PGA Tour Confidential: The Greenbrier Classic

PGA Tour Confidential: The Greenbrier Classic

Stuart Appleby shot the fifth 59 in a PGA Tour event on Sunday at the Greenbrier Classic.
Scott Halleran/Getty Images

Every week of the 2010 PGA Tour season, the editorial staff of the SI Golf Group will conduct an e-mail roundtable. Check in on Mondays for the unfiltered opinions of our writers and editors and join the conversation in the comments section below.


Cameron Morfit, senior writer, Golf Magazine: As Stuart Appleby might put it, whew. We have a lot of news to get to. On the women’s side Sunday, Yani Tseng won her third major and her second this year with a one-shot victory over Australian Katherine Hull at the Women’s British Open. That seemed big. Then on CBS, where Yanni does the theme music, Appleby shot the second 59 of the 2010 season and the fifth in PGA Tour history to win the Greenbrier by one over Jeff Overton. Which is the more impressive accomplishment, and which of the two feats do you care more about?

Jim Herre, managing editor, SI Golf Group: I care more about Appleby’s 59 and one-shot win, but two majors in a season? That’s clearly more impressive, and important.

Gary Van Sickle, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I’m with Jim. I thought Appleby’s round and win were captivating. But it was one of those magical one-day things on a course where scores were low, low, low. You can’t compare that to winning two women’s majors in a season. Tseng’s is a career achievement that indicates she may ultimately be the player to beat in women’s golf.

Mark Godich, senior editor, Sports Illustrated: I’ll go with the two majors (and three at such a young age). Not to take anything away from Appleby’s 59, but par seemed to be about 66 for the week. Appleby has to be more excited about the victory.

David Dusek, deputy editor, Both wins are historically significant and impressive. To shoot a 59 is nuts, but it’s even more amazing that he did it to claim a one-shot win and earn himself a spot in the PGA Championship (and Kapalua and Augusta). That said, a second major in a season, on a course like Royal Birkdale, may top it.

Alan Shipnuck, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: Birkdale is a big-time course and Tseng has now made it clear that she’s going to be a monster for the next decade. Big picture, this was the most important win. But it was impossible not to get swept away by what Apples was doing. His magic round is an all-time stunner.

Damon Hack, senior writer, Sports Illustrated: I’m going with Yani. Three majors by the age of 21, and one win shy of a career grand slam. Nobody male or female has done so much so soon in the history of the game.

Farrell Evans, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: I care more about what Appleby’s 59 represents for the game. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with birdies, but par should mean something more than just once a year at the U.S. Open.

Shipnuck: Back in Geiberger’s day a 450-yard par-4 was a monster. Now it’s a driver/flip wedge. With soft conditions and little rough, a Tour course needs to be 8,500 yards or more to have teeth. Seriously.

Van Sickle: There’s a lot to like about Appleby’s win. Now he’s in this week at Akron (he had previously committed to the event at Turning Stone) and also in the PGA Championship. Nice upgrade.

Godich: Don’t forget that two-year free pass. Not bad for a guy who had to use a career exemption to get into fields this year.

Herre: I bet Appleby was just as excited to see so many putts go down. He’s the classic Aussie — ball-striking genius, not so hot on the greens.

Dusek: Appleby should also be licking his chops about getting to play Kapalua again. He won the season-opening event there in 2004, ’05 and ’06.


Morfit: There were loads of low scores at the Greenbrier, where during one round Overton reportedly hit wedge into every hole but one (excepting the par-3s, I assume). Was this a Tour-worthy golf course?

Herre: Greenbrier looked like a course anyone would love to play, but maybe not a great test for the pros. Although the low scoring made for a fun show, and the Tour is show business, right?

Van Sickle: Was Greenbrier exciting TV every day it was on? Absolutely. No one is going to say, “Scores were too low — that sucked.” They’ll be saying, “Wow, did you see all those birdies and eagles and guys with chances to shoot 59?” Nothing wrong with having an easy, low-scoring week on the PGA Tour. Variety is good.

Hack: I don’t mind the occasional birdie-fest to liven up the summer. Plus, if it was good enough for Sam Snead …


Godich: Hate to bring his name up so early in the proceedings, but I think it would’ve been a good venue for Tiger.

Herre: Not so sure, Mark. Tiger has no use for old-timey places like Colonial and Westchester.

Godich: Just saying that he needs something positive, and what better spot than a birdie-fest? He’s still as dangerous as anybody with a wedge in his hands.

