Bluefield Daily Telegraph, Bluefield, WV

Sports column

July 3, 2013

Another first-timer could to be crowned Greenbrier champion

BLUEFIELD — Picking the winner of a golf tournament isn’t like picking Alabama to win the national championship in football.

One is almost too easy — that would be the Crimson Tide —the other is nearly impossible.

There are 156 players teeing off today at The Greenbrier Classic, and just about any of them could wind up on top.

Normally, if he — and you know who that is — is playing, the pick is Tiger Woods or the field? With Woods not playing this week, it is anyone’s guess.

The PGA Tour is full of talented players, many of whom are ‘unknown’ talents just waiting to secure a win. It has happened in the last two years at The Greenbrier, with Scott Stallings and Ted Potter, Jr. finishing on top.

Stuart Appleby won the inaugural event three years ago with a final round 59 to edge Jeff Overton or it would have been three first-timers picking up wins.

I got lucky a few years in a fantasy golf game and picked Jeff Huston — a graduate of Auburn — to win the season-opening tournament in Hawaii. Most didn’t even know he was on the PGA Tour, but he won and I led the nation in fantasy points for at least one week. It didn’t last long.

Here goes again.

There will be a few ‘name’ players that golf fans know, such as Phil Mickelson — who has missed the cut twice in this event — along with Webb Simpson, Nick Watney, Bubba Watson, John Daly, Bill Haas, Charles Howell III, Justin Leonard, Louis Oosthuizen, K.J. Choi, Davis Love III, Kenny Perry, Jeff Maggert, Jesper Parnevik, Vijay Singh, Boo Weekley and even Tom Watson.

Yet, here is guessing the winner will be one of someone else, seeking a break through on Tour. Here are 20 non-winners — and five real long shots, some of which few of us have heard of — but one of these guys will finish on top.

1. Graham DeLaet. A Canadian and product of Boise State, DeLaet is currently 28th on the money list, with five Top 10 finishes, including third in the Travelers Championship.

2. Jeff Overton. It took a 59 to keep the Indiana University product from his first win. He has four career second place finishes on Tour. His best outing this season was seventh at the Valero Texas Open. He is 94th on money list.

3. Brendon de Jonge. A native of Zimbabwe, a Virginia Tech product and a past winner of the Pocahontas Amateur in Bluefield. Has finished second once and third a trio of times in his career. He was seventh at the Phoenix Open this season.     

4. David Lingmerth. The 5-foot-7 Swedish-born product has finished second twice among nine cuts made in his first season on Tour, coming in just behind Woods at the Players Championship. His uncle, Goran Lingmerth, was a kicker with the Cleveland Browns in 1987.

5. Ricky Barnes. Best finish was second in the 2006 Oregon Classic. One of those young guns expected to break through. He is 116th on the money list this year, with a top of finish of 12th. Barnes father, Bruce, was a punter with the New England Patriots in 1973-74.

6. Shawn Stefani. The long-hitting Texas has a pair of seventh place finishes among the nine cuts made this season. Stefani had the 43rd hole-in-one in U.S. Open history last month at Merion, and the first in five U.S. Opens on that fabled course.

7. Jordan Spieth. The University of Texas product turns 20 later this month. He might be young, but Spieth has game. He has five top 10 finishes, including a second at Puerto Rico this season. He has earned more than $1.1 million and could double that with victory.

8. Jimmy Walker. Has earned nearly $6.7 million, but is still looking for that first win. He has six Top 10 finishes among 23 cuts made this season, including a third place showing in the AT&T at Pebble Beach. Currently 30th on the money list, seemingly always plays well here.  

9. Roberto Castro. Finished second at the AT&T at Pebble Beach, and has earned just under $1.2 million in the 12 cuts made. Currently 52nd on the money list. A product of Georgia Tech, won five times on the eGolf Tour and also played on the Hooters Tour.  

10. Josh Teater. From nearby Morehead State in Kentucky, Teater has three Top 10 finishes among 14 cuts made, finishing second at the Farmers Insurance Open. Ranked 50th on the money list.

11. Kevin Chappell. Three top 10 finishes among 10 cuts made, including a second place showing at the Memorial. Ranked 44th on the money list. High school classmate, Jason Donald, plays for the Cleveland Indians.

12. Jason Kokrak. Born in Canada, the 6-foot-4 Kokrak had three top 10 finishes among 10 cuts made, including a third place showing at the AT&T National. He finished second last year in the Open. He has won six times on the eGolf and Nationwide tours.

13. Matt Every. University of Florida product finished second twice in 2012, and has a pair of Top 10 finishes among the 10 cuts made this year. Tied for 4th in the Crown Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

14. Casey Wittenberg. Played at Oklahoma State. Made seven of 21 cuts, with four top four finishes, including a tie for eighth at the Players Championship. His father, Jim, played at LSU and on the PGA Tour, winning the 1977 Oklahoma City Open.

15. Erik Compton. Compton has one top 25 finish among 16 made cuts this season, but no one would deserve a breakthrough more. The University of Georgia product took up golf at age 13 after his first heart transplant in 1992. He had a second heart transplant in 2008.

Remember Danny Noonan — from Caddyshack fame — or Happy Gilmore, who beat all the odds to win tournaments.

Well, here are five that would shake up the golf world with a win.

5. Andres Gonzalez. Ranked 232nd out of 233 in FedExCup points. Has made one of 11 cuts this year, earning $11,172. A product of UNLV, his best finish was T16th in 2011. Ranked 568th in the world. Broke his neck at age 11.

4. Wes Short, Jr. The one exception to the non-winning scenario. A University of Texas graduate won the 2005 Michelin Classic in a playoff with Jim Furyk in 2005. Currently ranked 982nd in the world. 49-year-old has made three of 11 cats this season. Career hampered by back injuries, made the cut at the Houston Open this year, his first since 2007.

3. Gary Christian. England native has made two of five cuts, earning $63,000. Finished T24th in the Travelers Championships. Played at Auburn. Ranked 438 in the world. Appeared on TV show “The Weakest Link” in 2001.

2. Henrik Norlander. The 6-foot-4 Swede has made the cut in 11 of 16 tournaments. Tied for 15th in New Orleans, and has made nearly $314,000. Norlander attended Augusta State in Georgia. World ranking of 509.

There are numerous other golfers who could finally figure it out for four days, and get that first win. There are University of Virginia products James Driscoll and Ben Kohles, Nicholas Thompson — whose sister is LPGA star Alexis Thompson — Australian Steven Bowditch, Tag Ridings, Joey Snyder III, who is ranked 811th in the world and Michael Letzig who sits at 796.

However, the fifth and final longest of long shots is:

1. Silvers won the Golf Channel’s “Big Break Greenbrier” reality television show last December, earning a berth into the Classic.

True reality awaits for Silvers. These guys — all these guys — are good.

Editor’s Note: Former Tazewell and Virginia Tech standout Garland Green fired a 67 at Monday’s PGA Tour Open Qualifier at The Resort at Glade Springs, missing a playoff for the final qualifying spot in The Greenbrier Classic by two just strokes. Former Virginia Tech standout Drew Weaver missed the playoff by one stroke.


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