It’s time for tournament number one of 49 on the PGA Tour. The 2019/20 season gets underway just over two weeks after Rory McIlroy brought the 2018/19 season to a close with his win at the Tour Championship. Each of those in the field for A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier will begin the season with hopes of making it all the way to East Lake for a crack at the big money but there’s a very long slog ahead of them all.
Marc Leishman is one of the few in the field who has a genuine chance of going all the way in the FedEx Cup playoffs. The Australian has the game to win the biggest tournaments of all and can get things off to the perfect start with a win in West Virginia.
It is a great tribute to everybody who works at The Old White TPC that the venue is part of the PGA Tour schedule. It has long been a well-regarded venue for top class golf but suffered terrible damage during in June 2016 as a result of severe flooding. That year’s edition of the Greenbrier was cancelled and, after a huge amount of clearing, the course was painstakingly put back together with the complete reworking of every green and bunker.
The team at the Greenbrier resisted the temptation to make serious changes to the layout of The Old White course. It remains a great example of a classic American golf course with trees lining the holes but it is not quite the sort of strategic test you’ll find at other par 70s on the PGA Tour. The fairways here are wide so those who are a little wayward off the tee have much more of a chance of winning than say at Harbour Town or TPC Southwind.
|The Old White TPC
|White Sulphur Springs, West Virginia
The great joy of The Old White TPC and this tournament in general is that it provides a level playing field. This is not a venue that favours one style of golf over the other. That much is evident by the list of the five most recent winners. Xander Schauffele and Angel Cabrera both make the most of their ability off the tee but were at opposite stages of their respective careers when they won here whilst Kevin Na attacked the course in almost a completely different way to those two.
Analysis: Consistency and a Plan Required at the Greenbrier
The Old White TPC is not the sort of course at which players can easily build up a head of steam. It is relatively rare to see a player burst through the field on the final day of play. Generally speaking, those who win are right in contention on Sunday thanks to three very solid rounds of golf.
With little to worry players of this calibre off the tee and the boost of 2,000 feet of altitude to help the shorter hitters on the longer holes, this is a tournament where what you do on and around the greens really makes a difference. Even high class approach shots can be repelled by these putting surfaces so a solid short game is important as is having a very good week with the flat stick.
Leishman Has the Right Stuff for the Greenbrier
There’s little surprise that Marc Leishman is back in action in the first PGA Tour event. The Australian is working to a plan that will hopefully see him peak in December for the Presidents Cup which is taking place Down Under.
Leishman is a very consistent performer. That’s not always great news as it often takes a sustained nine or 18 holes of real brilliance to land a big tournament but A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier is the sort of event that should reward the big Aussie’s ability to churn out solid shot after solid shot.
He has all the required tools off the tee and his approach play so it will likely come down to how well he putts. That area of his game is much improved, to the point where he looks very good value at 28/1 with Ladbrokes.
Haas Can use the New Season as a Chance to Kick On
Bill Haas faced a long and arduous road just to get back onto the PGA Tour after he was involved in a horror car crash. The former FedEx Cup champion has earned great respect for fighting the physical and mental tolls that crash exacted and he played some good golf towards the end of his 2018/19 season.
Haas is still having to carefully pick and choose the tournaments in which he competes. It’s interesting that he’s chosen to get his PGA Tour season underway as quickly as possible. Perhaps he’s seen his impressive strokes gained putting stats from the last few months and is looking forward to using his brilliance on the greens to confound the odds and contend at 100/1 with Betfred?
Final Verdict: Marc Leishman to Win
Marc Leishman is the sort of golfer who gets on with the challenge ahead of him no matter what the course, the elements or the competition are doing. That ability to remain level headed and stick with the plan he’s worked out with long term caddie Matt Kelly should see him in contention on Sunday. If he can hold his nerve, Leishman has a real chance to add to his tally of four PGA Tour wins.
The Military Tribute at The Greenbrier, formerly the Greenbrier Classic is hosted in West Virginia by the Old White TPC. It was first brought in around 2010 to replace the Buick Open as a full tour event and now is able to offer up a prize pool of over $7million with the winner taking home over $1.2million for their weeks work.
The tournament effectively missed out being played during the 2018/19 calendar, having moved to September as the opening tournament of the 2019/20 PGA Tour. This should give the field a boost after the Summer break.
The tournament has still been able to create some thrilling finishes, none more so that when Danny Lee won his maiden title in 2015, beating 3 others (David Hearn, Kevin Kisner and Robert Streb) in a playoff en route to doing so.