Parental Advisory: if you’re a casual fan this preview ain’t for you. It’s dry, largely devoid of pictures and focuses upon an event you probably aren’t even aware is taking place.
While the heavyweights jet-set across the pond, a collection of upstarts, journeymen, and grinders (some NLU favorites to be sure) rumble down I-55 from the Quad Cities and East on I-20 to Grand National down on the Robert Trent Jones Trail in Opelika, Alabama for the Barbasol Championship. I thought it only fitting that I squeeze out a little quick hitter to kick off the inaugural iteration of this event. While the timing is certainly curious (seriously guys, mid-July in East Alabama?…think highs in the upper 90’s, steam room humidity and pop-up thunderstorms out the ass), I’m confident this event will be a welcome addition to the tour schedule. Why?
For one, the RTJ Trail is strong and deserves more visibility. With well-maintained, demanding courses scattered throughout the state (and owned by the state pension fund, I believe) it’s about as good a value as you’ll find anywhere in the country. You’ll find eleven different sites, most of which have at least 36 holes and some have an 18 hole short course to boot. Of the half dozen sites I’ve played (the junior golf circuits hit these places up on the reg, so I was over there a lot back in the late 90’s and early 00’s) my favorites are Capitol Hill (near Montgomery, which has three courses: Judge, Senator, and Legislator; the Judge tips at 7800 yards, has a 700 yard par 5 and serious elevation changes) and Grand National (which has two regular courses – the Links course is meh IMO, and then a short course).
When I look back at any of my rounds on these courses, the par three’s always stick out, especially on the Lake Course at Grand National. Here’s a course tour if you’re so inclined (also note, I believe they have the nines reversed for the event this weekend). The course is routed around Lake Sougahatchee, which is in play throughout the course. Holes 15 and 16 (playing as 6 & 7 this week) are the most memorable – the former a 230 yard par 3 over water and the later a drivable par 4 back across the lake (although they have it listed at 358 yards on the Tour site, which is a bummer if true). I’d guess the Golf Channel crew will post up there for some fireworks. Regardless of the routing, the finishing hole will be a dud, with both 9 and 18 relatively mediocre uphill par 4’s back to the clubhouse. Topping out at 7,300 yards the course won’t be a pushover, but I’d guess it’s playing firm and I’m not sure they can get the greens all that quick without burning them out. Strategy off the tee will be paramount as RTJ throws quite a few cross bunkers at you – if you challenge some of these holes with driver off the tee the landing areas really squeeze in. Overall, birdies should be in abundance, heat may be the stoutest defense, and streaky (read: lousy) could find themselves in the mix on relatively flat greens (again, by Tour standards). I think 18 to 20 under is a safe assumption (par 71).
And a word about the title sponsor – a bit about Barbasol. Founded in Indianapolis in 1921 and now based in Dublin, OH, it ranks right up there with Jergens Soap as a lasting Midwestern, household Brand (until a Japanese conglomerate bought Jergens in the late ’90’s…making Barbasol even more of an American Classic). Little known fact: it’s the official shaving cream product of Tron Carter – megacheap but a consistent and quality product. I’d say the field and timing of this event fit the Barbasol #Brand perfectly. D. Rovell would be proud of this guy:
The goal at the beginning of the year was to use this space during silly season/oppo field events as a somewhat periodic accounting of who’s emerging and who to look out for, both on the big tour and on the Web Tour. I apologize that hasn’t happened due to a variety of factors (chief among them, my real job – yes, I know some of you have wondered, we do have real jobs here at NLU). This and Reno are the only bottom of the barrel events between now and the end of the reacharound schedule, so hopefully this will serve as a prelude to more regular appearances during the
Cash Grab Fall Series. Since this event is hard to bet (total crapshoot and since the “favorites” are 20/1ish, there’s not a lot of value out there with name guys. Here’s who I will be watching:
- Patton Kizzire local boy, went to Auburn, #1 on Web.com money list, this is like his super bowl. The Tour even threw him on some of the promotional stuff this week. He’s listed at 26/1 – ahead of a lot of reputable pros (Boo, Cejka, Hadley, BVP, GFC to name a few) but knows the course better than anyone so it’s probably warranted. He’s got a sultry swing.
- Carlos Ortiz I’ve had my eye on all year after what he did on the Web Tour last year. He’s missed four cuts in a row though and needs to get it back on track.
- Maverick McNealy in the field again this week after a great showing at Greenbrier a couple weeks ago.
- John Peterson should be right at home in the Southeast this week (30/1).
- Scott Langley (23/1) is in good form and his blend of precision iron play should suit this course well.
- Spencer Levin (65/1) is starting to heat back up and showed his face the last few weeks prior to late round ejections. Far and away my favorite player on the Tour. Here’s a bit from Big Randy last week that captures the magic.
- Received the following from a Mr. Ron Lee via email this week ([email protected] if you’re so inclined):
“Normally I wouldn’t be so attentive but my good friend Josh Broadaway Monday qualified into the Barbasol so I’ve been patiently waiting to see his tee times so I can make arrangements to go up. Only one problem: they apparently can’t set the times because only 130 of the 132 spots in the field are accounted for and the alternate list appears to have been exhausted…..could they be attempting to track down grizzled veteran members such as Nolan Henke, Lance Ten Broeck, or dare I guess Dick Mast to judge their interest in playing in the inaugural Barbasol Championship??? Inquiring minds want to know.”
Thanks Ron – I went ahead and took a look and the list of alternates normally found at the bottom of the field is curiously blank. While the likes of Omar Uresti, Robert Gamez, Brett Wetterich, Ted Purdy, Steve Lowery, Len Mattiace, David Gossett, and Glen Day are all in the field this week it was absolutely CRUSHING not to see Dick Mast listed among the combatants. The 64 year old throws his name in the ring for seemingly every alternate list on Tour and the one week he’s got a shot at getting in he doesn’t enter. For shame. Appreciate your question and good luck to your buddy Josh.
A few more Musings:
- Some rando vets in the field, including NLU Hall of Famer – TA3! We were lucky enough to chat with TA3 about his prolific 59 at the Texas Open. We can only hope he knows a great masseuse offering some great rub downs in Auburn this week. TA3 is a Great American. full stop.
- We can take Aaron Baddeley off the milk carton – he’s been found, and with 90/1 odds. Yikes.
- This area is no stranger to the PGA Tour – it’s not too far from Callaway Gardens, site of the former Southern Open turned Buick Challenge. Buick used to be DEEP in the game. It’s also a reminder that the Tour footprint still tends heavily toward the Southeast.
- TPC Stonebrae in the Bay Area is the Web.com stop this week. Neil played it last month during the Birdies for the Brave charity Tournament, and the track is pure, and the field is wide open with some of the circuit’s heavy hitters plying their craft in the Barbasol. It’s worth noting that Tony
PhenomFinau won here last season to kick off what’s been a break out year for him. The list of alternates is a factory of sadness, with Steve Marino, Dicky Pride, Casey Wittenberg, and James Driscoll headlining. Godspeed fellas.
- Linked here is the article about the lady who eviscerated Zach Johnson’s will to live with the boom heard round the world at last week’s John Deere Classic. But skip the article and peep the comments section – some delectable stuff in there.
- I’ll keep my Open Championship musings confined to Twitter, but here’s two I had to offer. Has anyone been more ridiculously under the radar of late than Adam Scott? He doesn’t play often and yet peep his major results over last three years. AUTOMATIC.
Enjoy the Barbasol, and enjoy Sergio winning The Open. I know I will.