By John Raby
THE ASSOCIATED PRESS
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. _ In its infancy, The Greenbrier Classic was friendly to first-time winners and re-energized the careers of veterans who had been stuck in a rut.
Tiger Woods will take anything positive at this point.
Woods failed to advance to weekend play in his only other appearance in West Virginia in 2012 and, starting Thursday, will try to avoid missing the cut in consecutive tournaments for the first time in 21 years. In 1994, he failed to advance to the weekend in all three PGA Tour events he entered.
Woods, who’s getting ready for the British Open in two weeks at St. Andrews, has broken 70 only twice in 16 rounds this season.
“I’ve gone through stretches like this,” Woods said after his pro-am round Wednesday on the eve of the tournament on the Old White TPC course.
“I didn’t touch a club for a while,” Woods said. “It was nice to have a summer break with them like that, especially after the way I played.”
Bubba Watson wouldn’t mind more rest after a grueling playoff win last week at The Travelers Championship. He admits sleep is high on his priority list.
“I’m tired,” Watson said. “I’m worn out. Mentally, the energy level is just not there.”
At least he gets to sleep in his own bed. Watson moved into a house built last year at The Greenbrier. His wife, Angie, played in his pro-am group Wednesday along with New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton and former NBA coach Mike D’Antoni.
Watson is the highest-ranked player in the field at No. 3 in the world. Others in the top 20 at The Greenbrier are J.B. Holmes (13), Patrick Reed (15) and Louis Oosthuizen (18).
This tournament, now in its sixth year, has a penchant for low scores and brings some extra incentives.
Stuart Appleby shot 59 to win the inaugural Greenbrier Classic in 2010. The tournament handed trophies for the first time to rookies Scott Stallings in 2011 and Ted Potter Jr. in 2012 and gave Jonas Blixt his second tour win in 2013.
Stallings and Blixt are back, along with 2014 champion Angel Cabrera and runner-up George McNeill. Cabrera’s two-stroke win was his first in a tournament other than a major. McNeill learned after his round was over that his older sister, Michele McNeill, had died of cancer that day.
This year the top four finishers not previously eligible for the British Open will earn spots at St. Andrews, provided they are among the top 12 and ties.
Golf is only part of the attraction at the 6,500-acre Greenbrier resort, which welcomes tour families and advertises relaxed fun with its 721-room hotel, casino, spa and dozens of amenities.
Two weeks after his finish at the U.S. Open fell just short of catching Spieth, Oosthuizen was eager to get in some fishing at The Greenbrier and take his wife to the tournament’s concerts featuring Keith Urban, The Band Perry, Miranda Lambert and Blake Shelton.
Call him a big country music fan.
“Oh yeah, I love it,” Oosthuizen said.
The Greenbrier also was the playground of the late Sam Snead, who had a 47-year association as golf pro and pro emeritus. Snead holds the record of 82 career PGA Tour wins. Woods has been stuck on 79 since 2013, when he won five times.
While Woods’ game may not be in top shape at the moment, his will remains strong.
“I would love to break his record,” Woods said of Snead. “I mean, that’s one of the hallowed records in our sport. Hopefully, I can get that done in the near future.”