Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Local Sports

July 4, 2012

Tiger now chasing Snead

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS — With last weekend’s win at the AT&T National, Tiger Woods earned his 74th career PGA TOUR victory, passing Jack Nicklaus as second all-time on the career wins list.

The only name above Woods’ now?

Sam Snead, the former pro emeritus at The Greenbrier and golf legend, who had 82 wins.

On Tuesday, Woods stepped into Snead’s backyard for the first time, playing a practice round in preparation for this week’s Greenbrier Classic.

It’s Woods first appearance in the third year PGA TOUR FedExCup event.

Woods will participate in a Pro Am on The Old White TPC today, teeing off at 7 a.m.

He’ll be paired with Webb Simpson and Steve Stricker in the first two rounds of tournament play. They’ll tee off in Thursday’s opening round from the No. 10 at 8:10 a.m. On Friday, they’re slated to go off from No. 1 at 1:20 p.m.

“I think Sam’s record is just absolutely phenomenal,” Woods said. “To do it for that long, to win a PGA TOUR event in his 50s. He didn’t exactly have easy guys to go up against, (Ben) Hogan and (Byron) Nelson. Those guys aren’t chops.

“It was great to get to know him over the years and it was sad when he had to leave.”

Woods said that he wanted to play in the 2011 version of The Greenbrier Classic, but injuries prevented him from doing so.

“This tournament has been absolutely incredible,” Woods said. “I knew the history of it from Sam and how much he loved coming here and loved being here. But I think what really sold me was watching it on TV and seeing how much the players really enjoyed it. I wanted to play last year. It fit into my schedule, but I was hurt. It was disappointing. But this year again, it worked perfectly.

“I’m excited about getting out here, with the history of the course, having a Ryder Cup here (in 1979) and all of that.”

Moving up the event in the PGA TOUR schedule met with Woods approval too.

“We get a week off after this to get ready for the British (Open),” he said. “Some guys may go over there and play the week before the British. At least we have that option and that’s one of the reasons’ the field is so strong here.”

Woods recalled his first encounter as a young boy, with Slammin’ Sammy.

“I met Sam when I was five,” Woods said. “He was playing at Calabasas out in L.A. and he was doing an outing where he would play with a new group every two holes. So he had nine groups and I was this little snot-nosed five-year old kid that he would play the last two holes with.

“I remember it was a par 3. You know, I’m five, I can’t carry it that far. I hit it into the water and he tells me to go and pick it up out of the water. And even when my Dad was alive, he would tell me that I was slightly competitive even at that age and I didn’t like him telling me to pick the ball up, because my dad always told me to ‘Play it as it is. There’s no such thing as winter rules.’

“So I went in and played it and I made a bogey on that hole, the par 3, and I made a bogey on the last hole.

“I still have that card at home, (Snead) signed it and he went par, par. And I lost by two,” Woods said with a smile.

“That was the first time I met Sam, but after that we’ve had countless dinners and conversations. He was always so funny to be around and the stories he would tell. And the needling, the non-stop needling. That was one of the neat things about Sam.”

• • •

The gates of The Greenbrier Classic will open today at 7 a.m.

Notables playing in the Pro Am today include Woods, Simpson, Phil Mickelson, Jim Furyk, Davis Love III, Brendon de Jonge, Jeff Overton, and current pro emeritus of The Greenbrier, Tom Watson along with past Greenbrier Classic champions Stuart Appleby (2010) and Scott Stallings (2011).

The first show of The Greenbrier Classic is slated for tonight in Fairlea, with headliner Toby Keith and special guest Lionel Richie at approximately 9 p.m. Opening act, The August, begins the activities at 7:30 p.m. A Fourth of July fireworks display is scheduled for the end of the show.

—Contact jworkman

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