Love, Choi added to Greenbrier field
The field for the third Greenbrier Classic was released Friday, with no major deletions from the tournament's latest posted list of commitments.
To the contrary, resort owner Jim Justice and executive director Tim McNeely had a few more rabbits to pull out.
The official list published by the PGA Tour included Ryder Cup captain Davis Love III and 2011 Players Championship winner K.J. Choi, a South Korean ranked 31st in the world.
Love has appeared at the first two Classics, finishing 60th in 2010 and missing the cut last year by a stroke. The 48-year-old is a "life member" on the tour, a designation given to players with 15 or more years and 20 or more tournament wins.
His presence makes this a Ryder Cup audition of sorts, and there are several top players fighting for spots on the U.S. team. In an earnings-based point system tallied by the PGA of America (the separate organization who operates the Ryder Cup), the top eight join the U.S. team automatically.
After that, Love has four captain's choices for the competition, Sept. 25-30 at Medinah, Ill. Every tournament becomes critical - after this weekend's AT&T National, there are just six weeks left until the PGA Championship, the end of the Ryder Cup race.
And there are major battles. Webb Simpson is third, Phil Mickelson fourth and Tiger Woods seventh, which would earn them automatic berths. But several Classic entrants can jump into the fray with a big payday or two, including Keegan Bradley (ninth), Dustin Johnson (11th), Steve Stricker (12th), Jim Furyk (13th), Bill Haas (14th), Brandt Snedeker (15th), and so on.
Those players are the backbone of what is the Classic's strongest field by a substantial margin.
"We're so pleased," McNeeley said after the field's release. "What an unbelievable field, and to add K.J. really rounds it out. The Ryder Cup captain and K.J., with all the accomplishments he brings. Couldn't be happier."
Choi's entry gives the Classic 14 players in the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking, 10 of the top 31. A full half of the FedExCup top 50 are in the field, including winners of the last two Cups, Jim Furyk and Bill Haas.
Woods is fourth in both, leading all Classic entrants. Two reigning major champions will be present: Simpson won the recent U.S. Open, while Bradley won the 2011 PGA Championship.
The Greenbrier's new place in the PGA Tour schedule is turning out to be a benefit. Other than positioning itself as the sport's Fourth of July tournament, it sits two weeks ahead of the British Open - allowing some of the bigger-name players to comfortably go overseas. For those not yet qualified, two and maybe three players will punch their ticket.
The Classic's proximity to this week's tournament, the AT&T National at Bethesda, Md., is turning out to be a major benefit. Players can take chartered motorcoaches this morning (for those missing the cut) or Sunday night. Many players, most with families, are driving rental cars or recreational vehicles.
Ninety players of the 150 in the just-released field are playing this weekend at Congressional Country Club.
"That sets up really good from a scheduling standpoint," McNeely said. "I'm sure the players really appreciate that the tour was able to schedule us back-to-back like that."
The Classic seems to be enjoying good retention. Fifty-four have played the previous two, while 44 have played in either 2010 or 2011.
Another interesting tidbit: Of today's list, 22 made the cut in both years.
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.