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Pundits heap praise on Greenbrier Classic

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Sunday's weather delay may have put a damper on the fourth edition of the Greenbrier Classic, but the tournament survived nicely on many fronts.

For one thing, the Greenbrier Valley really lucked out on the weather. Not only did the Charleston area take several soakings during the week, but the Roanoke, Va., area had a spate of flash flooding.

Despite iffy weather forecasts, the Classic was blessed with three days of mostly splendid conditions, with partly sunny skies and temperatures topping out in the low 80s.

Tournament officials' formula for growing the event has taken root, and that week-to-week golf press has noticed.

Golf Channel's Jason Sobel took an informal survey and found the tournament is growing in popularity with the players. With The Greenbrier's dizzying assortment of activities, the concerts and a relaxing friendly atmosphere for families, Sobel likened it to "sleepaway camp."

Sobel sees the tournament attracting a stronger field and climbing in the Tour's pecking order.

"It may seem like fun and games, but this is how next-level tournaments are built," he writes. "An old-style course and a decent date on the schedule certainly don't hurt, but when players speak of this event in the weeks to come, those who skipped it will be teeming with jealousy.

"Word of mouth is the greatest recruiter there is."

If that prophecy holds true, the memory of losing two hours in the CBS window will be forgotten quickly.

The other winners in this unusual tournament:

  • Slugger White, the PGA Tour's vice president of rules and competition - By pure luck, players stepped up their pace of play enough to beat total darkness. Not only that, a playoff wasn't required.
  • It's not like Tour officials didn't have advance warning, as the National Weather Service threw up a flash-flood watch for Sunday a day in advance.

  • Jonas Blixt - Winning the Classic gave the Swede enough points to vault from 103rd to 51st in the Official World Golf Ranking. That was good enough for him to fill an opening in the British Open, as the OWGR is used as an alternate list.
  • Upon winning Sunday night, Blixt qualified for this year's PGA Championship and the 2014 Masters, the 2014 Players Championship and the Tournament of Champions. Should he hold a top-60 ranking into next spring, he will be exempted into the U.S. Open, avoiding that nasty 36-hole sectional qualifier.

    Ken Duke also was added to the Open field. The next alternate is 2011 Greenbrier champ Scott Stallings, who climbed one spot to 76th in the world.

    Blixt zoomed up 100 spots in the FedExCup standings, from No. 139 to 39. His place on the Tour was secure because he had a winner's exemption from 2012, but he lands in the FedExCup playoffs and likely could survive two rounds with little effort.

  • Other FedExCup climbers - With just six weeks left in the FedExCup season, Johnson Wagner also jumped over the magic 125th spot, going from 145th to 104th. Steven Bowditch raised from 181st to 130th and Tim Petrovic rose from 211th to 179th.
  • In the higher reaches, Jimmy Walker was the winner, going from 24th to 17th. That not only put him in the British Open, it gives him a stronger chance to land in the FedExCup top 30 - a very lucrative and desired milestone.

  • Tom Watson - The Greenbrier professional emeritus played in his 606th Tour event and made his second straight Classic cut, shooting a 3-under 67 Sunday and finishing tied for 38th.
  • There were also some losers, including:

  • John Daly - He hit a tree root on a 50-yard chip shot and aggravated his right elbow, which already had been diagnosed with a torn tendon. He said he is undergoing surgery Thursday, and will return in late fall at the earliest.
  • That rules him out of the British Open and PGA Championship, both of which he is a past champion.

  • Stuart Appleby - The 2010 Classic champ missed the cut, pushing him to 139th in the points standings. He is out of career earnings exemption, and faces a fight to keep his Tour card.
  • Phil Mickelson - His failure to make the cut at the Greenbrier was one of the hot topics of the golf world over the weekend. Will he try, try again next year?
  • Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5140, dougsmock@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.

     


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