Greenbrier Classic: Tee shots figure to challenge Carter
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. - Pat Carter is no stranger to the Old White TPC course at the Greenbrier. The 13-time West Virginia Amateur champion figures he's played it about 20 times since it was lengthened in 2010, and dozens of times before that renovation.
But there's a difference in how the course normally plays and how it will play this week at the Greenbrier Classic.
"We don't play the length we just played it today," Carter said. "We just tipped out on every single hole on the golf course."
It's not the length of the holes that makes things tough for a golfer like Carter - accurate at shorter distances, but not as long of a hitter as others. It's the length of the tee shot.
"I don't expect to compete with the way these guys hit the ball," he said. "Ultimately, at the end, you've just got to add up your score. I know that my short game has to be primo and I have to make a few birdies. If I do that, I can shoot somewhere close to par."
Carter plans on a conservative approach when he tees off Thursday at 9 a.m. with Scott Gardiner and Paul Haley II. Going on the attack, he said, would send his ball sailing to places he'd rather they not. But conservative is fine with him.
"I've always played a conservative game and if I get wedges or short irons in my hands, I'll hit it at the flags," he said. "Everything else will be hitting away from trouble."
Even though this will be Carter's first experience on the Old White during the Greenbrier Classic, the Huntington native gets plenty of requests for pointers from other golfers, no surprise considering his overall experience at the Greenbrier.
"I'd be a good caddie," Carter said. "There's no doubt about that."
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THE GREENBRIER CLASSIC has featured a pair of first-time PGA Tour winners, with Scott Stallings victorious in 2011 and Ted Potter Jr. winning last year. What it hasn't had is a major championship winner standing in first place after the final hole. Stuart Appleby won the inaugural Classic in 2010, and his best major finish is a tie for second in the 2002 British Open.
There's more of a chance of that happening this year than any other in the Classic's short history. Thirteen former major winners holding a total of 27 major championships are in this year's field. Greenbrier owner and Classic chairman Jim Justice said it's been nice for two golfers to notch their first career Tour wins, but major winner taking the crown would be great, too.
"I mean, we've had great champions ... and great storylines from the standpoint of young men on their way, starting," Justice said. "If one of those superstars, one of the real, true champions that have been out there through countless licks and everything, have earned their stripes to win or be in the running coming down the stretch, that would be great."
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THE GREENBRIER will host another significant tournament, this time for the top youth golfers around the world. The Faldo Series Grand Final will come to the resort in October. The Faldo Series was created by six-time major winner Sir Nick Faldo to offer opportunities through golf for youth around the world.
Past Faldo Series winners include two-time major winner Rory McIlroy and five-time LPGA major winner Yani Tseng. According to Faldo's website, more than 7,000 young people each year benefit from the program.
"What we do is bring all our winners from Europe over, so about 60 kids will come from Europe," Faldo said. "And all our winners from Asia who won earlier in March, they will be here. Probably, I'm going to invite, for the first year, the leading top 20 or so American players, boys and girls from age groups from about 13 to 21."
Faldo, who is building a home at the Greenbrier, will play in this year's British Open at Muirfield. He's won three British Open titles and two of those came at Muirfield.
"I realized how important Muirfield is tome, especially the 18th hole," he said. "To win two majors, to win two opens at the 18th hole, that 18th green is a very special spot in my career. I thought, hey, I should go back and give it a go."
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LIGHT-TO-MODERATE rains dampened Tuesday's practice rounds, but for Justice, it was nothing compared to the chaos last year's derecho brought through this and other areas of West Virginia.
"Gosh, that would be like, say, compare the tournament this year versus Mount St. Helen's last year," Justice said. "It was catastrophic."
That storm, which hit the Friday before the Classic, left hundreds of thousands of West Virginians without electricity and caused $87 million in personal property damage. At the Greenbrier, the derecho's winds uprooted about 60 trees around the resort, sent a 200-year-old sycamore tree tumbling into the 16th-green grandstand and damaged several skyboxes.
"To be just as honest as I can be, if I would have truly known the magnitude of the catastrophe, we may have thrown up the white flag and said we can't do it," Justice said. "The magnitude of what John Doe, the everyday guy, went through was that was really way beyond what I thought we were faced with."
But, thanks to a massive vendor and volunteer undertaking, the course was cleaned up, repaired and ready to go for the next weekend.
"I felt like West Virginians were too tough for this to beat us," Justice said. "It's really important to our state in a lot of different ways and I wasn't going to let it beat us. But we had a lot of people put in a lot of licks to pull it off."
Contact sportswriter Derek Redd at firstname.lastname@example.org or 304-348-1712. His blog is at blogs.dailymail.com/marshall. Follow him on Twitter @derekredd