How low can they go?
They have dropped those hints verbally, and with dart-type shots such as John Daly's Wednesday at the 18th hole.
With another sizable practice-day gallery present, Daly tossed a shot that danced around the flagstick and stopped about 6 inches from the hole. While he bolted the premises without a word, his colleagues voiced similar themes about their first run on what is now the tour's oldest course.
One, somebody is probably going to ace the stadium-style 18th. Two, the scores are going to be low, low, low.
Three, a word of advice to the locals: Don't worry about those low scores - not every track needs to be Bethpage Black with knee-high rough thickened by Miracle Gro.
For the record, there have been four tournaments this year with winning scores below minus-20, topped by an outrageous 26-under-par posted by Steve Stricker at the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Ill. (It took 30-under to win the Bob Hope Classic in February, but that was in five rounds.)
Indeed, this could be a tournament in which 20-under 260 could settle for runner-up. Some pros wouldn't dare project the 36-hole cut, but Johnson Wagner didn't flinch with a 3-under projection. Some are guessing 2-under, others 4- or 5-under.
Again, the pros all seem to say, there is no shame in that. They seem to love the 1914 set-up, especially the course-design aficionados who repeatedly invoked the name of original architect C.B. Macdonald.
"The scary thing is when folks get upset when their course gets shot up and guys go too low," said Matt Kuchar, whose mother was born in Huntington. "People take pride in their course and want it to be a difficult, championship test of golf. I think people get [too] wrapped up in that.
"I do enjoy this course. It's a fun one to play."
The first of the 156 players tee off at 7 a.m. today, off both the No. 1 and No. 10 tees. The final groups are scheduled to begin at 2 p.m., though thunderstorms could bring delays - and make the grounds a little softer.
As it is, the greens and fairways are plenty soft, conducive to birdies. So is the length, as Old White plays at "only" 7,031 yards this week. All 18 holes have been lengthened from the West Virginia Amateur, but these players can easily handle it.
The first three par 3s are 200-plus yards with tricky greens. The par 4s range from the drivable, 344-yard fifth hole to the 474-yard 13th, a hole Jim Furyk called "a bear." The par 5s, Nos. 12 and 17, carry risk/reward decisions on whether to go for the green in two shots - Furyk would give the "go for it" edge to the 17th, a downwind 572-yarder.
Then there is the 18th, which has yet to be played with the pin behind the horseshoe hump in the green. With the hole in front, pros such as Daly have peppered it.
"There are a lot of opportunities if you're patient with a wedge in your hand," said Furyk, the field's most accomplished player with $45.6 million in career earnings. "The problem is you start making some pars out there and if scores are low, it's sometimes hard to get patient.
"If you don't there is enough trouble out there. It can jump up and bite you."
Without the likes of Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the field, picking a favorite is a crapshoot.
Furyk, with two victories and four top-10 finishes, is as good a suspect as any. He is ranked sixth on the tour's money list, fifth in the FedExCup standings and fifth in the world ratings. However, he hasn't been a factor since the U.S. Open, where he finished 16th.
Furyk has 15 career tour victories, second in the field to the 20 by Davis Love III. Kenny Perry has 14, Justin Leonard and David Toms 12 each, Stuart Appleby, Brad Faxon and Lee Janzen eight each and Sergio Garcia and John Huston with seven apiece. Toms and Garcia both shot 8-under 62 to finish tied for second in Wednesday's pro-am, a stroke behind winner Brandt Snedeker.
Cameron Beckham, Derek Lamely, Matt Bettencourt, Ben Crane and Carl Pettersson also have won on the tour this year. Bettencourt won his last tournament, the Reno-Tahoe Open two weeks ago.
Much of the field played last week at the Canadian Open, with Pettersson rallying to win with a 14-under 266. Dean Wilson is here after leading most of that tournament, finishing second.
Seven of the nine players who tied for fourth in Canada are in the field - Kuchar, Michael Letzig, Greg Chalmers, Charlie Hoffman, Charlie Wi, Jeff Quinney and Bob Estes.
Kuchar is one of five players to finish in the top 10 of one of the three majors contested in 2010. The others are Ricky Barnes, Alex Cejka, Love and Snedeker.
Then there is Richard Johnson, struggling stateside but coming off a victory at the Scandinavian Masters in his home city of Stockholm, Sweden.
Will it be one of those players, or a mid-level player like Boo Weekley or John Senden? Or one of the dozens of players struggling to retain full PGA Tour privileges for 2011 and stay out of "Q school?"
Whatever the case, today will be the first round in at least a six-year alliance between the PGA Tour and The Greenbrier, "America's Resort." Golfers, fans and officials alike are upbeat about the new - and old - venue.
"I just think it's going to be one of those well-run, best-received events we can have," Wagner said.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com.