WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- GOOD NEWS is everywhere as the Greenbrier Classic begins today. A few bummers, but mostly good news.
The best news is there has been no repeat of the derecho of 2012. We've learned not to take that for granted in the run-up to this event.
That tournament was weird all the way around. After the storm went away and crews miraculously hauled off the downed trees and fixed the course, it got flaming hot.
It's not supposed to hit 97 degrees in Greenbrier County, as it did that Sunday. That won't happen this week.
The bad news: The tournament will have to dance around a 50 percent chance of thunderstorms all week. Some days, the forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms, a summertime fact of life in Greenbrier County.
Just pray for no repeat of that Sunday in 2013, when the leaders scurried to finish by dark (with mixed results).
Very good news: Bubba Watson is back in prime form, beating Paul Casey in a playoff to win the Travelers Championship near Hartford, Connecticut, Sunday afternoon.
(Casey is also a highly ranked Classic participant this week.)
You could blame Watson's 70-77 U.S. Open line on the six-week break he took between the Players Championship and the Open. But he spent it well -- he broke in his new place near The Greenbrier and attended games involving the Pensacola Blue Wahoos baseball team, of which he is part-owner.
The bad news is it's hard to string together two contending tournaments in two weeks. He should put on a good show, though.
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Here may be the worst news, at least on the musical front: No classic rock/Jimmy Buffett-type acts. The good news? I'm told a Blake Shelton/Miranda Lambert show should make for quality people-watching.
Good news: Tiger Woods is coming again. He'll carry most of the gallery.
Bad news: Woods is at least 200 spots below where he was in 2012 in the Official World Golf Rankings. Fans will be ready to cheer, but should be braced for a train wreck.
A 5-over par 75 for a round won't sound as bad as an 82 at the U.S. Open, but it will have the same effect at the Old White TPC. Traditionally, the cut runs in the even to minus-1 range.
You'd better not wait until Saturday to see him.
Good news: With Christian Brand and David Bradshaw in the field, today's open qualifier is interesting. That hasn't always been the case, and really wasn't last year.
Other West Virginians fighting for those four precious spots in the field are Kenneth Hess, Davey Jude and Swanson Smith. They will join some former/current PGA Tour members I recognize, including five-time Classic player Josh Teater.
Teater, a Morehead State graduate, has slipped in status and was the ninth alternate heading into today.
Good news: I expect the foursome that qualifies to fare better than a combined 30-over on Old White. I predict one makes the cut.
My final bit of good news? I'll bet on another unheralded player to win the Classic, perhaps another rookie.
The bad news? Fans, both casual and really wired into the sport, are notoriously snobby about a "big-name" leaderboard.
The most unfortunate hit to the Classic field was the late decommitment of Hideki Matsuyama, who is 23 and can really, really play. He was fifth at the Masters, fifth in defending his 2014 Memorial title, and is ninth in the tour points standings and 14th in the world.
He has 32 top-25s in 52 starts, which is close to Jordan Speith's 46 in 75. That doesn't mean Matsuyama is better than Speith, but it does mean he's usually an arm's length from the lead, if not closer.
Matsuyama brings a strong contingent of Japanese media wherever he goes (many those workers are U.S.-based). Ryo Ishikawa, who will return this week, drew a decent following when he came here in 2013, but the 12-time Japan Tour winner has struggled stateside. But at 23, he still has some golf in him.
With players from 17 countries, the Classic gets some worldwide attention. South Korean media reps should be on hand, with eight Koreans in the field. Australia has six entered, as does Canada. South Africa has five.
Canada may be the most improved country, even if Mike Weir's Masters victory is 12 years in the rear-view mirror. Graham DeLaet is still seeking his first PGA Tour victory, but he is solid. Nick Taylor owns one PGA Tour win in his rookie year, and fellow rookie Adam Hadwin is grinding within the top 125.
And finally, some more good news: I am hearing that Patrick Rodgers is going to get in the field.
Rodgers, who came here in 2014 on the event's exemption awarded for the Haskins Award winner (college player of the year). He came to Old White and made the cut.
This year, he parlayed sponsor exemptions into special temporary member status. That status isn't high on the pecking order, so Rodgers still needs sponsor exemptions to get into most tournaments.
On Saturday, he shot up the Travelers board with a third-round 63. but fell out of the top 10 Sunday with a 73.
He got an exemption into that tournament and was awarded an exemption into the John Deere Classic (which follows the Greenbrier Classic) earlier this month, so I thought he might not be coming. He was entered in the field when it was released Friday, but as the 10th alternate.
With that, let the birdies fly.
This article was written by Doug Smock from The Charleston Gazette, W.Va. and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.
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