Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local News

July 6, 2012

Greenbrier Classic kicks into high gear despite devastating weather

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — The Old White TPC was hit hard by storms last weekend, leaving damage throughout the course, including the green on the 16th hole.

 Jeff Maggert is still trying to find the problems.

 “I can’t see anything that ever happened to 16. They were telling me that they had trouble with the tree falling there, but Tuesday afternoon when I got here, I was looking around,” Maggert said, “I asked my caddie, ‘Rusty, I thought this green was supposed to be in bad shape. He said, ‘Yeah it looks pretty good to me.’

 “It looks fine now. I’m not sure what it looked like before, but it certainly looks pretty good now. They did a good job because it looks like all the others.”

 That is a good thing. The Greenbrier welcomed 156 golfers on Thursday for the opening of the Greenbrier Classic, and the thousands of fans who followed such stars as Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson around the course.

 When J.B. Holmes, who was in the first group of the day, teed off at 7 a.m., the crowds weren’t very big, but they grew in a hurry, thanks partly to Tiger Woods beginning his first appearance in the Greenbrier Classic just over an hour later.

 “I went off so early there wasn’t a whole lot of people out there yet,” said Holmes, who is in a tie for fifth place with a 65. “I think most people were following Tiger. I think he went off pretty early, but we were in the first group out.

 “Towards the end of the round there was definitely getting some more people out there so it is always a good crowd out there, good people so it’s fun to come out here and play.”

 Woods, U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson and Steve Stricker had the largest crowd in the morning , which was played under cooler temperatures with a slight wind.

 “I think most of the people came out to watch Steve and I, but it was fun,” said Simpson, with a smile. “I love playing with both of those guys, and it was great to see a lot of fans out there supporting this tournament.

 “I know what this tournament means to the area. It’s just fun to get into that atmosphere and just try to make some birdies.”

 Simpson also noticed and appreciated the work it had taken to prepare the Old White TPC for a week’s worth of golf after last weekend’s storm, which has still left many residents in the region without electricity.

 “It looked unbelievable. The ball was rolling in the fairways, greens were firm,” said Simpson, who is also tied for fifth with a 65. “They did a fantastic job of cleaning the debris. I didn’t even see a stick in the fairway so they did a great job.”

 The afternoon session had several big names golfers, led by the pairing of Mickelson, defending champion Scott Stallings and 2010 champion Stuart Appleby.

 However, it was the morning session that saw the lowest scores, led by Vijay Singh’s 63 and 64s from Jeff Maggert, Martin Flores and Jonathan Byrd, who had the best score of any player teeing off in the afternoon.

 “The crowds have been great. I noticed even on Tuesday the crowds and obviously with the good field this week,” Maggert said. “When you drive into this place, you don’t know where they’re all going to come from, but there’s some really nice crowds here and I expect the weekend crowds to be really large.”

 Woods always draws the biggest crowds, and this day was much the same. It’s a fact the other PGA players have grown to expect, and appreciate. Ken Duke noticed the area around the ropes surrounding the fairways begin to get filled with spectators as the morning progressed.

 “Yeah, we did after we played a few holes because (Tiger) had just teed off so everyone started coming out,” Duke said. “But it’s always great to have him in the field and Phil and Vijay and all the big guys. It’s just great to have them part of the field.”

 The whole furor surrounding Woods, Mickelson and some of the other big names in golf can create issues for the other players, but it didn’t on this day.  

 “No, not really,” Duke said. “It could be (a problem), but our caddies do a great job of stopping that and we try not to hit until we are ready, It is just part of it and like I said, it’s great to have those guys back in the field. “

 Singh will enter the second round with the lead. He is a three-time major winner, but understands that Woods draws the biggest crowd. He is fine with it. Just bring out the fans.   

 “They were good. I think they’re all following Tiger on the other side so it was pretty calm on my side,” said Singh, who played finished his round before noon. “It was good. I think they are all enthusiastic about the tournament. It was nice to have them around.”

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