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Opinion & Analysis

Fantasy Preview: A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier

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A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier (previously known as “The Greenbrier Classic”) is the next stop on the PGA Tour, where the familiar Old White TPC will once again play host to the event in West Virginia. Changes were made to the course after severe flooding damaged the Old White TPC two years ago, which resulted in the cancellation of the event that year. As we saw in 2017, there was very little difference in the way the course played, and it’s still a track where you can expect to see plenty of birdies.

The course measures over 7,200 yards, but due to the altitude, the course plays significantly shorter. Players will often attack the course from the very first shot as the wide fairways result in the attitude being “bombs away” off the tee. As always with par-70 golf courses, par-4 scoring will be necessary, as will Birdie-or-Better Percentage with the winning score usually in the mid-teens at this event. Last year, Xander Schauffele earned his first PGA Tour at The Greenbrier, posting 14-under par to take the title by one stroke over Robert Streb.

Selected Tournament Odds (via Bet365)

  • Tony Finau 12/1
  • Bubba Watson 16/1
  • Phil Mickelson 16/1
  • Webb Simpson 16/1
  • Russell Henley 20/1
  • Xander Schauffele 22/1
  • Joaquin Niemann 28/1

The big names of Bubba Watson and Phil Mickelson are sure to garner a lot of attention this week, but Russell Henley (20/1, DK Price $10,400) has both the current form and course history to upset the two big names this week. Henley has been picking up momentum lately and has made his last four cuts on Tour, the last of which saw him finish T6 at the Travelers Championship. Over his last 12 rounds, he sits 10th in Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 19th for Ball Striking and third for Strokes Gained-Total. His short game has been very steady, too, and he ranks 31st for Strokes Gained-Short Game over the same stretch.

Ultimately, this is a week where you will have to chase birdies, and this is where I like Henley’s chances this week. Over his last 12 rounds, Henley sits sixth in this field for Birdie-or-Better Percentage and eighth in the field for Strokes Gained on Par 4’s over his previous eight rounds. Henley also sits first in the field for Bogey Avoidance in his last three events, which is always a positive. He has a high price tag, but considering that he has already proved how much he loves Old White TPC in the past with two consecutive top-5 finishes here, Henley looks sure to feature again in West Virginia.

He’s made 12 out of 14 cuts this year, but there’s a sense that 2018 has been a very frustrating year thus far for Keegan Bradley (55/1, DK Price $8,500). The American has just two top-20 finishes despite hitting the ball as well as anyone in 2018. But this is a week where Bradley can make hay, as his ball striking is currently peaking. In his last three events, Bradley has gained an impressive 16.8 strokes for his approach play, and over his previous 24 rounds, he ranks first for Strokes Gained-Approaching the Green, 10th for Ball Striking and 23rd for Strokes Gained-Total.

His putting continues to hurt him, but his long game is in such good shape that even disastrous putting is not preventing him from missing cuts. Bradley needs one half-decent week on the greens to be in contention. He has never missed the cut at The Old White TPC, with a best finish of T4 back in 2014. For DraftKings lineups, Bradley is as solid a choice as any with the average-priced salary and the excellent efficiency he has displayed at making cuts this year.

A man that looks severely undervalued this week is C.T. Pan (80/1, DK Price $7,300), who will cost just $7,300 here. Pan has made six of his last seven cuts on Tour, and he’s also been taking advantage of playing the weekend at these events. In three of his previous four starts, Pan has finished inside the top-20, and his game is currently trending in the right direction. Pan sits in the top third of this field in all significant Strokes Gained categories over his last 12 rounds and is ranked 16th for Strokes Gained-Total in the same period. Pan ranks seventh over his previous 12 rounds for Birdie Percentage and looks to offer tremendous value this week at a reasonable price tag.

Recommended Plays

  • Russell Henley 20/1, DK Price $10,400
  • Keegan Bradley 55/1, DK Price $8,500
  • C.T. Pan 80/1, DK Price $7,300
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Gianni is a freelance writer. He holds a Bachelor of Arts as well as a Diploma in Sports Journalism. He can be contacted at gmagliocco@outlook.com. Follow him on Twitter @giancarlomag

2 Comments

2 Comments

  1. Roger D.

    Jul 5, 2018 at 12:45 pm

    2,000 feet above sea level? What elevation? Hays, Kansas is the same elevation.

