WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - Surely there will be a lot of super saves this week at the PGA Greenbrier Classic.
But the biggest save for the third-year tournament actually came a little less than two years ago.
After the PGA Tour pros carved up the par-70 Old White TPC course in the inaugural event - remember, Stuart Appleby fired a record-tying 59 in the final round to win it - Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice and his staff renovated and toughened up the layout, and now they're reaping the benefits.
Phil Mickelson made the trip to these West Virginia hills last year. Tiger Woods brought his mystique to town this year. The PGA obviously was impressed by the changes, earlier this week upping its agreement with the Greenbrier Classic six additional years through 2021.
Armed with that knowledge, Justice has begun plugging for some of golf's plum events, such as the President's Cup or perhaps even the U.S. Open.
Certainly a lot of factors contributed to The Greenbrier's ascension, including the move to the Fourth of July week, but the importance of the course changes can't be overlooked, as they made Old White a truer test for the pros and a more desirable destination.
"It's a combination of all kinds of stuff,'' Justice said on Thursday. "The crowds, the concerts, the resort, the changes to the course. From the greens being spongy to the greens being firm. We've got some rain here, so they're able to throw some darts at it right now, but the greens are firm and can get really firm. We added length, tightened the fairways and the rough is much more lush.
"To be perfectly honest, the golf course, with all its history and all its tradition and all the unique stuff it has, has added to all that, to where the course could very well become a U.S. Open course. It's a real challenge. Surely it's added into the desire of everything the PGA wanted. It's surely put us on the radar for the 2017 or 2021 President's Cup. It's making a lot of good things happen.''
One of the first to make suggestions on course renovations was two-time major winner John Daly, who struck up a friendship with Justice and played with the resort owner in the 2010 pro-am.
Daly stuck around at The Greenbrier following the 2010 tournament and pointed out possible improvements.
"Believe it or not, after the tourney, Daly stayed over one extra day to go around with Justice and the people with Justice, offering up his ideas,'' Gregg Happe, who served as a Pace of Play Ambassador, told the Gazette last year. "Lo and behold, Justice goes and hires some other company, but they took a lot of the ideas, at least from my recollection, that Daly had pointed out.''
After all those changes, the winning score for the 2011 Classic dropped from Appleby's 22 under to Scott Stallings' 10 under (Stallings won in a three-way playoff).
Following Thursday's first round, Daly downplayed his contributions to Old White's makeover.