By Cam Huffman
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —
Despite what you might hear from the fans — or even some of the television analysts — the 2012 Greenbrier Classic is anything but a one-man show.
Yes, having Tiger Woods as part of the field was a major shot in the arm to the already popular PGA TOUR FedExCup event, but even without the appeal of Woods, there are plenty of great stories to follow over the next four days on The Old White TPC course.
Here’s a look at some players you might want to check out this week, whether watching on TV or making the trek to Greenbrier County’s most luxurious spot.
Stuart Appleby — The winner of the inaugural Greenbrier Classic, Appleby won by a stroke in 2010, shooting a 59 in the final round. He became the fifth player in history to card a 59 in a PGA TOUR event.
Erik Compton — Known more for his heart condition – he’s now on his third heart after being diagnosed with a condition called viral cardiomyopathy as a child – the University of Georgia graduate is a heart-warming story any time he gets near the top on the PGA TOUR, which he did in 2010 when he took the opening-round lead at the Greenbrier Classic.
John Daly — The two-time Major winner doesn’t have the game he had when he won the 1991 PGA Championship or the 1995 British Open, but he does still have the pants. He’s worth following just to see what he’s wearing and listen for what comes out of his mouth.
Jess Ferrell — The only West Virginia native in the tournament, the 19-year-old Fairmont resident, who is a rising-junior at Fairmont State, grabbed an exemption into the tournament after tying for second place at last year’s West Virginia Amateur.
Jim Furyk — He doesn’t get the attention of Woods or Phil Mickelson, but Furyk has been extremely successful on the PGA TOUR, winning 16 times, including the 2003 U.S. Open. Plus, the Pennsylvania native has made many trips to Mountaineer Field and calls himself a WVU fan.
Tommy Gainey — Gainey is an inspiring story for aspiring golfers trying to come out of nowhere and end up on the PGA TOUR. He was working on an assembly line in South Carolina in 1999, before coming up through the ranks in professional golf – playing on the Gateway Tour, the eGolf Tour, the NGA Tour and the Nationwide Tour before reaching the big show. He also appeared on The Golf Channel’s “The Big Break IV” in 2005. He’s known as “Two Gloves” because he wears a golf glove on both hands.
Bill Haas — Haas is probably the best golfer that nobody seems to know. Despite winning four times on the PGA TOUR and capturing the 2011 FedEx Cup, Haas doesn’t draw the big galleries or major endorsements. But that doesn’t mean the Wake Forest graduate doesn’t play great golf. He’s finished in the Top 25 five times this season and has already won more than a million dollars in 2012.
Dustin Johnson — Like to see the big hitters? Johnson’s your guy. He’s been third in driving distance for the last three years, but that’s not the only strong point of his game. He’s won six times on the PGA TOUR, and the 28-year old – who’s finished second at the British Open, eighth at the U.S. Open and fifth at the PGA Championship – is considered one of the top young golfers to have never won a Major.
Brendon de Jonge — The native of Salisbury, Zimbabwe gets a lot of local support because he played college golf at Virginia Tech. He’s performed well under those conditions, finishing tied for fourth at last year’s Greenbrier Classic and third in 2010. He’s been playing well lately, finishing eighth and 11th in his last two PGA events.
Phil Mickelson — If it weren’t for Woods, “Lefty” would certainly be golf’s biggest star. The four-time Major champion, who has three Green Jackets hanging in his closet, has won 40 times on the PGA TOUR, tied for ninth all-time, and he’s built a great relationship with his fans. When Mickelson is on, nobody’s more fun to watch.
Webb Simpson — Woods may have won more Majors than anybody in the game today, but Simpson is the most recent Major winner. His U.S. Open victory last month wasn’t a fluke, either. Simpson’s won three times the last two years with three second-place finishes. This year, he’s made 13 cuts in 15 events, including five Top 10s.
Scott Stallings — The 2011 Greenbrier Classic champion should come in with some confidence this week, and he needs it after making only four cuts in 16 starts this year.
Tom Watson — Woods will end up being one of golf’s biggest legends, but Watson is already there. He’s won eight Majors, including five British Opens and has 39 PGA TOUR victories. The Greenbrier Pro Emeritus is also a local favorite, because of his connections to the area.
Boo Weekley — Weekley’s game has slipped off a little lately — he has just three Top 25 finishes in 15 PGA TOUR events this year — but anybody who loves to hunt and fish and wears blaze orange on the golf course has to get some support from a Mountain State crowd.
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