WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS - The PGA Tour placed the ultimate stamp of approval on the Greenbrier Classic: an extension through 2021.
Andy Pazder, the tour's executive vice president and chief of operations, and Greenbrier resort owner Jim Justice announced the six-year extension. Pazder echoed the sentiment of several players who marveled at how fast the tournament has come in just three years.
"This extension takes this tournament through 2021, which is significant for many reasons," Pazder said. "It now puts this tournament farther into the future than any sponsorship arrangement the PGA Tour has. Longer than our FedExCup; ties into our television agreements which run through 2021.
"We owe a debt of gratitude to Jim. He's had just a tremendous vision for this event. . . . I would like to correct one thing Jim said: He said it's a good day for the Greenbrier Classic [but] it's actually a great day."
The leap of faith has been rewarding to both sides. The 2010 Classic drew 47,100 fans on the finishing Sunday, 163,000 for the four competitive rounds and 59,000 for the Black Eyed Peas concert. Players and their families have enjoyed the resort, its many amenities and those concerts.
And now, the field has grown remarkably stronger. The extension announcement came less than two hours after Tiger Woods had his first press conference on West Virginia soil.
And it came about a half a year after the Classic was named Best in Class by the tour, a development that gave Justice a good case to ask for an extension past 2015.
"We started out with a shorter-term discussion," Pazder said. "Jim doesn't do things in a small way, as you all know. We got comfortable with six years, to 2021, and there wasn't much teeth-gnashing on our side."
One of the big questions is where the Classic will be slotted on the schedule. Justice clearly loves having the event on the Fourth of July week, and it seemed Pazder agreed.
Tiger Woods called it a good fit, as far as the previous and succeeding tournaments.
"It's close to D.C., and a lot of guys were driving here from D.C.," Woods said. "On top of that, we get a week off after this to get ready for the British [Open]. Some guys may go over there and play the week before the British. At least we have that option, and that's one of the reasons the field is so strong here."
Pazder may put in a good word for the resort in Justice's almost-certain bid for the 2017 President's Cup. The biennial tournament pits a U.S. team against an international team (not including Europeans), and will be held at Muirfield Village in Dublin, Ohio, in 2013.
Justice, always the big thinker, wouldn't mind bidding for the U.S. Open, though that is a very tough nut to crack.
"Andy has guaranteed both," Justice joked. "2017 for the President's Cup and the U.S. Open right behind that."
Pazder shot back: "Thank God he didn't ask for the Masters."
Reach Doug Smock at 304-348-5130, dougsm...@wvgazette.com or follow him at twitter.com/dougsmock.