  2. Jamie

    Jul 5, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    That’s the name of the tournament now? Honestly? A tribute to banker/politician cannon fodder?

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Opinion & Analysis

Tiger Woods completes arguably the greatest comeback story in sports history

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Sports have an uncanny way of teaching us about life. And there’s no greater life lesson than the athlete and the man who goes by Tiger Woods.

I first fell in love with golf while watching Tiger play the 1997 Masters with my father. Tiger is the reason that I, like millions of golfers throughout the world, including some of his professional contemporaries today, started playing and loving the game.

For basically his entire life, from the moment he appeared on The Mike Douglas Show at 2-years-old, until his world came infamously crashing down on Thanksgiving 2009, he was “perfect.” He was dominant, impactful, charismatic and invincible — what the world uncovered, however, was that his persona was a carefully crafted facade.

While he continued to play great golf despite injuries and surgeries through 2014, his Superman cape was tarnished, and his respect as a man was all but diminished.

From 2014 until 2017, the world watched Tiger Woods the athlete decay. He’d make minor comebacks after major back surgeries, but the letters “WD” replaced the number “1” next to Tiger’s name on leaderboards for years. And he also developed what was either the chipping yips, or an utter breakdown in his once-superior chipping technique. To all observers, aside from Tiger apologists, it seemed his golf career was likely over.

What was tragic for Tiger the athlete looked as though it’d turn into a tragedy for Tiger the man after his very public DUI in 2017 following his spine fusion surgery earlier that year. Tiger was completely vulnerable, and seemingly, completely broken. He was whatever the opposite is of his former self. Had he faded into oblivion after that, it would have been understandable, if not recommended.

But that’s not what happened. Despite every talking head in sports media saying Tiger was done (not that I didn’t agree at the time), Tiger waited for his back to heal upon doctors orders, then began his comeback to golf. It started with videos on social media of him chipping, then hitting irons, then his patented stinger.

In December of 2017, Tiger finished T9 in the 18-player field at his Hero World Challenge… a respectable finish considering what he had been through. As the season continued, he pieced together 4 consecutive rounds on many occasions, actually giving himself a few chances to win tournaments (the Valspar, Arnold Palmer, Quicken Loans and the Open come to mind). But his late-tournament confidence was clearly shaken; he was struggling to close the deal.

At the 2018 PGA Championship, Tiger had the attention of the entire sporting world when it looked that he had a serious chance to win his 15th major. But ultimately, he finished runner-up to a superior golfer that week in Brooks Koepka. All things considered, the week was a win for Tiger and his confidence… but it wasn’t a win.

The questions changed after the PGA Championship from “Can Tiger win again?” to “When will Tiger win again?”

Well, that question has been answered. Tiger Woods won the 2018 Tour Championship. Is it a major? No, it’s not. Some say the event itself is essentially just a money grab for the best 30 players of the season. But that’s the thing; the tournament hosts the best 30 players of the season all competing for big money. And you can bet it matters to the players on top of the leaderboard.

Tiger’s Tour Championship victory doesn’t mean he’s going to beat Jack’s record. Because he probably won’t. And maybe he won’t even win another major, although he’ll surely be the betting favorite at the 2019 Masters now. But, to me at least, his win marks the completion of the greatest comeback story in all of sports. And not only that, the conclusion to an important life lesson — don’t give up. Don’t ever give up.

No athlete has been written off more than Tiger Woods, especially in the era of social media that gives every critic in the world a microphone. No athlete has reached a higher high, and a relatively lower low than Tiger Woods. He went through it all — a broken marriage, public shaming, legal issues, a deteriorated skill set, surgeries, injuries, and arguably most impactful of all, humanization.

Tiger Woods came back from not just a 28-3 deficit on the scoreboard (Patriots-Falcons reference), and he didn’t score eight points in 9 seconds (Reggie Miller reference, sorry Knicks fans and sorry Dad), and he didn’t get hit by a bus (Ben Hogan), but he got hit hard by the bus of life, and he now stands tall in the winner’s circle.

Maybe that’s why sports teaches us so much about life; because sports is life. Not in the way that nothing else matters except sports, but in the way that sports is played by imperfect humans. When the ball goes in the air, or onto to the tee, or the starting bell rings, nothing is certain and nothing is given. And when things are looking bad, like really really bad, it’s how you respond that truly matters. Isn’t that what life is?

