By Tom LaMarre – Courtesy The Sports Xchange
- Patrick Reed, United States — Since he finally has his season going in the right direction, Reed is playing for the fourth straight week and could be on the verge of winning for the first time since last August at the Barclays. After struggling early this year, including three straight missed cuts, he has posted seven finishes in the top 25 in his last eight starts, including a tie for fifth in the Travelers Championship and a tie for 13th in the U.S. Open. With five victories in the last four seasons on the PGA Tour, he obviously hasn’t forgotten how to get it done and would love to make it happen this week at the Greenbrier Classic. He is making his fourth start on the Old White TPC Course and after shooting 70-72 — 142 to miss the cut by three strokes in 2013, he tied for 26th the following year and tied for 29th in 2015, posting scores in the 60s in seven of the eight rounds but simply not going low enough.
- Kevin Kisner, United States — Putting together a big season with six top-10 finishes, including his second PGA Tour victory in the Dean & DeLuca Invitational, Kisner is seventh in the FedExCup standings. He also has finished second twice this season, giving him six runner-up results over the last three years and should start finding himself in the winner’s circle more often. Kisner posted one of those second-place finishes in the 2015 Greenbrier Classic, in which he closed with a 6-under-par 64 but lost out to New Zealand’s Danny Lee, who won the tournament with a par on the second playoff hole. Kisner, who is 0-4 in playoffs on the PGA Tour, is making his fifth start on the TPC Old White Course and missed the cut in the first four, failing to break the par of 70 in any of his six rounds while recording an aggregate score of 22-over-par. He seemingly figured out how to play the layout two years ago.
- Danny Lee, New Zealand — This essentially will be Lee’s title defense in the Greenbrier Classic, since the tournament was canceled last year after torrential rain in West Virginia caused flooding and damage to the Old White TPC Course. Two years ago, he earned his only PGA Tour victory by opening with a 7-under-par 63 and closing with a 67 before beating Kevin Kisner, David Hearn of Canada and Robert Streb in a playoff with a par on the second extra hole. Lee, who shot 72-71 — 143 to miss the cut by four strokes in his first appearance in the tournament in 2012, got off to another strong start with a 65 the next year and closed with a 66 to tie for 16th. He has been playing very well of late with a tie for fifth in the AT&T Byron Nelson, a solo sixth in the Dean & DeLuca Invitational and a tie for third in the Travelers Championship, and has eight results in the top 25 this season.
- Bill Haas, United States — Following three straight missed cuts, Haas has reeled off four consecutive finishes in the top 25, including a tie for fifth in the U.S. Open and a tie for 13th in the Quicken Loans National last week. His best results this season are third in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and a tie for fourth in the WGC-HSBC Champions, so he has played his best golf against strong fields. Haas, who claimed the last of his six PGA Tour victories in the 2015 Humana Challenge, is making his sixth appearances in the Greenbrier Classic and posted his best result in his first in 2011. He finished with 67-65-67 and eventually lost to a birdie by Scott Stallings on the first playoff hole. Haas also tied for ninth on the Old White TPC Course in 2013, but missed the cut in 2016 when he opened with a 66 but followed that with a 74 to fall two strokes short of playing on the weekend at 140.
- Phil Mickelson, United States — Lefty is playing for the first time since missing the U.S. Open at Erin Hills last month because his daughter, Amanda, graduated from high school on the same day as the first round. He also has parted ways with caddie Jim “Bones” Mackay after a 25-year partnership and his brother Tim Mickelson, former golf coach at the University of Arizona, will be on the bag. Phil Mickelson has said all season that his game is close and the results bear that out, as he has recorded 10 finishes in the top 10, including a tie for fifth in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and a tie for seventh in the WGC-Mexico Championship. He and his family enjoy the Greenbrier Resort so much that they bought a home there, but Mickelson has not done well in the Greenbrier Classic. He missed the cut in all three of his appearances on the Old White TPC Course in 2011-12-13 and broke 70 only when he posted a 2-under-par 68 in the second round four years ago.
