Greenbrier Classic: Time to get after the favourites again, says The Punter

Charlie Beljan, at Chambers Bay where he finished an impressive tied 18th
Charlie Beljan, at Chambers Bay where he finished an impressive tied 18th

Despite suffering a loss last week when the favourite, Bubba Watson, won the Travelers Championship, Steve's laying all the fancied runners again this week on the PGA Tour but he's still found three he wants to back before the off. Read his comprehensive preview here...


“It’s very straightforward – outsiders have owned this event so far so forget the favourites this week. All five winners of this event were matched at triple-figure prices before the off and all five were playing in the event for the first time.”

Tournament History

A relatively new event on the PGA Tour - the Greenbrier Classic replaced the Buick Open on the schedule in 2010 so this is just the sixth staging of the event.


Venue

The Old White TPC Course at The Greenbrier, White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia


Course Details

Par 70 -7,287 yards
Stroke Index in 2014 - 70.1

The Greenbrier is one of the oldest resorts in America, dating right back to 1778 when travellers were attracted to the hot sulphur springs. Although this is just the sixth staging of this event, word is spreading amongst the players as to how great a place it is for families and that probably has as much to do with the fairly strong fields that play here as the attraction of the course itself.

Designed by Charles Blair McDonald and Seth Raynor, the course opened in 1914 and it's been enjoyed by the rich and famous ever since. The course was restored by Lester George in 2006 and while the players enjoyed themselves in the inaugural event, with low scores all over the place (Stuart Appleby won the event after shooting 59 on the Sunday with a 22 under-par total) the event committee decided it was just too easy and extensive changes were made before the 2012 renewal.

All the greens were reseeded with Bentgrass and 16 holes were changed, with 241 yards added. It worked - the field found less fairways and greens and when Bill Haas, Bob Estes and eventual winner, Scott Stallings, fought out a playoff to decide the title, -10 was as low as they got.

The scoring has crept up again since but it's no pushover and the fact that it plays at altitude doesn't help. Clubbing is very hard and even the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson have been left bemused and missed out on weekend employment here.


Useful Sites
Event Site

Course Details
Twitter Link
Tee Times
Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday.


First Five Winners

2014 - Angel Cabrera -16
2013 - Jonas Blixt -13
2012 - Ted Potter Jr -16 (playoff)
2011 - Scott Stallings -10 (playoff)
2010 - Stuart Appleby -22


What Will it Take to Win The Greenbrier Classic?

The 2013 winner, Jonas Blixt, ranked 60th for Driving Accuracy and 48th for Driving Distance so if he can win being far from straight or long, what you do off the tee really doesn't look overly important here.

Angel Cabrera's stats were impressive across the board last year. He ranked 11th for DD, 4th for DA and number one for Par 4 Scoring and Greens In regulation and he ranked 4th for Putting Average. Nobody hit more greens than El Pato 12 months ago but Appleby only ranked 40th when he won the inaugural event and Blixt ranked 48th so GIR isn't the be all and end all stat either. It's excellent putting that's the key to success at the Greenbrier.

When Scott Stallings took the title in 2011 his PA ranking was just 19th and he ranked 16th for Strokes Gained Putting but the other four winners have ranked 2nd, 2nd, 1st and 4th for PA and 3rd, 1st, 2nd and 5th for SGP.

Trying to work out who might have a great week with the putter is never easy but I'd most certainly shy away from anyone that has been putting consistently poorly. It's a shortfall in your game that's impossible to overcome here.


Is There an Angle In?

I certainly wouldn't put too much faith in the link but with the absence of much else to go on, form at the Sony Open might be worth looking at. The host course in Hawaii, Waialae Country Club, is another par 70 Seth Raynor design and a number of players with form at Waialae have played well here too.

Jimmy Walker, who's won the last two renewals of the Sony, has finished 4th here twice and he was runner-up to Blixt in 2013. The 2013 Sony winner, Russell Henley, led this event at halfway two years ago and the man that led after three rounds that year, Johnson Wagner, won the Sony Open the year before. There aren't loads of examples of players with form at both events but this tournament is only five years old so it's a link that may look stronger in time.

