Ten inches. A distance just shy of the length of putt holed by Danny Lee to win The Greenbrier Classic in a playoff in 2015.
Ten inches. The amount of rain that fell in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., one year later. Losing a golf tournament was the last thing on anybody’s mind.
Nearly two dozen people lost their lives in one of the worst flash-flooding incidents in recent American history. The biblical rains that washed homes off their foundations and mutated creeks into impromptu rivers rendered The Old White TPC at The Greenbrier Resort more than unplayable. It was unthinkable. Mother Nature won, by an overwhelming margin.
The seventh playing of this summer PGA Tour event had to wait a year, but The Old White is, remarkably, ready for the field this week.
Every green and every fairway had to be reseeded. Every bunker had to be dug out, sharpened and filled anew. Those in charge of piecing the course back together barely made it in time to allow that grass to take root last fall. It’s a miracle not lost on the players.
Bubba Watson, a Greenbrier ambassador, called the course “amazing” over the weekend. Zac Blair tweeted that he couldn’t “believe how good Old White is right now,” before praising superintendent Josh Pope and his crew for the work to bring The Old White back to life.
It’s not surprising to see praise. It’s surprising to be playing golf. While the circumstances are totally different, like Erin Hills for the U.S. Open, there has been no public play since the floods closed business last summer. That means every new blade of grass is untouched. You’ll hear the word “pure” a few times this week.
With no bumps, some rain in the forecast and the best golfers in the world on site, expect some post-July 4th fireworks as well for the return of the tournament.
All six previous winners have come from behind on Sunday.
Two years ago, there was a four-way tie for the lead entering the final round, which ended with a four-man playoff. None of the players were the same in either group.
Oh yeah, there’s been a 59 here too – Stuart Appleby to win the inaugural event in 2010.
There is something romantic and old world about The Greenbrier Classic, and its tourist trap amenities are why Jim Justice (now governor of West Virginia) brought the event to the PGA Tour. The 2017 edition, however, is more than just an infomercial for a treasured piece of American property. It’s a comeback story. Americans love a good comeback.
The Other Winner
Each week, I offer up one player who, while not winning the previous week, took something big away from a performance
Rickie Fowler – You should be focusing on the reclamation of Kyle Stanley. You should be paying attention to the shooting star of Tommy Fleetwood. You should be questioning the power disparity in the 50-plus circuit. You should be smiling with Danielle Kang.
All of that attention is warranted, and Rickie doesn’t mind. He just keeps posting top-five finishes on tough golf courses. He has three in his last four starts, including a major. He has six in his last 11 starts.
There are two fair knocks on Rickie Fowler, and none of it has to do with marketing or hype. One, does he have the killer instinct to be an all-time great? Two, can he find consistency?
He has almost put the second question to bed, and he’s showing more fire as a veteran to change the narrative in the first. Fowler is more than lurking on the big stage. He seems poised to take the lead, soon.