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Greenbrier Classic notebook: Payton ready to go from caddy to coach

WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. -- New Orleans Saints Coach Sean Payton enjoyed a vacation of sorts this week at the Greenbrier Classic, caddying for friend Ryan Palmer at the fourth annual event at the Old White TPC.

Payton admits he doesn't offer much to his partner, but said he has learned a lot about the game and the differences between football and golf. Palmer gave his regular caddy, James Edmondson, the week off.

"It's a grind, just in regards to what these guys have to do," said Payton, who has a 67-37 career coaching record and a Super Bowl XLIV victory in 2009. "With just the mental approach and the mental focus for as many shots and if you don't put a bad shot behind you ... and I imagine that each course is a little bit different than this one."

Now, it's back to his regular job for Payton, who starts practice with strength and conditioning tests and meetings on July 25 and non-padded practice sessions on July 26.

Payton didn't coach the Saints during the 2012 season when they finished 7-9 - their first losing season since 2007 (also 7-9). Instead, he spent his time during the 2012 suspension serving as the offensive coordinator for his son Connor's sixth-grade football team.

In his first season (2006), the Saints were 19th in the NFL in rushing and finished 10-6. In 2007 when the Saints slipped to 7-9 - Payton's only losing season as a head coach - they were 28th in rushing. In 2008, they were 8-8 and 28th in rushing. Payton acknowledges the need to run the ball to reach the pinnacle and the numbers don't lie.

The Saints were sixth in 2009 when they won the Super Bowl. "I think balance is important for us," said Payton, following his final round caddying with Palmer on Sunday. "It's been a good formula. I was in '06, '09, 10 and 11. You get one-dimensional, it gets easier for opponents to play against you."

As for Palmer, he has three wins on the PGA Tour and is a Dallas Cowboys fan.

"I gave him a hard time because he's going to be at a couple games this year, because he'll have his Saints topcoat on but his Cowboys tattoo underneath," Payton said. "It's a good rivalry. We've had a handful of good games against Dallas and a number of good teams."

Palmer hasn't won a PGA Tour event since the season-opening Sony Open in 2010. This year he has made the cut 14 times in 18 events with four top 10 finishes.

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  • THE FINAL round of the Greenbrier Classic was delayed from 1:50-5 p.m., making for a quick finish.

    The 1:50 p.m. pairing of Jonas Blixt and Matt Jones teed off a little after 5 p.m. and Johnson Wagner and Jimmy Walker - the final group - didn't tee off until 9 minutes later.

    The final two groups were the only ones that didn't tee off before dangerous weather halted play and the tournament was finished just before 9 p.m.

    Wagner didn't blame the darkness on his play, but said he would've preferred threesomes to guarantee finishing before dark - weather delay or not.

    "I just never got comfortable with my putter all day," Wagner told The Golf Channel. "The rain, it slowed the greens down; I should've adjusted quicker than I did. I felt like I swung it good early then somewhere around 15 it just left.

    "I'm furious. Given where I was a couple weeks ago, I'll take a lot of positives. It was dark, it was really dark. We should've played threesomes early, not that that would've made any difference with my round. The last few holes I felt like we just wanted to finish ... of course we wanted to finish. Anyway, I didn't mean to sound like a baby there, but I'm just furious."

    Blixt said the weather helped him.

    "It's kind of a Swedish summer weather you guys had today," he said. "I felt really comfortable with the rough the way it was, because I played a lot out of it. The way the course was set up, it couldn't have played out any better for me."

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  • TWO CHAMPIONS at the Greenbrier Classic won as PGA Tour rookies - Scott Stallings in 2011 and Ted Potter Jr. last year.

    Although Tour veteran Stuart Appleby won the inaugural event in 2010, four-time participant Jimmy Walker has a theory on why the newcomers have fared so well on the par 70, 7,287-yard course.

    "When the greens are this receptive ... they've been pretty soft, somebody's going to go low every day," said Walker, whose tee time was about 10 minutes after Sunday's weather delay began.

    Phil Mickelson, who is ninth all-time on the PGA Tour with 41 victories, missed the cut three consecutive years at the Greenbrier Classic - the first time he has missed three straight cuts at one tournament.

    Tiger Woods' appearance in 2012 also was cut short. "There was some really, really big names coming in the last couple years that haven't played very well, which is surprising, I don't understand that," Walker said. "You know, it's a new golf course for everybody, basically. This is what, the fourth year? It's a new golf course and guys get comfortable on golf courses they like to play on. Why you see rookies and newcomers play well here, nobody has ever seen it before and nobody knows what to expect."

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  • TOM WATSON finished his round on Sunday before dangerous weather conditions halted play at 1:50 p.m. coming in with a 4-under 276 - nine strokes better than last year.

    The Greenbrier Classic is the only non-major PGA Tour event the World Golf Hall of Fame member has played since 2007 when he finished tied for 19th at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.

    Watson, the captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup team, is spending his week playing and scouting for playing to fill out his roster in hopes of ending the United States' string of seven Cup losses in the last nine tries. He added Andy North as his assistant captain for the 2014 Ryder Cup, which is being played at Gleneagles Hotel in Perthshire, Scotland.

    Although the United States won the biannual tournament in 2008, it lost three consecutive from 2002-06.

    In the final matches in 2012, Matt Kuchar, Steve Stricker, Jim Furyk, Brandt Snedeker, Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley, Webb Simpson and Bubba Watson lost.

    As for next year, Watson said he's being diligent in his process of picking the team.

    "I'm watching it on TV more, and watching these players perform coming down the stretch, which is a critical thing in my selection of players," Watson said. "You want somebody who can close the deal."

    Watson said a player that impresses him is Billy Horschel, who has never played in the Ryder Cup.

    "With the exception of the (octopus) pants he wore at the U.S. Open, he's impressive," Watson said. "He's had seven top 10 finishes and a win. He's a strong kid, looks like has very good fundamentals.

    "He hasn't been on the Ryder Cup team, but who knows what's going to happen in the next 16 months."


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