By CAM HUFFMAN
for the Daily Telegraph
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS —
Sightings of famous athletes are nothing out of the ordinary at The Greenbrier Classic, but usually those sports stars are known for sinking birdies instead of scoring touchdowns.
During Monday’s Pro-Am, though, a former gridiron star made his way to the links.
Three-time Pro Bowler Cris Collinsworth — an All-American at the University of Florida before joining the Cincinnati Bengals — played during the first official event of the 2013 tournament.
Collinsworth said, “It’s a beautiful place. It’s the first time I’ve been here. I’ve been to a lot of places, but not many places look like this with the creeks and the mountains. It’s like going back in time a little bit.”
Collinsworth’s 2013 season of NBC’s Sunday Night Football starts on Aug. 4 in the annual Hall of Fame Game between the Dallas Cowboys and Miami Dolphin in Canton, Ohio.
“I feel like football’s already begun with some of these crazy off-the-field stories we have going on,” said Collinsworth.
“But it’s really an interesting year. It feels like the power has shifted a little bit West with Denver, San Francisco and Seattle. I think you have to start out there, with all the things that happened with Baltimore sort of dismantling.”
“There’s a lot of things going on in the league, but it’s like this every year. Anybody that thinks they know what’s going on with the NFL is out of their mind. Until they start, nobody knows.”
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Fans hoping to catch a glimpse of some of the best players in the field at Wednesday’s Pro-Am are going to have to set their alarms that morning.
Tee times for the morning session begin at 7 a.m., and some of the top names are among the first to take the tee. Bubba Watson, in fact, will begin the day with a 7 a.m. tee time on the first tee. Webb Simpson will follow at 7:10, with Tom Watson going off at 7:20.
The afternoon session will provide some star power for those who would rather wait. Phil Mickelson will begin the afternoon session with a noon tee time on No. 1. AT&T National winner Bill Haas will go off of No. 10 at 12:30 p.m., and John Daly will begin on No. 10 at 1:20.
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Haas won’t be the only golfer in this week’s field coming off a big victory.
The Greenbrier’s own Kenny Perry — with The Greenbrier logo on his shirt and visor — won the Senior Players Championship Sunday in Pittsburgh, his first major title.
The Franklin, Ky., resident has won 14 times on the PGA Tour and three times on the Champions Tour. He finished second in the 2009 Masters and the 1996 PGA Championship and third in the 2003 U.S. Open but had never won one of the big ones until Sunday.
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Of the players in this year’s tournament, nobody has played The Greenbrier’s Old White TPC any better than Charlie Wi.
The 41-year-old from Seoul, South Korea, has never won on the PGA Tour, but in eight rounds at The Greenbrier Classic, he has a stroke average of 67.25, better than any other player in the field. Wi finished third last year, two shots out of the playoff between champion Ted Potter Jr. and Troy Kelly.
Pat Perez, who won his only PGA Tour event at the 2009 Bob Hope Classic, has also played the course well, averaging a score of 67.38 through eight rounds.
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This year’s field includes 68 PGA Tour winners, who have won 313 events. Thirteen have won Major Championships, and six have won World Golf Champion-ship events. Four players are currently in the top 10 in FedEx Cup points, and two are in the top 10 in the Official World Golf rankings.
Players in the field hail from 10 different countries.
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Today’s main attraction will be Greenbrier Classic Youth Day, presented by Polo Golf and Med Express. A junior clinic will begin at 1:30 p.m.
The First Tee Scramble at 3 p.m. features PGA Tour players Morgan Hoffman and Billy Horschel, playing golf with four First Tee kids.
Cam Huffman is sports editor of The Register-Herald. E-mail him at email@example.com