The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

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February 11, 2012

Greenbrier Classic ‘shaping up perfectly’

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — The Greenbrier Classic will be played July 2 -8 this year instead of the last week of July.

A small change on a calendar from past events perhaps, but a significant switch on the PGA TOUR FedExCup schedule.

“It’s shaping up perfectly, especially with the new date,” said Greenbrier Classic Tournament Director Tim McNeely.

“We think (moving the date up) is going to be very beneficial. We’re moving two weeks prior to The British Open versus two weeks after it. And now, we’re two weeks after the U.S. Open. So it puts us right in the middle of that whole championship season. We think it will help us. Certainly with the AT&T National tournament moving back to Washington, D.C., to The Congressional (Country Club) the week prior to us, it’s very convenient for the players. They usually attract a very good field.”

Getting the world’s best golfers to come is always an added attraction.

“Our field was great last year,” McNeely said. “So if that is any indication, it looks like we’re going to have an even better field than last year. We’ve had strong indications from Sergio Garcia and his camp, Tom Watson, and really ... the same cast of characters as last year. If you look at last year’s field, it’s already shaping up to be very similar. Even this far out, it even looks to be better.”

With other top names such as Phil Mickelson, Stuart Appleby, Jeff Overton, John Daly, Davis Love III and Camilo Villegas already Old White TPC vets, that’s a significant statement.

“There’s a few more players out there we’d like to attract,” McNeely said. “Some international players. Given the timing of our event the past two years, that was hard to do. Now, where we are in the schedule, it allows us to work on and attract those international players.”

Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland has become one of the most successful and well-known golfers in the world over the past two years. He won the U.S. Open in 2011.

“That would be a good one, I think,” McNeely said.

Tiger Woods has always been on The Greenbrier Classic’s wish list, but he has not made it to White Sulphur Springs yet.

“We talk to his agent Mark Steinberg on occasion and make sure that we’re still on his radar screen,” McNeely confirmed. “Luckily, we are. Tiger has not finalized his calendar that far out. But we’ll continue to work on that and talk to Mark. Based on what we’ve heard, (Tiger’s) heard that we put on a first-class event and it’s an exciting event. So hopefully that’ll get him here.”

Appleby won the 2010 Greenbrier Classic with a blazing 59 in the final round. Rookie Scott Stallings claimed the 2011 event shooting 10 under par, and defeating Bill Haas and Bob Estes in a playoff.

Last year, there was significant work done on the Old White TPC course prior to the PGA TOUR event, after reports of soft greens at the inaugural tournament.

“That was a huge step, getting the course in the championship condition that Mr. Justice wants it to be in,” McNeely said. “We took a huge leap last year, and the greens were fantastic. They’re brand new. Getting another year on them, especially with the mild winter that we’ve had, these greens could now very well be the best on the tour.” 

Fans should expect another great Greenbrier Classic, McNeely said, adding, “We’re excited.”

“To be able to host the event at America’s Resort during America’s birthday and add the world-class entertainment that we have, it’s going to be something spectacular.”

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

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