Greenbrier Classic's No. 1 chore: get players
He's owned coal, farming and resort business interests. Yet he's a basketball coach at heart. So, when the topic is the upcoming Greenbrier Classic golf tournament, there's a natural spillover.
"We're putting on a full-court press,'' he said.
The topic was player recruitment, but Justice and his staff are pressing forward, working hard in many areas, from reshaping the Old White Course to sales to staging concerts.
You read correctly. They've already lined up Brad Paisley and Carrie Underwood for a July 31 concert. Now the goal is to land another. (Among the early possibilities are George Strait, Reba McIntyre, Lionel Richie, Billy Joel and Alan Jackson.) Buy tickets to both concerts and you'll receive a badge to the golf tournament.
But back to the meat of the Classic.
"We're working every day,'' Justice said. "And everything is all good. The PGA came the other day to look at the course. They were tickled to death. They were amazed we could get so much done so fast.
"[PGA chief of operations] Rick George said, 'All I can say is awesome.' "
The work has been extensive.
"We've worked on a lot of the traps,'' Justice said. "We're lengthening the course to 7,031 yards. We've changed the shape of several tees and moved them back.
"We've changed the putting greens and chipping areas. We redid the driving range to accommodate more players. We've lengthened it. No. 17 and 2 greens have been changed. There's been drainage work.
"Plus, we've added color to the course with flower beds and things like that. It's going to be something.''
It's certainly shaping up as the biggest sporting event in Mountain State history. What is yet to be seen is the cast of players that will help make it so.
"That part goes really slowly,'' Justice said. "Then it really explodes at the end.''
What the Classic has going for it is its designation not only as a PGA event, but also as a stop worth 500 points in the FedEx Cup Series race. The July 26-Aug. 1 date should also be helpful in drawing golfers as it ends just 25 days before the four-event Series playoffs. Golfers will be hungry for those points. Last season, Tiger Woods won the $10 million bonus with a win and two runner-up playoff finishes.
Justice said as of Tuesday about 35 golfers had committed to the Classic. Among those are Davis Love III, who is 89th among this season's money leaders, but owns 20 career PGA titles; Bubba Watson, currently No. 30 in winnings; K.J. Choi, No. 19 in winnings; Sergio Garcia, a seven-time PGA winner and currently No. 53 among money leaders; and, lock up the women and Pabst, John Daly, perhaps the most colorful golfer ever to hold the No. 192 spot among money leaders.
There's other news on that front, though.
"Phil Mickelson said he wants to come,'' Justice said. "A lot with that, though, is contingent on the health of his wife [Amy, who has breast cancer]. We've been talking to [representatives of] Jim Furyk and Steve Stricker. And it looks like Trevor Immelman will be coming.''
Furyk is currently the PGA's No. 2 money leader, behind Ernie Els. Stricker is No. 6. However, the 3-pointer to win at the buzzer for Justice would be to land Mickelson and Woods.
"We've talked a lot to Tiger's camp, his agent,'' Justice said. "There are still a lot of big question marks there. What tournaments will he play? What's he doing with his life?
"But we've extended the invitation over and over and over. It's still completely up in the air, but hopefully he will select the Greenbrier's tournament.''
The invitation will probably be extended again this weekend to golf's most famous/infamous personality. Woods, fighting through his personal scandal, missed last week's cut at Quail Hollow and ranks just No. 111 in money winnings.
Yet all in the golf world know the power Woods has in pushing television ratings. Justice, in addition to CBS, would love to see the Tiger roar in the hills of West Virginia.
"We've got four [representatives] at The Players [Championship],'' Justice said. "We think we're going to have a great field.
"The full-court press is on.''