Anyone that's played well at the Barracuda Championship might be worth considering as that too is an event played at altitude.


Is There an Identikit Winner?

It's very straightforward - outsiders have owned this event so far so forget the favourites this week. All five winners of this event were matched at triple-figure prices before the off and all five were playing in the event for the first time.

Cabrera was matched at 160.0159/1 before the off 12 months ago, Blixt was tipped up by Paul Krishnamurty in his Find Me a 100 Winner column at 130.0129/1 two years ago, and the two playoff protagonists in 2012 both went off at 1000.0!


In-Play Tactics

One year after Appleby fired 59 to come from seven back to win the inaugural event, Bob Estes came from six back to get into a playoff (won by Stallings) with a final round of 64. And both the 2012 and 2013 winners, Ted Potter and Jonas Blixt, trailed by four with a round to go.

Cabrera was only two back last year but it's definitely a course where you can come from way off the pace. With the knowledge that his sister was gravely ill and dying from cancer, George McNeil shot 61 last year to finish second to Cabrera. That moved him up 17 places on the leaderboard and he finished four clear of Webb Simpson in third. The poor man then had to wait around for hours to see if he'd be required for a playoff, having been told after his round that his sister Michelle had died.

Not only has nobody successfully converted a third round lead, nobody leading at the end of any round has won. All the leaders or co-leaders after rounds one, two and three over the first five years here have been beaten.

With five out of five winners trading at over 100.099/1 before the off, and with all the winners coming from off the pace, this looks like an event for the layers.


Market Leaders

Fresh off his victory at the Travelers Championship, Bubba Watson is a solid and clear favourite to win back-to-back but is he value to do so?

Prior to yesterday, he'd won seven times previously on the PGA Tour and this is how he performed in his next start following those victories - MC, 29th, 48th, 18th, losing quarter-finalist at WGC - World Match Play, 48thand 11th so although he's performed admirably, he's never threatened the judge.

This will be his third appearance at the Greenbrier Classic, following a tied 30th in 2013 and a tied 16th 12 months ago. That's nothing spectacular but he should have plenty of course experience given he has a property here.

Winning two tournaments in two weeks is not easy. Very few achieve the feat and given this event has been one the fancied runners have struggled at, I'm more than happy to take on Bubba again here.

Paul Casey will do really well to lift himself after suffering defeat in the playoff yesterday and he looks short for someone that has only ever won once on the PGA Tour, although on the evidence to date, the fact he's playing here for the first time is a plus.

A host of players trade between 20.019/1 and 40.039/1 and Patrick Reed may represent the best value as he does know how to win but with history against them all, I'm more than happy to take them on before the off.


Selections

As I did at the Travelers Championship last week, I'm going to begin the week by laying all the players trading at less than 100.099/1 and hopefully I can fare a bit better! Here's this week's De-brief with details on how things panned out with pre-event favourite, Bubba, winning. I finished up losing so I'm obviously hoping for better and if one of my three picks could get in-the-mix that would certainly help.

Scott Piercy has played here four times, missing the cut twice and finishing tied 16th and tied 12th so he's produced a bit of a mixed bag so far. He's not in the greatest form at present but that's not been a barrier to success here in the past and he may well feel nicely rejuvenated after a holiday in Cancun. I wanted him onside because he's a winner of the aforementioned Barracuda Championship and he finished runner-up to Walker at this year's Sony.

In three visits here, Charlie Beljan has finished third and 11th with a missed cut in between so although it hasn't really mattered over the first five years here, Charlie has course form to boast. He missed the cut at the Travelers Championship last week but his 18th place at the US open was extremely eye-catching.

It's tempting to back a number of outsiders this week and I may yet add one or two more but at this stage I'm drawing the line at three, with Johnson Wagner making up the trio. As already mentioned, he's a winner of the Sony, has led here with a round to go, and he's also shown form this year already when he lost a playoff to JB Holmes at the Shell Houston Open.


Selections

Scott Piercy @ 130.0129/1
Charlie Beljan @ circa 140.0139/1
Johnson Wagner @ 380.0379/1


I'll be back tomorrow with my Open de France preview and I'll kick off the In-Play Blog early on Wednesday so I can detail my lay book and any late bets.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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