The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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July 8, 2012

Playing the roll of oddsmaker

Who has the best chance of bringing home the trophy?

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — Jim Justice hasn’t offered me a position at the Greenbrier Casino Club yet, but I’m going to play the roll of oddsmaker, anyway.

As the players prepare to take to the Old White TPC course for one final round, there are plenty of candidates vying to leave The Greenbrier Classic with some new hardware. But who has the best chance of doing so?

Let’s take a look. But remember, my advice is for recreational purposes only. If you go with my picks and end up losing your lucky coin, the last two pieces of pizza in the refrigerator and your neighbor’s cat on a “friendly” bet, don’t come crying to me.

Webb Simpson (5/2) — It’s hard not to consider Simpson (-14) a clear favorite. Not only does he have a two-stroke cushion going into the round, he’s been almost flawless all week, carding just one bogey, compared to 15 birdies through 54 holes. On top of that, he’s the only guy near the top who really understands the pressure of being in contention with all eyes focused his way on a Sunday. If his nerves didn’t get the best of him at the U.S. Open, there’s no reason to believe they will at The Greenbrier. And if they do, there’s surely a spa not too far away.

J.B. Holmes (6/1) — Holmes (-11) has won twice on the PGA TOUR, so he knows a little about the pressure, as well.

He’s not quite as consistent as Simpson — he’s more likely to follow a pair of bogeys with three straight birdies than to plug along with a string of pars with a few birdies mixed in — but he also has the game to post a really low number and run away from the field.

Charlie Beljan (8/1) — It’s a risk to put a guy like Beljan (-11), who knows nothing about what he’ll be experiencing today, so close to the top, but he’s proven he has the attitude and the game to get it done. He’s a big hitter, which can help on the shorter layout of the Old White TPC, and he’s seemed nothing but relaxed all week. Anybody who can hit the woods for a bathroom break in front of thousands of spectators, can’t be caught up in the moment. He seems like a guy who will simply enjoy the moment, and that could lead to a big paycheck, and a few more people who know how to pronounce his last name.

Charlie Wi (10/1) — A 40-year-old South Korean, Wi (-9) doesn’t have a PGA TOUR victory to draw upon, but he has won on the European and Asian Tours and knows how to take his game to another level in the final round. He’ll have to be more accurate off the tee, though, if he wants The Greenbrier Classic fans to cry Wi, Wi, Wi all the way home.

Bill Haas (11/1) — Haas (-8) has six strokes to make up, but there’s nothing that says he can’t do it. His 65 on Saturday put him back in contention, and he hasn’t had a bad round yet, with three trips through the course under par. He nearly pulled off the win in last year’s Greenbrier Classic, making it to the playoff. He could be ready to take the next step this time around.

Keegan Bradley (14/1) — The 2011 PGA Championship winner — you forgot about that, didn’t you — Bradley (-8) also has a steep hill to climb. But he’s played a little better each round and could be ready to make a charge today.

Troy Kelly (16/1) — I’m not disrespecting Kelly (-12), who’s just two shots back. He’s played a great tournament, and anybody who shoots a 62 deserves plenty of credit. But I don’t think there’s a number quite that low left in his bag, and he’ll need one to pull off an upset.

Ken Duke (20/1) — Duke (-11) is a consistent golfer, who knows how to make cuts and finish high enough to take home a decent paycheck. But he doesn’t really have the game to make a huge Sunday charge. Unless the field comes back to him a little, I don’t see him going low enough to take home the trophy, and this Duke isn’t going to get any help from the officials, either.

Ted Potter Jr. (25/1) — Potter (-10) is probably going to take home his best finish of the season. He’ll top his 13th place finish at the Sony Open. But it’s going to take some serious wizardry to make up four strokes on Simpson, who isn’t going to give any away; it is just too much to ask. He could post a round in the 60s again, but it will have to be low 60s to have a chance.

Other (30/1) — Could somebody come from outside the top 10 and pull this off? I think it’s possible, and I see Jonathan Byrd (-8), Davis Love III (-7) and Johnson Wagner (-6) as the most likely possibilities. But they’ll have a lot of work to get there, so don’t bet your new Greenbrier Classic polo shirt on it.

— E-mail: chuffman@register-herald.com

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