Angel Cabrera wins Greenbrier with 64-64 weekend. Sound familiar? Bubba Watson (Riviera), Kevin Streelman (Travelers) also finished 64-64.— Dave Shedloski (@DaveShedloski) July 6, 2014
Sunday served as yet another example of what Cabrera is capable of when he's firing on all cylinders. Given how far he hits the ball off the tee, the quality of his irons when they're on and how smooth his putting stroke looks when he's in contention, it's a wonder Cabrera isn't in the hunt more often.
Now this gives Cabrera a lot of momentum ahead of the Open Championship, where he could complete the third leg of the career Grand Slam if his current form continues. However, as impressive as Cabrera has often been on the major stage, it will take more sustained greatness beyond his Greenbrier Classic win to count him among the true contenders for the Claret Jug.
Day 3 Recap
Billy Hurley III built upon his lead in a busy Day 3 at the Greenbrier Classic, but the tournament is far from a runaway with a number of big names still in contention.
Angel Cabrera, Michael Thompson and Cameron Tringale each shot up the board with 64s on Saturday, keeping things interesting heading into the final round on Sunday.
Here is a look at the top of the leaderboard through 54 holes:
|1||Billy Hurley III||-12||67|
A complete look at the leaderboard is available at PGATOUR.com.
Hurley might have made a few more mistakes than his previous round, but he was still incredibly solid to shoot a 67 and take a two-stroke lead. He had all of his clubs working, nailing 85.71 percent of fairways while also showcasing his skill on the green.
One of his best shots came on this approach on No. 9, one of his five birdies on the day:
If he can keep posting low numbers in the fourth round, he will be able to end his weekend with his first career title.
However, he will not win without some serious challenges from others. One of the most impressive rounds came from Cabrera, who started with four birdies in his first six holes and did not stop until he carded a 64.
As Justin Ray of Golf Channel notes, the veteran came through with some impressive putting throughout the day:
Angel Cabrera putting like it's a major. +5.5 strokes gained putting in 3rd round, by far best in field today.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 5, 2014
Here is a look at one of his more difficult putts to birdie on No. 16:
Of course, if you truly want a putting lesson, you need to look at what Steve Stricker did on the first hole:
You know a shot is impressive when the announcer can only respond with a "Really?" Stricker finished his day at eight-under and is clearly one of the top contenders to catch the current leader.
Then again, this is a great opportunity for one of the younger players to bring home their first championship:
The @GBRClassic has produced first-time winners by the handful. Non-winners in current top 10: Hurley, Tringale, Stroud, Chappell.— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) July 5, 2014
These players all have a better chance of competing than Chris Kirk, who started the day in fifth place but was all the way down to seven-over for the day before finishing with two birdies. Still, sitting at one-under will not give him a very good chance at succeeding.
With established players like Bubba Watson, Bill Haas and Davis Love III all trying to catch up to lesser-known competitors, the final day is certain to feature plenty of drama.
Day 2 Recap
There is a lot of golf still to be played, but Billy Hurley III has put himself in good position to win his first career PGA tournament.
The Naval Academy grad was almost perfect on Friday with seven birdies and no bogeys to card a 63. Along with his 68 in Round 1, he has moved to nine strokes under par and taken the lead.
Despite this success, he only holds a one-stroke lead over Kevin Chappell and Chris Stroud after 36 holes. This is part of an extremely close leaderboard that will remain one to watch over the next two days:
|1||Billy Hurley III||-9||63|
A complete look at the leaderboard is available at PGATOUR.com.
Coming off a top-10 finish at the Quicken Loans National, Hurley continued his momentum with a great start in this tournament.
His 63 featured a number of great shots all over the course, but this approach out of the rough to set up a birdie on No. 7 might have been his best:
Gary Williams of Golf Channel also points out the great story of a military man having a great day on the Fourth of July:
Navy officer Billy Hurley shoots 63 on 7-4. Of course he did. #Happy4th— Gary Williams (@garywilliamsGC) July 4, 2014
Of course, he did not even have the best round of the day. That honor went to Troy Matteson, who finished with a 61, thanks to an incredible putting performance that fell just short of a tour record:
Interestingly, Matteson is used to these low scores, as noted by Justin Ray of Golf Channel:
Troy Matteson: 4th career @PGATOUR round of 61 or lower, all since 2009. No other player has more than 2 such rounds in that span.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 4, 2014
The one thing he needs is a bit more consistency to turn these great rounds into tournament titles. At the very least, he must show that he can pass Stroud and Chappell, two players who remain in contention after impressive starts to the tournament.
