Another dramatic finish for Classic
It finds drama.
Last year, PGA Tour players sliced through the Old White TPC as if they had chef knives. At the end, though, Stuart Appleby provided the drama with a rare 59.
On Sunday, with a leaderboard filled with relative no-names, with yawns leading to the end, the two-year-old event acted up again. And provided drama in the sweetest sense of the word.
Rookie Scott Stallings, 26, read the break on a 6-foot, 9-inch putt beautifully, converted a birdie attempt on the first playoff hole, tossed his putter forward and raised his arms in celebration - much to the delight of the Classic fans.
It was the 13th playoff this season in 33 PGA Tour events. But for those getting hooked on the Classic in these parts, it was fuel for the addiction. And another success for Jim Justice's resort and West Virginia.
No, Phil Mickelson, who started the tournament, wasn't there at the end. The bigger names had gone. But the fans that stuck with the event were treated to a wild finish. Yet again.
Consider the three involved in the playoff.
Bob Estes, 45, a Texas product who had one FedExCup point entering the tournament. His best finish of the year: 73rd at the Valero Texas Open. His season: earnings before Sunday: $12,028.
Estes was a reclamation project with conditional PGA Tour status. He's been recovering from a bum wrist. His last Tour victory was in the 2002 Kemper Insurance Open. It's now been 224 starts since his last win. He was gunning for exempt status.
"I had a little more to play for," Estes said afterward, "even though Scott had never won and I had."
There was Bill Haas, 29, who has made 15 of 18 PGA cuts this year. The older folks may remember his father, Jay, a highly successful PGA and Champions Tour player. His uncle, Jerry, also played on the Tour and is now the head golf coach at Wake Forest, where the current player attended.
Then there was Stallings, 26. A kid. A rook.
And now a champion.
There were hotshot young players in field like Webb Simpson, Gary Woodland and Keegan Bradley. So it wasn't like the Classic didn't set up to have a younger winner. But Stallings is as green as one of The Greenbrier's fried tomatoes. He graduated not from Wake, but Tennessee Tech.
He'll remember the tournament forever.
"The Greenbrier has been absolutely incredible," Stallings said without prompting. "The fans, the volunteers ... it's one of the best, if not the best tournament on the Tour. I'm looking forward to coming back, that's for sure."
The red-faced kid was thrilled.
"I wanted to do this since I was a little kid," Stallings said. "I was the little kid chasing golfers to sign balls, getting mad if they didn't."
Stallings, though, wasn't the only winner. Again, the Greenbrier and the state made out. CBS beamed shots of whitewater rafting, falcons, zip-lining, fishing and trap shooting nationally.
Owner Justice again represented the locals well on TV. And the locals showered him with praise and pats on the back as he moved around the course in a golf cart.
"It's great," Justice said. "The crowds have been unbelievable. We're over 200,000 for the golf tournament alone. [Saturday night] we had 59,000 and change at the [Keith Urban and Miranda Lambert] concert. I was trying to get 60,000 in there. For the Black Eyed Peas we had 56,000. I think we had 42,000 or 43,000 the first night.
"And the course surely put everybody to the test. [On Saturday], they moved [the tees] up to take it easy on everybody. That was kind of good. It was a moving-day deal. But it's just been phenomenal. I mean, unbelievable.
"If you ride with me [in the golf cart] you can't imagine the number of people that have come up to me and said, 'Thank you, Mr. Justice, for making me proud to be a West Virginian.' To me, it doesn't get any better than that."
Unless you like a sprinkle of drama.
Reach Mitch Vingle at 304-348-4827, mitchvin...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/MitchVingle.