The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 8, 2012

Absence of Tiger, Phil doesn’t keep fans away


No Lefty.

No problem.

Despite the unceremonious loss of golf’s two biggest stars, fans still showed up en masse for The Greenbrier Classic’s third round on Saturday. Both Tiger Woods, fresh off his PGA TOUR-best third win of the season at the AT&T National, and Phil Mickelson missed Friday’s cut line of 1-under.

Some fans missed the first two rounds for various reasons, so their hopes of witnessing the co-main events dissipated into the highly humid air.

“We had tickets for Thursday and couldn’t make it because of the power outages, and my mom had some health issues,” said Hurricane resident Steve Price.

“But, yeah, definitely we came up to see those guys. Disappointed, but there is always next year.”

Mack Owens, a 17-year-old from Abingdon, Va., was on hand Thursday and Friday, but missed both Woods and Mickelson.

And he didn’t sound broken up about it.

“It was overbearing at first,” Owens said, “but it calmed down once you got a seat in a nice shady spot.”

Woods came oh-so-close to holing out No. 18 to close his second round, but had to settle for a birdie to finish at even-par — missing the weekend by a single stroke.

Mickelson, meanwhile, was playing in his second Classic, and still has not experienced a weekend on the Old White TPC. A year after missing the cut in his tournament debut, the four-time major winner shot a 2-over and was done early.

It was the first time ever that Woods and Mickelson missed the cut in the same tournament.

That the Classic sold out for the first time in its three-year history in the same year Woods was making his first Old White appearance is hardly a coincidence. But not even his and Mickelson’s absences — nor temperatures in the 90s and thick humidity — kept fans away Saturday.

“It’s good to be here; this is a major event,” Price said. “Kudos to Jim Justice (chairman and CEO of The Greenbrier) for bringing this to West Virginia. Really, it’s an honor to be here.”

Price, whose son Zach is a rising sophomore on Hurricane’s golf team, acknowledged there are far more attractions than just Woods and Mickelson. There is the Greenbrier Concert Series and, of course, more than 100 other golfers.

He and Zach have been pulling for Scott Stallings, the 2011 Classic champion who was at 3-under after the third round.

Zach won a contest online that afforded him a chance to meet Stallings during Monday’s pro-am.

“We like Scott, and always Tom Watson,” Price said, referring to the Greenbrier Pro Emeritus. “He’s 62 years old and he’s out here with these young guys, tearing them up.

“We love golf. My son is an avid golfer. I play when I can, so I consider myself a ‘weekend warrior.’”

The hunt for Tiger was not as bad as has been made out, according to Owens. The strategic angles orchestrated by the professionals at The Golf Channel helped to beef things up.

“I don’t think it’s as bad as it looks (on TV),” Owens said. “I think they film the (busiest) spots.

“I liked seeing most of the professional golfers play. This is only my second golf tournament, so it was nice.”

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