Meanwhile, the leaderboard features a number of other big names ready to challenge in the coming days. One of those players is Steve Stricker, who remains as solid as they come with shots like this:
The veteran does not compete that often at this stage in his career, but he continues to have success when he finds his way onto the course.
Two players in the midst of great seasons also have a chance to keep up their strong play as Chris Kirk and Bubba Watson sit at minus-six and minus-five, respectively. Watson is currently in second place in the FedEx Cup Standings, but he is focusing on the task at hand, according to Jason Sobel of Golf Channel:
You won't see this Bubba Watson quote on a PGA Tour promo: "I could care less about the FedEx Cup. I'm trying to win this golf tournament."— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 4, 2014
One player who did not have a good day was Blixt, who followed up his 64 with just a 73 in Round 2. The Day 1 leader was wild off the tee and finished with five bogeys in a poor round to fall down the leaderboard.
Although the Swedish player will have a tough time coming back, this is still a wide-open tournament with seemingly everyone under par. Nothing will be decided until the last hole on Sunday and possibly beyond.
Day 1 Recap
On a wide-open course that featured a lot of birdie opportunities, there were a lot of low scores in the opening round. Based on the first round, it is clear that finishing the day at even might not even be good enough to make the cut.
Blixt was the most impressive in the field with a six-under score of 64, featuring eight birdies and just two bogeys.
However, there are eight players just one stroke behind after shooting a 65 on Thursday and plenty more right behind this group. Here is a look at the top of the leaderboard through the first round, courtesy of PGATour.com:
Starting on the back nine, Blixt got off to an incredible start. He had seven birdies in his first 10 holes with only a bogey on No. 13 slowing down his day. Although he cooled down a bit from that point, he still was capable of some big shots, like this one on No. 6:
Justin Ray of Golf Channel breaks down just how good the Swedish player has been at this tournament recently:
Since 1st Rd of 2013 Greenbrier, Jonas Blixt has 10 @PGATOUR rounds of 67 or lower. 5 of them have come at this event.— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) July 3, 2014
Blixt discussed his game plan for the day with Jason Sobel of Golf Channel, saying, "I talked to my caddie about it and on the first tee. There was no wind, so I just said to him, ‘I’m going to be really aggressive today.’ He was like, ‘Yeah, I like that.’ Just go out there and make as many birdies as possible."
This obviously worked in Round 1, but the question is whether he can keep this up for the rest of the tournament.
Of the competitors one stroke back, the one Blixt might be most scared of is Chris Kirk. The Georgia native is seventh in the FedEx Cup standing with a win and three top-10 finishes so far this year. After a flawless day with five birdies and no holes over par, he will clearly be a top competitor going forward.
Two strokes off the lead is Steve Stricker, who is playing well despite this only being his eighth official event of the season. As Sobel notes, this could affect the rest of his year:
Steve Stricker said yesterday that he'll only play the Open Championship if he gets hot. Well... he's tied for the lead early.— Jason Sobel (@JasonSobelGC) July 3, 2014
Kevin Na and Keegan Bradley are also high-profile talents looking to make up a few strokes in the next few days.
However, a better story might be Patrick Reed, the 23-year-old player who blew his chance at his third win of the year last week. After holding the lead through 54 holes, he shot a 77 at Congressional Country Club to fall out of the top 10.
Fortunately for him, shots like this one helped him finish with a 67 in Round 1 to remain in contention:
Andrew Loupe also made his mark on the day despite finishing with just a 69. On the par-five No. 17 that stretched over 600 yards, he came extremely close to an albatross:
Settling for an eagle on the hole is not the worst thing, but he will have to be a bit more consistent in order to move into contention.
With other big names like Bubba Watson, Angel Cabrera, Bill Haas and others a few strokes back, things are certain to get interesting going forward.
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