- David Lingmerth, Sweden — Leading after each of the first three rounds of the Quicken Loans National last week, Lingmerth was unable to finish off what would have been his second PGA Tour victory. In fact, after opening with 65-65 at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm, he struggled to 73-73 on the weekend and wound up in a tie for fifth, three strokes out of the playoff in which Kyle Stanley defeated Charles Howell III. However, it was his best result of a season that includes six finishes in the top 25. Lingmerth, whose only PGA Tour victory came in the 2015 Memorial Tournament, is playing in the Greenbrier Classic for the fourth time and has played quite well on the TPC Old White Course. He shot 6-under-par 64 in the third round last year on his way to a tie for sixth, tied for ninth in 2013 and tied for 16th the following year. In 12 rounds on the course, Lingmerth has broken 70 on 10 occasions and is a cumulative 26-under.
- Russell Henley, United States — Henley has not played up to his standings since claiming his third PGA Tour victory in the Shell Houston Open in April and following it up with a tie for 11th the following week at the Masters for his best result in a major championship. His best result in seven events since was a tie for 26th in the RBC Heritage and he has missed the cut three times during that span. However, Henley hopes to take the momentum from a closing 3-under-par 67 in the final round of the Quicken Loans National last week and build on it when he plays in the Greenbrier Classic for the third time. He was tied for second after opening with 67-65 on the Old White TPC Course in 2013, but played the weekend in 72-71 to wind up in a tie for 30th. He came back in 2015 and played the last three rounds in 66-69-63 to record a solo fifth place finish.
- Sung Kang, South Korea — After being in the hunt much of the way in the Quicken Loans National last week before finishing in a tie for fifth, Kang will try to keep it going when he makes his second start in the Greenbrier Classic. The 30-year-old, who won three times on the Korean Tour and captured the 2013 Order of Merit title as leading money winner, came close to breaking through for his first PGA Tour victory in the Shell Houston Open in April, when he took a three-stroke lead into the final round. However, he closed with a 72 and wound up second behind Russell Henley, who shot 7-under-par 65. Kang also finished in a tie for fifth in the Valero Texas Open late in May and has eight top-25 results in his best season on the PGA Tour. In his only appearance in the Greenbrier Classic, he shot 71-79 — 150 on the Old White TPC Course in 2012 to miss the cut by 11 strokes, but is a much more accomplished player now.
- Keegan Bradley, United States — The 2011 PGA champion struggled with the ban of his anchored putter since it went into effect at the beginning of last year and finally seems to be getting the hang of his more conventional wand. Bradley, who claimed the last of his three PGA Tour victories in the 2012 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, has posted five results in the top 10 on the circuit this season, including a tie for eighth in the Travelers Championship and a tie for fifth in the Quicken Loans National in his last two outings. He will try to make it three in a row this week when he plays in the Greenbrier Classic for the fifth time, with his best result on the Old White TPC Course a tie for fourth in 2014, when he posted four rounds in the 60s. Last year, he finished with his best score on the course, a 6-under-par 64, and salvaged a tie for 29th. He was in position for a top-10 result in 2012, but finished with a 74 to tie for 46th.
- Si Woo Kim, South Korea — Since winning the Players Championship in May for his second PGA Tour victory, the 22-year-old Kim has missed the cut twice and withdrew midway through the Memorial Tournament because of an ankle injury after opening with 76-71 –147. However, in the only tournament in which he played the weekend, he was in the chase most of the way in the U.S. Open at Erin Hills before closing with a 3-over-par 75 to tie for 13th and barely missed his first top-10 finish in a major. Kim, who also captured the 2016 Wyndham Championship by five strokes over Luke Donald of England when he shot 10-under-par 60 in round two, claimed his only other pro victory in the 2015 Stonebrae Classic on the Web.com Tour. The youngest of the rising South Korean stars on the PGA Tour, who earned his card when he was 17 years, 5 months, 6 days old and had to wait until he was 18 to play, is making his debut in the Greenbrier Classic.
Tom LaMarre has been a sportswriter and copy editor for more than 50 years, including 15 years with the Oakland Tribune and 22 with the Los Angeles Times. He was the Tribune’s beat writer for the Oakland Raiders for seven seasons in the 1970s, highlighted by their 32-14 victory over the Minnesota Vikings in Super Bowl XI at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, and collaborated on a book, Winning Offensive Football, with quarterback Ken Stabler. He also covered the Oakland Athletics when they won three consecutive World Series during the 1970s and the Golden State Warriors when they won the NBA championship in the 1974-75 season. With the Times, he wrote columns on golf, football and skiing. These days, he is the Golf Editor for The Sports Xchange. LaMarre graduated from Skyline High in Oakland and attended the University of San Francisco.