Take me home, country roads: [soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/19294911″ params=”auto_play=false&hide_related=false&show_comments=true&show_user=true&show_reposts=false&visual=true” width=”100%” height=”450″ iframe=”true” /] The annual Greenbrier Classic at the base of the Appalachian Mountains in southern West Virginia is where we’re headed this weekend, so grab your coonskin caps and moonshine…it’s about to get Wild and Wonderful!
The Tour is at the Greenbrier this week because of a dude named Jim Justice. But there’s a bit more to the story than just that…
You see, per Wikipedia (this is all gonna be pretty much per Wikipedia for those scoring at home), the Greenbrier filed for bankruptcy in 2009, listing debts of $500 million against assets of just $100 million. Possessing an accounting degree, I am qualified to tell you this represented a less-than-ideal financial situation (I have to imagine there were some SERIOUS questions about the resort’s ability to continue as a going concern in the periods leading up to ’09). So anyway, deep in the throes of financial disarray, the key domino leading to an eventual Tour event falls in late 2008 when the electorate of Greenbrier County “narrowly pass a local option referendum” which allows gaming at the resort. Now, if there’s one thing I’ve learned in life it’s this: the house always wins (Period. Point blank). Create an opportunity for someone to assume the role of House, and you’re gonna attract a lot of big-boy money, like moths to a flame.
Enter Jim Justice, West Virginia native, billionaire, and 2016 gubernatorial candidate. Jimmy made his money across the farming, milling, and mining games. While apparently being a really, really down-to-earth dude, he also really doesn’t feel like paying fines incurred by his hazardous mines. In other words, he sufficiently fills out the profile of the greasy, big-money casino owner (what up, Dan Gilbert!!).
And owner he became in early 2009 when he bought the Greenbrier for a reported $20 million, in the process guaranteeing all the resort’s debts. Before securing ownership, though, Justice had to settle with the Marriott Corporation (they had run the hotel previously) for an undisclosed sum, as J.W. and the Fellas claimed to have a valid contract which afforded them an option to purchase the hotel. But with all the i’s dotted and t’s crossed, the Tour quickly came calling in 2010 and the rest is history.
JJ’s wallet isn’t the only mega-girthy thing about him.
The Old White TPC
The Old White course (not named for Jim Justice) will be the site of this event through the 2021 season. The first year of the event, the Old White played to about 7,000 yards, with lots of rain mixed in, making it an absolute dart fest. Stuart Appleby shot a final round 59 to win, and that same week there was a 60, 61, 62, and ten 63’s. The course was abruptly lengthened to nearly 7,300 yards beginning in 2011 while also joining the TPC network. It still fits the bill as a scoring fest, just not in the record breaking fashion that we saw in the inaugural year. It’s signature hole is the simple, 160 yard, par-3 finishing hole, which has provided some drama in recent years–Appleby making bird for 59 in 2010, Scott Stallings snaking in a bird during the playoff in 2013, and, really, that’s about it I guess.
My experience with West Virginia basically consists of whipping my car along I-64 making my way to and from school (two things still standout–the ultra curvy stretch of toll road between Beckley and Charleston, and the must-stop travel plaza outside Beckley that had a Sbarro’s). So seeing as though Soly has family ties rooted in West Virginia, I’m just gonna let his comments from last year ride:
Wild and wonderful West Virginia is the subject of a lot of jokes (and I haven’t even mentioned the Holgorsen era at WVU yet), particularly of the incestuous nature, but it is also one of the most beautiful states in the entire nation. My great grandfather landed in Parkersburg, West Virginia nearly 100 years ago, and I was born in West By God Virginia and into tortuous, diehard Mountaineer fandom in the mid ’80’s. Since then, nearly all of my family and extended family has moved from the state, but the spirit of West Virginia still lives in us (incredibly cheesy, but true).
What The Mountain State lacks in education, industry, and teeth (I’m allowed to make these stereotypical jokes, you are not), it makes up for with a magnificent landscape, scenery, and old fashioned southern hospitality. West Virginians are a proud, proud people, as many have lived there their entire lives. The coal industry employs 30,000 West Virginians, although Obama’s “War on Coal” lead to a 40% decline in exports in 2013. While the rest of the country has grown up and adapted to the ever growing information age, West Virginia truly feels a generation or two behind.
As far as the crowd you can expect at The Classic, be prepared to see cut-off tees and awkwardly tall hats with the patented WVU logo on the top (most assuredly a gas station purchase). Mustaches and long hair will be a fixture, and these fans will flock to the Bubba Watson grouping in droves, immune to the reality of who Bubba truly is. While the Greenbrier resort itself is nice, there is NOTHING to do around the area. I mean, nothing. The resort literally brings in entertainment every year to prevent the players from blowing their brains out, as they practically are not allowed to leave the premises (more on this in The Fringe).
