Greenbrier field won't include Kuchar
This much we know: Phil Mickelson has committed to join us July 25-31. Ditto Tom Watson, the resort's pro emeritus who will give up the U.S. Senior Open. That's no small sacrifice - at 61, Watson won the Senior PGA Championship this year.
We'll have Stuart Appleby, who launched his Comeback Player of the Year campaign with that splendid final-round 59 at The Greenbrier last year. And we'll have Sergio Garcia, who is rebounding from a 2010 slump.
Kenny Perry, who won The Memorial Tournament in 1991, 2003 and 2008 - but suffered a trunk-slammer and left early this weekend - will be here. As will Camilo Villegas, the young Colombian who heard good things about the tourney from Appleby (imagine that).
Kentuckians J.B. Holmes and Josh Teater seem eager to return. One figures many of the 2010 players will follow suit.
But I can tell you one who won't be back: Matt Kuchar, who told me as much after his round Saturday.
Well, phooey. Stuff does happen.
Kuchar, whose mother grew up in Huntington, seemed to enjoy his 2010 visit. His finish was just short of the leaderboard, as he made the cut on the 2-under par number and rode a third-round 63 to 21st place.
He was enjoying his best of 11 seasons on the PGA Tour, and it got nothing but better. He won one of the FedExCup playoff tournaments, ended up the tour's leading money winner with $4.9 million, and played for the U.S. in the Ryder Cup.
With his second-place finish Sunday in The Memorial, he has earned more than $2.7 million. He entered the week No. 7 in the Official World Golf Ranking, up from 24th entering the inaugural Greenbrier Classic.
Perhaps most impressive, he has made 28 consecutive cuts, dating back to April 30, 2010. That's the second-highest active streak behind the 33 of Steve Stricker ... yes, the guy who blew up the front nine all weekend. Kuchar is on the verge of his eighth top-10 finish this season, the 12th since the 2010 Greenbrier.
Perhaps most impressive, he has made 28 consecutive cuts, dating back to April 30, 2010. That's the second-highest active streak behind the 33 of Steve Stricker ... yes, the guy who blew up the front nine last weekend. Kuchar is on the verge of his eighth top-10 finish this season, the 12th since the 2010 Greenbrier.
Did he get too good for us? Not to rip him, but that's probably the case.
The calendar probably works against us here. The Greenbrier comes second in a two-week stretch after the British Open, following the Canadian Open. More pertinent is the next stop, the Akron tournament formerly known as the World Series of Golf.
Now the Bridgestone Invitational, it is a World Golf Championships event. It counts for extra FedExCup points for the PGA Tour guys, and it counts extra for the world rankings for everyone. Also, it comes a week before the PGA Championship, the last of four majors.
Last year, the Bridgestone drew all of the world's top 50 players. Only four of those played the week before at Old White: No. 5 Jim Furyk, No. 22 Villegas, No. 24-and-rising Kuchar and No. 45-and-tumbling Garcia.
To be fair, 20 of those top 50 were Europeans, either tied to the European Tour or PGA Tour members playing 15-18 events here. Rory McIlroy, one of the most popular players at Muirfield this weekend, is a European Tour player who is limited to 10 U.S. events, majors included.
But for top Americans, there is a dilemma on whether to rest between the British Open and Akron, or to work on your tournament game. Kuchar played both the Canadian Open and The Greenbrier in 2010, meaning he went nonstop for five weeks. He was able to skip one tournament before the FedExCup playoffs, of which he played all four weeks.
By the time he coughed to a 25th-place finish in the Tour Championship - and fell short of a $10 million bonus - he had to have been gassed. With his standing, he doesn't have to play nine out of those 10 weeks this year, and he won't.
Jack Nicklaus, the sport's all-time great (it says here) and founder of The Memorial, had a few words about setting the clubs down every so often.
"To get away refreshes your mind, refreshes what you're doing, and then when you go to it, you really focus on what you're doing," Nicklaus said. "I always prided myself on trying to be as fresh at the end of the year as I was at the beginning of the year."
The Golden Bear held court for a solid 25 minutes Sunday, fielding questions ranging from Muirfield Village's redesigned 16th hole to building a golf course in Rio de Janeiro and getting the sport in the 2016 Olympics.
His legacies to the game are many, not the least of which is this particular tournament. More than a few players refer to Muirfield Village as simply "Jack's Place."
Much like The Greenbrier Classic last year, The Memorial took its baby steps in 1976. It was a simpler time and Nicklaus was able to marshal resources for his new course, but he was still working his day job.
"The biggest problem I had was playing, myself," he said. "I've always said when I won here in '77, in the second year of the tournament, it was probably my best achievement as far as playing golf in a tournament, because of all the other things I had to do. I got as much of a thrill out of that as any major championship I won."
He talked about the early days, when he avoided commercialism. When he finally brought on title sponsorship, he found presenting companies who would accept a background role, such as current sponsor Nationwide Insurance.
So what advice does he have for The Greenbrier Classic, now in year two?
"Well, I don't know who their [title] sponsor is ..."
No, Jack, Jim Justice has it covered. Does it the old-fashioned way, on his resort's dime.
"That's a tough dime," Nicklaus said, with some surprise. "Jim has the ability to bring in a lot of people who would like to be involved with The Greenbrier. But maybe he doesn't want to; that's his call.
"I like Jim. He's taking a big chance down there with what's going on, and I think he's going to do it very well - and I don't mean the tournament, I mean the whole project."
Other duck hooks from Dublin, thunderstorm magnet of Ohio:
Given the history between Watson and Nicklaus, that's a nostalgia-fest waiting to happen.
After I escaped the media center, he hit a much shorter drive to a fairway bunker, hit out short and left of the green, skied the uphill chip over the green to a bunker, blasted out and two-putted. Give him a 67 on the round, a 7-under 281 and a tie for 13th.
This is clear: Mickelson's most formidable foe at The Greenbrier Classic will not be his putting, but the "Gazette Jinx."
As local scribes can tell you ad nauseum, this tournament has a long, stormy history with weather.
He used a 4-iron.
Have a good week.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130 or dougsm...@wvgazette.com.