Morfit: What do we expect from Tiger Woods at the WGC-Bridgestone this week? The guy is practically a part-owner of Firestone he’s won there so much. Will it matter? Do we look for more big things from Padraig Harrington, who lost the memorable duel to Woods there last year and just put up a spirited fight for second place at the Irish Open?

Herre: I expect Woods to win this week. Less pressure, and he owns the place.

Rick Lipsey, writer-reporter, Sports Illustrated: I expect more of the same: something between very mediocre and good, but not great. We could be looking at a winless 2010 for TW.

Shipnuck: Tiger couldn’t find it at Pebble or St. Andrews. I’m not sure the old Firestone magic still applies.

Godich: Agreed. I don’t think anything applies until Tiger shows otherwise.

Evans: I expect Tiger to win every time he tees it up. He might not putt well or keep the ball in the fairway off the tee, but he’ll find a way to win, especially if he’s truly found his old full-swing tempo from 2000. All his three-putts on the hairy St. Andrews greens don’t mean much here in the states.

Dusek: Cameron, you’ve said a few times this year that Tiger Woods is not going to win this season. This is the last venue on the schedule where he’s dominated, so if not this week, when?

Morfit: I think it all depends on whether he can get some “closure” with his marriage. That could help his game big-time, but I’ll stand by my earlier prediction that this will be a totally lost season for Woods.

Van Sickle: The Deutsche Bank, Cog Hill and East Lake come to mind as possibilities.

Dusek: Agreed, he’s got history at those venues too, but he might not earn a trip to Cog Hill or East Lake.


Morfit: Here’s another thing that struck me about the Greenbrier: There were a ton of Americans in and around the lead all week, and for the 11th time in the last 15 tournaments on the PGA Tour, someone other than an American won. Meanwhile Ross Fisher won the Irish Open by two over Padraig Harrington, throwing yet another name into the mix for Colin Montgomerie’s European Ryder Cup team. Was there anything to be pleased about for U.S. skipper Corey Pavin? The all-too-rare Boo Weekley sighting, perhaps?

Shipnuck: At this point, Pavin’s best hope is that the stacked Euros are too over-confident!

Dusek: With his win, Ross Fisher is now on the team, along with Lee Westwood, Rory McIlroy, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Ian Poulter, Martin Kaymer, F. Molinari, and M. A. Jimenez. The list of guys who would need a wildcard to get on the European Team is a Murderers’ Row: Justin Rose, Paddy Harrington, Paul Casey, Sergio Garcia, E. Molinari, Ross McGowan, Alvaro Quiros, Robert Karlsson.

Godich: And Harrington seems to be heating up at just the right time. All the Americans need now is for him to win at Firestone or Whistling Straits.

Van Sickle: You sure the Europeans want Harrington to heat up now? His Ryder Cup performances have been dreadful.

Godich: The guy has won three majors. That’s good enough for me.

Morfit: Unless I see something big out of Tiger and Phil in the next month or so, I think Monty’s B team could beat our A team.

Godich: The best thing the Americans have going for them is the possibility that Monty, with all that talent, outsmarts himself. Let’s not forget that this is the guy who showed up for the Open playoff at Oakmont decked out in black from head to toe.

Herre: Weekley was a plus this week, and Tiger fell out of the top eight, so Pavin was probably happy with that as well.

Morfit: Jim, are you saying Pavin doesn’t want Tiger to make it on points?

Herre: I don’t think Pavin wants TW on the team at all.

Shipnuck: Don’t forget, the wives are a huge part of Ryder Cup week. They’re all still pissed at Tiger. And when you factor in Woods’s mediocre record, his unpredictable play, his historic inability to partner well and the general distractions he brings, I don’t think Pavin picks him.

Herre: Plus, the U.S. will be a huge underdog this year, and Woods would further handicap the team by being an equally huge distraction.

Lipsey: No chance Pavin doesn’t pick Tiger, unless Tiger is AWOL at Akron and at the PGA. Without Tiger at the Ryder Cup, ALL the talk will be about Tiger’s absence, and that will be a major distraction to everybody, except maybe the players who might be psyched to be without him.

Dusek: If Tiger finishes outside the top eight, do you really think Pavin has the guts to leave him off the roster?

Shipnuck: He’s a bit of an iconoclast, very religious and very strident. He’d probably love to be remembered as the guy who censured Tiger for his moral failings.

Van Sickle: Given the lackluster American side at the moment, Pavin doesn’t dare pass on Tiger.

Morfit: Given that Woods seems to do just enough to at least get a top-10 at the majors these days, it’ll probably be a moot point. He’s likely to make it on points with a decent finish at either Akron or Whistling Straits.

