WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Phil Mickelson will leave the whitewater rafting to his family this week. He has a score to settle with the Old White TPC.
Mickelson came to last year's Greenbrier Classic as the face of the tournament, but fizzled out in a 70-73 blaze of futility, missing the cut.
The 42-year-old Californian learned one of the hazards of the Classic - all those extracurricular activities. The Classic is one of the very few PGA Tour event where players can step off the course right into a luxury resort chock full of activities.
Balancing work and play can be as tough as a 10-foot downhill putt.
"Yeah, it's a challenge, but I'm pretty motivated," Mickelson said Wednesday, after his pro-am round. "After my performance last year, I really wanted to improve on that.
"I really do enjoy competing on this golf course, I think it's a wonderful test of golf, and I also think it's well-suited to my game. I'll try to put a little bit more time into my physical preparation and mental preparation, because I wasn't happy with the way I competed last year."
He played the pro-am with one of the most interesting amateur trios - Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Greenbrier president Jeff Kmiec and Virginia Tech football coach Frank Beamer.
"We had a fun day and it was really interesting to have such a range of conversations, talking sports, talking football with Coach Beamer and then being able to talk politics and hear what's going on in the world and in the state of Kentucky, as well as here at The Greenbrier.
"It was a fun day, a very insightful day."
In May, Mickelson was inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame. In February, he won the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am, and is eighth in the FedExCup standings.
He has slipped a little in the world rankings, from sixth entering the 2011 Classic to a current 15th.
Tiger Woods comes to The Greenbrier as the leader in the FedExCup standings, rising to that level for the first time in 100 weeks. He became the season's seventh leader, ahead of Jason Dufner by 103 points.
Woods is the only player in the top seven here, but Nos. 8-10 (Mickelson, Webb Simpson, Carl Pettersson) are in the field. In all, 14 of the top 30, 35 of the top 70 and 54 of the top 100 will start play here today.
Those three levels are significant in the FedExCup playoffs, which begin in late August. This is the 27th week, so time is running short.
The winner this week earns 500 points, the usual number for tour events. (The four majors and the Players Championship are worth 600.) The scale goes down to one point for 70th place.
The top 125 on Aug. 19 advance to the four-week playoffs, where the point scale is quintupled. The first playoff tournament cuts the field to 120, the second to 70 and the third to 30. Those 30 play at the Tour Championship in Atlanta Sept. 20-23.
At that point, the perks are nice. Those 30 players receive higher priority in entering tournaments and qualify for all four major tournaments the next year.
The best perk is the cash. When Bill Haas hit the shot of the year out of the water at No. 18 last year in Atlanta, he won the tournament, the FedExCup and a cool $10 million bonus.
All told, there is $35 million in bonus money. The scale runs from Haas' $10 million to $70,000 for 125th place. Even the next 25 who didn't make the playoffs pocket $32,000.
From the Lemonade Made from Lemons Dept.: With the two large trees to the left of the 18th tee a casualty of last week's storm, a new grandstand was erected before Wednesday's play. With that, the finishing par-3 is even more of a stadium hole.
"I think it's different. I think it's cool," Mickelson said.
Mickelson is hard-pressed to name a favorite hole. As he pondered a question on the subject, the other two par 3s slipped out.
The tour's design connoisseurs generally love the 98-year-old Old White, and they know well the name of designer C.B. Macdonald.
"I think that the holes here have such special character to them that, again, I try to learn from them," Mickelson said. "From the eighth hole, that Redan par-3, really a great hole, all the way to the third hole, which is a totally different par-3, but every bit as great.
"I love the character and the nuances of each hole."
PGA Tour statistical leaders teeing off today:
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.
Fedexcup points standings - top 50
Rank Player Points
1 Tiger Woods 1,952
2 Jason Dufner 1,849
3 Hunter Mahan 1,654
4 Bubba Watson 1,617
5 Matt Kuchar 1,423
6 Zach Johnson 1,420
7 Rory McIlroy 1,372
8 Phil Mickelson 1,313
9 Webb Simpson 1,298
10 Carl Pettersson 1,258
11 Rickie Fowler 1,197