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Courses

Ari’s Course Reviews: Sand Hills Golf Club in Nebraska

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There are so many fantastic golf courses throughout the world, and it’s all of the incredibly varied fields of play that make the game so great to me. The most random places in the world can be home to some of the best golf courses. When deciding which course to write about next, it seemed natural to write about my personal favorite course in the world., which happens to be in a very unexpected place.

If you told me I could go anywhere in the world for a round of golf tomorrow, I would be blazing a trail to the area just south of Mullen, Nebraska and playing Sand Hills Golf Club. Sand Hills opened for play on June 23, 1995 and is one of the most natural golf courses you can find anywhere in the world. There was very little dirt moved and most of the money spent building the course was spent on installing irrigation. The course is built entirely on sand, and was designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Bill Coore speaks on the design here.

For a bit more background, here’s an old CBS Sunday Morning segment on Sand Hills…

The course lies in the middle of the Sand Hills region of Nebraska, which makes up about one-third of the state. The area has huge, natural dunes everywhere that are much more reminiscent of Scotland or Ireland than the flat part of Nebraska along I-80 that most people associate with the state. Because of the firm, mostly fescue, sand-based fairways at Sand Hills, and the ever-present wind, the course plays like a links course though the bent grass greens rival any top country club for speed and purity. In fact, the fastest greens I have ever seen in person were at Sand Hills in late September.

The course has a tasteful amount of variety and challenge. The three par 5s are of the best sets in the world and include 1) a fantastic mid-length par 5 starting hole that is one of the best starting holes in golf, 2) a very reachable but exacting hole in the 14th, and 3) in my opinion, the best long par 5 in golf, the 613 yard 16th.

The par 4s vary from the long uphill 485-yard monster 18th, to the 7th, which at less than 300 yards still sees a lot more 5s and 6s than 3s. The par 3s are masterful starting with the 3rd playing a little over 200 yards downhill to a sprawling side hill green where you can hit driver one day and 7 iron the next. The 6th is 185 yards slightly downhill to maybe my favorite green on the course with definitely my favorite hole location in the front left of the green to a semi-blind spot in a little bowl.  The 13th is a 215-yard uphill monster that can be the hardest hole in relation to par on the course. Lastly the 17th is a 150-yard work of art to a little triangle shaped green and is definitely in the discussion for best short par 3 in the world.

Aside from a great variety in distance of the holes, the topography also presents an amazing amount of variety on the ground. Due to the random nature of the bounce of the ball, the undulating and random fairway contours, and the wind that can blow in literally any direction, the course never plays the same twice. There are just so many great holes out there that I really wouldn’t argue with any of the 18 holes being someone’s favorite. Personally, I can’t name a favorite as it seems to change every time I think about it. The routing is fantastic with both 9s returning to Ben’s Porch, which serves as the home base for the course where people eat lunch, have a post-round drink and generally enjoy one of the best views in all of golf. The course has a good amount of elevation change but is a dream to walk with very short green to tee transitions. It simply is as close to perfect as you can get in my mind.

While the focus of my reviews are on the golf course and not the amenities, I would be remiss if I did not mention the down-to-earth, welcoming people that make up the staff at Sand Hills. Any time I’ve been lucky enough to be at the club I have felt more like I was visiting family and friends than a golf club. When you combine the welcoming and friendly atmosphere of the club, some of the best food in the world and my personal favorite golf course to play anywhere in the world, you have an experience so special its hard to put into words.

Enjoy the collection of photos below from Dan Moore, and make sure to check out my other reviews in the links at the bottom of the page!

Hole No. 1

Hole No. 2

Hole No. 4

Hole No. 8

Hole No. 9

Hole No. 13

Hole No. 14

Hole No. 16

Hole No. 18

Ari’s Other Course Reviews

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Podcasts

The 19th Hole (Ep. 51): Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella on why Phil shoots guns to improve his golf game

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Golf Channel’s Matt Ginella joins host Michael Williams to talk about Phil Mickelson using shooting sports to prepare for the Ryder Cup, and the crop of golf destinations that include 5-star golf and outdoor sports facilities. Also featured are Jason Gilbertson of Winchester and Justin Jones of Sandy Creek Sporting Grounds at Reynolds Lake Oconee (GA).

Check out the full podcast on SoundCloud below, or click here to listen on iTunes!

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19th Hole

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