The Pato went 64-64 on the weekend to run down Billy Hurley III and hold off a slew of others while simultaneously murdering the best resume in golf history. Now Cabrera has a wholly bourgeois Greenbrier Classic win that must be acknowledged, begrudgingly, next to his prior two career Tour wins–the 2007 US Open (at freaking Oakmont) and 2009 Masters triumph.
All jokes aside, I have a tremendous amount of respect and admiration for Cabrera, both on the course and off. I was thrilled to see him win. He’s completely self-made, growing up playing money games against fellow caddies back home in Argentina after leaving a broken home and dropping out of school. Just a big, powerful dude that gets after the ball, he’s an antidote to guys like Stew “Babies the Ball” Cink and some of the young robots scurrying around the tour these days. He plays the game with a sort of gruff, artistic flair which I really enjoy. On top of it all, he’s been the source of two of the absolute best quotes:
“Well, there are some players that have psychologists, some have sportologists, I smoke.”
US Open post-victory interview, after hammering darts down the stretch.
“I try to show that I have no fear. When you grow up hungry, you’re not afraid of anything.”
Damn. Enough said I guess.
(all lines courtesy Ladbrokes.com, the Official Bookmaker of NoLayingUp.com)
I’m going to be upfront with you–I didn’t really want to grind on past histories, etc. this week. I think this tourney is pretty wide open, unless someone like JB Holmes or Bubba simply overpowers the course. Anyway, I’ll shoot from the hip with four guys I like. :
Kevin Kisner (25/1) – Form over odds here. 4 top-10’s including two playoff losses in his last seven starts. Love his competitiveness. Think (and hope) he breaks through shortly.
Tony Finau (33/1) – Again, it’s form over odds. The Nuclear Football is playing really good golf, can make a bunch of birdies, and appears primed. I’d love him at 50/1, but will still take him here.
Tiger Woods (50/1) – form isn’t great, but…haha just kidding, I wouldn’t take him at 300/1.
Bo Van Pelt (66/1) – Charged hard last weekend at the Travelers for a T7. Saw him play really well in US Open qualifying. Nothing more than a hunch, and not at great odds. Whatever.
Angel Cabrera (100/1) – Gimmie the defending champ at 100/1. Last year was first time playing Greenbrier and if Augusta is any indication, El Pato seems to *really* like certain courses. Old White may one, and if so, these odds are way too low. Not much recent form though.
- The Greenbrier is one of two places (Jack’s Muirfield being the other) to host both a Ryder Cup and Solheim Cup. Sam Snead was Pro Emeritus later in his life, while Tom Watson currently holds that distinction. (Note: Thanks to Clubber below, we are informed Lee Trevino is the current Pro Emeritus, as Tom’s reign ended (I honestly didn’t know ‘Emeritus’ distinctions ended for anything but death)).
- In case you’re wondering, you can go play The Old White and it’ll only cost you $385 (plus forecaddie) to do so. $335 if you’re staying at the hotel. Allow me to get real for a second–who in the hell is dropping close to four bills to play this place? Yeah it’s a nice course, and I get there aren’t other options in the area, but Jesus that’s a lot of money.
- On that topic, if it’s me, I’m gonna opt out of the golf and all the way into falconry at the Greenbrier. From their website: “We encourage you to get up close and personal with these majestic birds. During each lesson, you’ll get the opportunity to interact with our trained hawks and falcons as well as learn the history behind this sport of kings, which has been performed for over 4,000 years.” OK!
- Another very interesting attraction at the Greenbrier is the Bunker. A 112,000 square foot fallout Bunker built underneath the resort into a mountainside in 1961, the Bunker was a fully operational site where all of Congress could go in case Cold War shenanigans got a bit too real. It was kept operational until 1992 when a Washington Post article outed it for what it was. It was quickly decommissioned thereafter. Here’s more info on the bunker if you’re so inclined.
- They’re going country this year at the annual tournament concert series, with Keith Urban, The Band Perry, Miranda Lambert, and Blake Shelton performing. Last year was Maroon 5 and Jimmy Buffet. As always, though, it’s gonna be a lot of white people dancing:
- Phil Mickelson was in the news this week as part of a federal money laundering/gambling ring. ESPN’s Outside the Lines presented the story. I’m not sure what will come of it, but I know it’s not a great look for Lefty. Although his penchant for sports gambling is probably the worst-kept secret on Tour, it’s never good to be wiring that kind of money through those types of people. More so, if he really needed to move money around outside government purview, why didn’t he just enlist a couple of his sponsors like Barclays and Exxon? (Hey-yo!!)
- Finally, have we really gotten to the point where Big Cat’s appearance only commands a cursory mention? (I think we have). In fact, I am more excited to see Dick (Full) Mast’s name on the alternates list.
Enjoy the week and catch us on twitter during coverage @NoLayingUp.