The Greenbrier Classic: The Track Meet

What happens when you give a PGA Tour field the ball-in-hand on an eminently playable golf course? They go crazy, as the Old White TPC found out at the Greenbrier Classic in White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia.

The two co-leaders are Tommy Gainey and Johnson Wagner. They both shot 8-under 62 and neither one made a bogey. As a matter of fact, a whole bunch of guys didn’t make a bogey. What’s more, some of the guys at the top of the leaderboard a couple of strokes back look like they didn’t play as well as the leaders. But in terms of birdies they did and that’s why we have a track meet on our hands. 

Here’s the top-20 players’ scores and the number of bogeys they made:

  • Tommy Gainey, 8-under (0)
  • Johnson Wagner, 8-under (0)
  • Webb Simpson, 6-under (0)
  • Jin Park, 6-under, (1)
  • Daniel Summerhays, 5-under (3)
  • Neal Lancaster, 5-under (0)
  • Tag Ridings, 5-under (3)
  • Steven Bowditch, 5-under (2)
  • and 12 guys who all shot 4-under with just one or two bogeys

The point is, even though Gainey and Wagner look like they have a big advantage, it’s not so much when you consider the quality of the players behind them and, just to suggest what might be possible, add back their bogeys. Everybody is within easy reach.

Plus there’s a whole bunch of guys further back who could explode (in a good way) on any given round and roar to the top. The Defending Champion, Ted Potter, Jr., came back from six off the 1st round lead. This year at 1-under again, he’s seven back.

And then, speaking of explosive, you have Phil Mickelson way down at the bottom of the leaderboard at 4-over 74. He finished triple bogey-bogey, the latter caused by a perfect 9-iron at the par-3 18th to a 175-yard pin that flew the green. Some 9-iron. And then he had 4 other bogeys to go with 4 birdies. But you know Phil, he’s not giving up:

I’ve been playing well. My confidence isn’t going to wane. I’m driving the ball fairly solid, I’m hitting good iron shots, and certainly I got frustrated today without making anything happen. But I’ll go out and we’ll see what tomorrow brings. You know, there’s a low round out there, I just have to go shoot it.

While Phil may not have anything to lose, co-leader Tommy Gainey doesn’t quite feel the same way. After a T6 in the season-opening Hyundai Tournament of Champions on Maui, he couldn’t find his game again, missing 9 of the next 11 cuts. And it continued, missing 13 of 22 cuts for the year with mediocre results on the ones he did make. It got pretty bad. So bad his “team” had an intervention:

Well, you know, my family and my support system around me, they just — they noticed that I’ve been trying to force the issue. Ever since last year I feel like I should be playing more consistently, playing a lot better, contending more, and that wasn’t the case. I was just putting so much pressure on myself and they noticed it and they had a talk with me and we sat down and tried to iron it out.

Now I’m just trying to have fun again because that’s what this game is to me, it’s a lot of fun. I really don’t want to go back into a factory, even AO Smith, working on an assembly line because I love what I’m doing right now.

Johnson Wagner, the other co-leader, has similar motivations coming into this tournament on 6 straight missed cuts with a W/D thrown in for good measure. On the year, he’s missed 11 0f 18. What’s happened?

I’ve struggled with my ball striking all year, even my good finishes, which there were maybe two at Kapalua and Harbour Town, which was the last cut I made, my ball striking’s been terrible. After Hartford a couple weeks ago my coach watched me play Friday. We hadn’t been working all that much together this year. He said, come down and get it straight, that’s where you always are when you struggle.

We got into a position after three, four days where I kind of felt like I did leading into the Sony Open last year and Kapalua last year, where I played the best golf of my life. Confidence for me can turn around real quickly. Before I won my first tournament, the Shell Houston Open in 2008, I think I made $40,000 the first tournaments of the year. So my past performance really doesn’t mean much to me unless it’s good.

The best players, like the best relief pitchers, have no memory except for the good ones. We’ll see how that works out for Mr. Wagner and Mr. Gainey on Friday.

In the meantime, we have ourselves a great show!

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