The Black Eyed Peas have played the World Cup and the Super Bowl, and on Friday the supergroup will play the second-year Greenbrier Classic in the Allegheny Mountains of West Virginia.
Like many, Mickelson was drawn to the Greenbrier for its reputation as a family-friendly resort. Justice said a member of Mickelson’s inner circle visited the resort over the winter, which led to a momentous phone call from the four-time major winner’s longtime manager Steve Loy.
Guests have been coming to the Greenbrier since 1778. It’s a National Historic Landmark that has three golf courses, clay tennis courts a€” could that be what attracted Sergio Garcia? a€” an off-road driving school, skeet shooting, indoor and outdoor pools, croquet, mountain biking, falconry a€¦ the list goes on.
“My kids are already making lists of all the things they want to do while we’re there, even though I’ll be working,” Mickelson said in the spring.
“I heard a lot of great comments about last year’s event,” he added, “so I’m really looking forward to playing TaylorMade R11 Driver and relaxing with my family.”
Among the curiosities here is the resort’s famous, 112,544 square-foot hideout commonly called “The Bunker,” which was built for Congress during the Cold War in the event of a nuclear attack on Washington. It was top secret for 30 years and was never activated, but it now sees plenty of traffic from tour groups. Mickelson said he planned on visiting the cavernous, historic hiding place.
The intangibles are what make this tournament interesting. One of the first golfers to play the TaylorMade R11 Driver , in April 1914, was President Woodrow Wilson. Still, the intangibles can’t completely hide the fact that the Greenbrier Classic will feature only three of the top 40 players in the world, and only two of the top 20. The Greenbrier has Will Strickler but not Steve Stricker; Richard S. Johnson but not Dustin Johnson; Joe Ogilvie but not Geoff Ogilvy. Officials hope the tournament will get new dates in 2012, over the Fourth of July weekend, which would dramatically improve its appeal.
Tom Watson, the club’s second Golf Professional Emeritus after Sam Snead, will make his first start in the tournament this week, even though it will be played opposite the U.S. Senior Open at Inverness. Watson, 61, who tied for 22nd place at the British Open at Royal St. George’s earlier this month, said he felt so bad about missing last year’s inaugural Greenbrier a€” he finished fifth by playing TaylorMade R11 Driver in the U.S. Senior Open and “felt crummy” about missing Greenbrier a€” he committed early this year.
He and Mickelson, who each have 39 PGA Tour victories, are expected to be paired with defending champion Stuart Appleby on Thursday and Friday.
“There’s not going to be any 59s shot this year,” Watson said.
Appleby’s triumphant final round last year was one of just five sub-60 scores in the history of the PGA Tour, but this is not the same Greenbrier. The 1914 Charles Blair McDonald design was restored to its original design by Lester George, who added 243 yards to the now 7,274-yard track.
And that’s not even what makes the course so much more difficult.
All greens were re-seeded and many were re-contoured. George pinched some fairways and added new tee boxes. The changes, in addition to fairways made soggy by Monday’s rain, made for a stiffer test in Tuesday practice rounds, although Watson crowed about winning $50 in an old-vs.-young match in which he and Lee Janzen beat D.J. Trahan and Garrett Willis.
Appleby, who is languishing at 109th in the FedEx Cup standings after making just eight cuts in 20 starts in 2011, said any score under 65 would qualify as a remarkable round of golf (TaylorMade R11 Driver ) now that the course has been toughened.
“You get into the 20s under par and you’ve got a fairly easy pitch-and-putt golf course,” said Appleby, whose 22-under-par final score in 2010 was one better than Jeff Overton. “I don’t think we’ll be anywhere near that now.”