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Greenbrier notebook: Big-name Oosthuizen lurking among leaders

Chip Ellis
Louis Oosthuizen is at 6 under for the tournament.
Chip Ellis Gary Woodland (left) and Nick Watney congratulate each other after Saturday's round, in which Woodland shot a 64 and Watney a 65.

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - The second-highest-ranked player in the Official World Golf Rankings to enter the Greenbrier Classic is still lurking, flying well below the radar.

But if he decides to go low today, it would sure be tough to miss his name on a leaderboard.

Louis Oosthuizen, ranked No. 10 in the world, shot a 1-under-par 69 Saturday to go with a 68 and a 67, putting him at 6 under for the tournament and on the edge of striking distance entering today's final round.

Phil Mickelson at No. 6 was the only player in the field ranked higher.

It's the first visit to White Sulphur Springs for Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion. While he hasn't lit the world on fire this week, he's still playing, which is more than many high-profile players have been able to say over the past few years.

"The course is really good, it's a nice track," Oosthuizen said. "I'm just still trying to make a putt. I'm just struggling with the speed. It's been slow with all the rain we've had and I'm just struggling to adapt. I'm hitting good putts but the speed is way off."

Oosthuizen has been dealing with minor injuries but said he is finally rounding back into form as the British Open approaches July 18-21.

It'd be unwise to rule out the man with one of the sweetest swings in golf and six European Tour wins under his belt as a possibility today, but if nothing else he feels his game is heading in the right direction.

"I've had a lot of break time with little injuries and stuff and this is my first week back really feeling good and swinging it well," Oosthuizen said. "We've got another day [today] and another week before the British but it's going well so far."

Many players familiar with The Greenbrier rave about the array of activities that come with the place, and it's caused some to wonder if some of the world's best have been distracted while here.

But Oosthuizen has been locked in on golf and said he looks forward to experiencing more of what The Greenbrier has to offer in years to come.

"There's a lot of stuff to do but I think you probably do that when you have a week off over here," Oosthuizen said. "We leave the golf course and go back to the hotel room with the kids - you could've probably done something Tuesday, Wednesday and I know there's a lot of activities. Next time I'm here I'll probably do a bit more."

Watney, Woodland surging

Had Nick Watney and Gary Woodland been playing a combined score tournament, they would've been really tough to beat on Saturday.

The fourth group off the tee at 8:02 a.m., Watney and Woodland went from the cut line to contention after Woodland shot a 6-under-par 64 Saturday and Watney a 5-under 65. Woodland now stands at 7 under and Watney is at 6 under.

Watney is making his Greenbrier Classic debut while Woodland finished fourth in 2011 but missed the cut in 2010 and last year.

Woodland has been working with Claude Harmon, son of golf coach Butch Harmon, and he said his swing is getting back to its 2011 form when he finished 17th on the PGA Tour money list and 51st in the Official World Golf Rankings. His surge at Old White TPC gave him a ranking of 36th at the time, still a career best.

"The golf course suits me well, I'm playing well," Woodland said. "Hopefully I'm within striking distance and I'll get a low one [today]."

As for Watney, if you watched the television broadcast on Friday you may have noticed him icing his right wrist between shots.

He said injured it on No. 4 on Friday and that the pain was more of a nuisance than anything else. Judging by his performance on Saturday, it won't be a problem moving forward.

 "It was nice to take advantage of some calm conditions and play a good round," Watney said. "I kind of jammed it [Friday] and it's just a little sore, I don't think there's any structural damage or anything. Maybe just a strain or something. It'll be fine."

Last amateur standing

Thirteen-time West Virginia Amateur champion Pat Carter missed the cut Friday, but the only other amateur in the Greenbrier Classic field is alive and well heading into today's final round.

Michael Kim, a junior at the University of California Berkeley who will celebrate his 20th birthday next week, fired a 3-under-par 67 Saturday to move to 4 under for the tournament.

Kim is in the field on an exemption after winning the Haskins Award last month, given to the nation's top collegiate golfer. He also won the Jack Nicklaus Award, which is also given to the top college golfer and is voted on by the Golf Coaches Association of America.

He already has a top-20 finish at the U.S. Open under his belt this year, finishing tied for 17th, but he isn't letting himself think too far ahead just yet.

"I'm just trying not to think about the score or where I'm playing or just anything like that," Kim said. "Just focus on my ball. It's a cliché but it's a cliché for a reason, and just take it one shot at a time."

Kudos for the Capitol

A lot of PGA Tour pros likely made their first visit to West Virginia to compete in the Greenbrier Classic, but not Tim Petrovic.

The Massachusetts native is quite familiar with the state, and was impressed by the Capitol dome on a drive through Charleston.

"Charleston - the State Capitol - and that big gold dome,'' Petrovic said Saturday. "I've driven by it. I'm an RV-er, so I get the pleasure of driving by there. It's nice.''

No worries for Justice

The Greenbrier Classic leaderboard is again devoid of some of golf's biggest names, but don't expect Greenbrier owner Jim Justice to fret.

He isn't worried that attendance or TV ratings will dwindle when players like Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods miss the cut and sit out the weekend portion of the tournament.

He sees it as vindication for the par-70 Old White TPC course.

"We've had a lot of great big names who have had the chance to compete,'' Justice said, "but that's golf - and that's the golf course. It's a lot tougher course than people give it credit for being.

"There are a lot of twists and angles about it, and some big-name players unfortunately [haven't done well]. But I'm not going to be remorseful about it. It's a challenge - that's it.''

Justice prefers to look at the situation as giving some of golf's lesser-known players a chance to make a name for themselves - as first-time winners Scott Stallings and Ted Potter Jr. have done the last two years.

"It's an opportunity for up-and-coming young guys,'' Justice said. "Who knows, some of these up-and-coming young guys could be the Tigers and Phils of the future.

"Some big names still have a chance [today] - someone like Bill Haas or Jimmy Walker. It's going to be a horse race, that's for sure.''

Justice said this year's tournament field was looking tougher a few weeks ago before fate stepped in.

"The field was tremendous,'' he said, "then Keegan Bradley, who was coming for sure, got hurt. Then Tiger Woods [pulled out with an injury] - I'm not saying he was coming, but we were in the running. Some of the typical headliners ended up not being headliners. That's just the way it is.''

Briefly

  • In the British Open derby, Jimmy Walker stands to seize one of the five berths awarded today. A second-place finish would lift him to 11th place in the FedExCup standings.
  • The top five players (not already exempt) among the overall FedExCup top 20 win a trip to Scotland in two weeks to play in the Open, contested at the Muirfield links. Of other contenders, Stallings and Graham DeLaet, need to shoot up the leaderboard to sneak into that list.

    Charles Howell III, who missed the cut this weekend, remains a candidate to get bumped. Billy Horschel and Boo Weekley appear to be safe, along with Russell Henley. Harris English, not entered this week, is likely to survive.

    Tournament leader Johnson Wagner made the Open field in the 36-hole America qualifier, so he is not a factor.

  • The bump on the 18th green continues to be a challenge for those unfortunate souls whose tee shots land on the wrong side. But most of the third-round players who hit the high side still made par. Four made birdie, including Peter Hanson's 56-footer.
  • The course's stroke average slipped to 69.630, not bad considering that the lesser players were cut from the field. The cumulative average is 69.819.
  • The 13th hole continued its reign as the hardest hole in the tournament, though it slipped to second Saturday. The sixth hole was hardest for the third round, and is the second toughest overall. The second hole was pushed forward from 488 to 427 yards, removing its role as the second hardest. Somewhat amazingly, the 12th has yielded just five eagles of the nine total in the tournament.

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