Evans: The Tiger haters should get over it. He is the best who ever lived. Who cares about how mad the wives are? When has a wife ever hit a single shot in the event?

Shipnuck: I agree the high profiles for the wives are silly, but there’s no denying they are a big part of the week.

Morfit: Let’s not forget the U.S. team won without Tiger in 2008. I wonder if he even wants to go.

Godich: Would Tiger dare say no?

Herre: That’s interesting. It wasn’t that long ago when we wondered who would be the next player to pull a Weiskopf and turn down a spot on the team.

Dusek: Word is that Tiger and Pavin are meeting early next week, at Whistling Straits, to talk Ryder Cup. Anyone got a fly on the wall handy?

Morfit: Ha! If Tiger said no to the Ryder Cup, he may as well say he hates kittens and apple pie. I’d love to see it, but it won’t happen unless he decides to become the official bad guy of golf.

Van Sickle: Tiger is in no position to say no. Especially if he wants to lure corporate America back.


Godich: But what about Overton? The kid is right there in the standings. Pavin can’t be too excited seeing all of those three-putts on Sunday.

Van Sickle: And what about the stigma of a non-winner making the Ryder Cup team?

Godich: The red flag for me is that he couldn’t close the deal today.

Morfit: I really wanted that behind-the-ball angle on Overton’s missed four-foot birdie putt on 17, to see if it really did get bumped off-line, and if it did, by how much. That was quite a reaction of disbelief by Overton.

Godich: Great point. I didn’t see anything, and Baker-Finch didn’t comment on it until Overton went nuts.

Van Sickle: Even from the side angle, you could see the ball swerve left about halfway to the hole. But you’re right, they have a behind-the-hole camera on him. How’d they miss that crucial shot?

Herre: Overton was tapping down “spikes marks” after every missed putt. Bush.

Dusek: If Overton were a big-time, Ryder Cup-level player, he’d be pissed that he missed that putt, but he wouldn’t get irate like that. You’ve got to immediately compose yourself and get ready to stiff an iron shot and make birdie on 18. Sure, a hell of a lot easier said than done, but did anyone genuinely expect him to force a playoff after missing that birdie putt on 17?

Morfit: No. He looked very shaken. Although I give him credit for the birdie putt on 18. That thing was so close it could have gone in if it had just hit a spike mark.

Van Sickle: Pavin may have to seriously think outside the box: Fred Couples. Maybe even Tom Watson?

Morfit: If Pavin has to resort to picking Couples, okay, I get it. But there’s absolutely no way he picks Watson. Besides, Turnberry was last year.

Hack: Fred and Tom are too shaky with the blade, I’m afraid. Pavin would be better off picking himself.

Evans: Why does Pavin need to think outside the box when there are at least 20 good American players with young nerves?

Godich: Like Overton showed today?

Van Sickle: Overton needed to birdie one of the last two holes to tie. He three-putted for par on the first one, then “stiffs it” to 52 feet on 18. That’s the kind of clutch play the Ryder Cup team doesn’t need.

Dusek: I will say this in Overton’s defense: he plays with a lot of passion and clearly wants to win badly. That’s a great quality, and could make him a better player.

Morfit: That’s a good point, David. I saw him behind the Old Course Hotel, watching guys play the Road Hole before his tee time at St. Andrews a few weeks ago. He seems genuinely engaged in the process of improvement.

Van Sickle: Overton has a funky swing — a trait I tend to believe is a plus — and desire and a lot of potential. So far, though, he’s still in the potential stage. Maybe he’s where Sean O’Hair was four years ago.

Shipnuck: It’s come to this: Overton might be preferable to Tiger for Pavin.


Morfit: Langer won the U.S. Senior Open by three over Couples for his fourth W on the oldies circuit this year, and his second major in two weeks. Langer said after winning the Senior British that he’d probably never win a real British Open. Do you agree? Watching him make putts all day at Sahalee on Sunday, it seemed possible that he could still win one of the four majors on the young guys’ tour, namely the British.

Godich: Well, if you listen to Mark Rolfing, Langer just won a regular major. He asked Bernhard what it felt like to finally win the U.S. Open after all of these years. That said, it was one impressive performance, and it came in a road game, to boot.

Van Sickle: After Tom Watson last year, we’d be foolish to write off any player who’s still got game. Langer could certainly contend again in a major. No doubt about it.

Evans: Langer is wonderful technician, and I’m sure at the right golf course he would have a chance in a regular major. But on the longer courses I don’t think he could hit it close enough with 4- and 5-irons. The British is the all-time crap shoot, so anything could happen.