Classic needs PGA pros to spread the word
Sure, they'd have liked to have Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson, or even Steve Stricker or Ernie Els ... who wouldn't?
Heck, it would also be nice to have The Greenbrier's own pro emeritus, Tom Watson, who has a slight conflict with one of the Champions Tour's majors, the U.S. Senior Open in Sammamish, Wash.
But it's hard being a first-time event in what's not exactly a haven for big-time professional sports. Folks, West Virginia ain't exactly The Big Apple, you know.
Yes, The Greenbrier resort is known all over the world - the elegant hotel with its pristine grounds, Eisenhower-era Cold War bunker and memories of Slammin' Sam Snead all over the place.
But let's face it. You don't get to be one of golf's most attractive draws overnight. That takes time. And favorable word of mouth. Which is what the Greenbrier Classic hopes happens down the road.
Tim McNeely, the Greenbrier Classic's tournament director, was pleased with the player commitments his event received by Friday's deadline.
"We're very happy about our field,'' he said.
McNeely also thinks the ball could really start rolling the following week at the World Golf Championships-Bridgestone Invitational at Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.
If The Greenbrier treats the players, PGA officials and their families right this week, they'll be giving favorable reviews to the rest of the Tour for weeks to come.
"Exactly right,'' McNeely said. "The Tour told us at the very beginning that the best way to guarantee a great field is to put on a great event. That's exactly what we plan to do.''
Not that the first Greenbrier Classic didn't wind up with some solid names - Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Davis Love III, John Daly and Sergio Garcia, to mention a few. Also, nine players who have won majors are in the field, as are four of the top 10 in the current U.S. Ryder Cup standings - Furyk, Kuchar, Jeff Overton and Ricky Barnes.
In fact, if you look at it closely, the field resembles favorably - perhaps even eclipses (with an asterisk) - that of the 2009 Buick Classic, the now-defunct tournament whose PGA Tour calendar spot was taken by the Greenbrier Classic.
So let's turn back the clock.
Outside of one name - Tiger Woods - the Buick Classic field last year wasn't much different than the Greenbrier Classic's this year. And Woods always felt compelled (coerced?) to sign up for the Michigan event (nine times in all) because of his former multi-million-dollar sponsorship deal with Buick.
Yes, that's a big name the Greenbrier Classic would love to have, but the Buick Open still had only three of the top-10 PGA final money winners last year - Woods, Furyk and Y.E. Yang. The Buick event also sported just six top-20 golfers last year aside from Woods, one more than the Greenbrier's.
The Buick Open had no Mickelson, Stricker, Zach Johnson, Kenny Perry, Sean O'Hair or Retief Goosen (though Perry missed because of his mother's illness).
According to published reports, the top names joining the Buick field in the days leading up to the event were (listed alphabetically) Stuart Appleby, Chad Campbell, David Duval, Furyk, Lucas Glover, Justin Leonard, Rocco Mediate, Andres Romero, Nick Watney and Boo Weekley.
Sound familiar? Of those 10 players, seven are also coming to The Greenbrier - all but Campbell, Duval and Glover.
Of course, both tournaments are slaves to their spots on the PGA Tour schedule, two weeks after the British Open and two before the PGA Championship.
Any event lining up this week will also have some defections from European players who stick around across the pond for the Irish Open, such as Padraig Harrington, Rory McIlroy and Graeme McDowell.
"I don't know what to attribute [the European absences] to,'' McNeely said. "I can only guess that since we're fairly close to the British Open, a lot of these guys take time off the PGA Tour and spend time at home.
"Again, I certainly hope they hear how great an event it's going to be [at The Greenbrier] from the standpoint of the resort and the standpoint of the course.''
Reach Rick Ryan at 304-348-5175 or rickr...@wvgazette.com.