The Old White TPC will once again play host to the Greenbrier Classic this week as the countdown to the third major of the year continues. A decent field has been assembled this week, with Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson being the headline acts. Watson will be looking to make it win number four this year, while Mickelson will be determined to perform well after suffering severe criticism after his antics in the third round of the U.S. Open. Tony Finau enters the event as the pre-tournament favorite having recorded back to back top-20 finishes at this event in his previous two starts.
Last year, the Greenbrier Classic saw rising start Xander Schauffele claim his maiden PGA Tour victory. Schauffele posted a total of 14-under par to pip runner-up Robert Streb by one stroke. Schauffele went onto win the Tour Championship and then claimed the 2017 Rookie of the Year award.
At 7,286 yards and a par-70 to boot, The Old White TPC seems like a daunting challenge. However, it's consistently played as one of the easier courses on the PGA Tour. One of the main reasons for this is the altitude which shortens the course considerably and the fact that the fairways are very wide. Expect to see players taking lots of drivers off the tee this week leaving themselves a lot of wedges into the greens. Low scores are to be expected this week as usual at The Old White, so birdie or better percentage and par-4 performance are areas to target, while touch around the greens is always vital around here.
Regarding players trending, Russell Henley is an exciting prospect this week. Over his last four events, Henley has finished 58-29-25-9, and he now arrives at a course where he has played excellently in the past. Henley has recorded back-to-back top-5 finishes around The Old White TPC, and with his current play entering the event, the Greenbrier Classic may have just come around at the perfect time for Henley.
Henley's statistics recently are solid across the board. Over his previous 12 rounds, Henley ranks 14th in the field for strokes gained tee to green, 19th for ball striking, 31st for strokes gained short game and third for strokes gained total. Henley's scoring has been excellent lately too. The American ranks sixth for birdies or better gained over his previous 12 rounds, while over his last eight rounds he ranks ninth for strokes gained on par-4's. His ability to keep bogey's off the scorecard has been tremendous too, and he tops the field in bogey avoidance over his past 12 rounds. All of this combined with Henley's excellent history at the course makes him a solid headline pick at 18/1.
One of the most exciting prospects on Tour at the moment, Joaquin Niemann looks primed for a big week in West Virginia. Niemann has recorded four top-20 finishes in eight starts this season, three of which were top-10 finishes. It's been a phenomenal start to his career, and the Chilean has all parts of his game firing entering this week.
Over his previous 12 rounds, Niemann sits eight for strokes gained approaching the green, third for ball striking, 22nd for strokes gained putting and fifth for strokes gained total. Niemann has been tearing up the par-4's lately too, sitting third in this field for strokes gained on par-4's over his previous 12 rounds. But it's his fearless ability to score which I feel makes The Old White TPC a perfect fit for the youngster. Over his last 12 rounds, Niemann ranks first in both birdie or better percentage, and birdies gained. He made just his second PGA start here in 2017, and he finished with a very impressive T29. At 25/1 he looks a big price to improve on that and compete for his first win on the PGA Tour.
Having made eight consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour, Andrew Putnam comes into this event full of confidence and his play at the moment is more than good enough to expect him to notch a top-20 finish this week. Putnam sits ninth in ball striking, sixth in strokes gained short game, and fourth in strokes gained total over his last 24 rounds, and it was just a few weeks ago that he was close to winning at the St. Jude. Putnam is also ranked first for strokes gained on par-4's and first for bogey avoidance over the same period. At 3/1 he looks tremendous value to continue his impressive form and notch a top-20 finish this week in West Virginia.
72 Hole Match Bets
It's been a frustrating season for Kevin Na, but his form has picked up a little as of late. Na has made three of his last four cuts and has two top-10 finishes in this period. He continues to stripe the ball consistently which is why I favour him to get the better of Danny Lee this week. Lee has three top-20 finishes in his last six starts, but alarmingly he has missed three of his last six cuts. The most worrisome of the lot came last week where he bled strokes to the field in both approach play and putting. Over their previous 24 rounds, Lee ranks 85th in strokes gained approaching the green compared to Na who ranks 13th, and I feel that could be the significant difference between the two. Take Na's consistent ball striking to get the better of a hit and miss Danny Lee.
2018 Quicken Loans National recommended bets
Outright Winner (All Each Way)
- Russell Henley 18/1 (8 places, PaddyPower)
- Joaquin Niemann 25/1 (8 places, PaddyPower)
- Andrew Putnam 3/1 (PaddyPower)
72 Hole Match Bets
- Kevin Na over Danny Lee 10/11 (Coral)