2013 Greenbrier Classic – Top 5 To Watch

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2013 Greenbrier Classic Top Five

2013 Greenbrier Classic Top Five
Bob Donnan - USA TODAY Sports

The 2013 PGA Tour season is reaching its climax. With only seven weeks to go until the FedEx Cup Playoffs begin at The Barclays, the pressure to win is at its highest point yet. With Tiger Woods taking time off until the Open Championship, there will be two more Tiger-less weeks for players to make some moves up the rankings.

The Greenbrier Classic, beginning Thursday at the Old White TPC in White Sulphur Springs, W. Va., is one of the newer tournaments on the PGA Tour schedule, but it has produced some great finishes already. The last two years, the championship had to be decided in a playoff, and even more interesting, produced rookie champions each time. In 2011, Scott Stallings defeated Bob Estes and Bill Haas for his first career win. Last year, the Greenbrier was the first tournament in which both Woods and Phil Mickelson missed the cut, and relative unknowns Ted Potter, Jr. and Troy Kelly needed three extra holes before Potter could put Kelly away.

This year’s field looks quite strong, with nine of this year’s PGA Tour winners and all three former Greenbrier champions in the field. Mickelson will be making his first start since his heartbreaking runner-up at the U.S. Open, and will be trying to erase the memory of missed cuts here the last two years. Joining him will be 21 of the top 50 in this week’s FedEx Cup rankings and 12 of the world's top 50.

Playing to a 7,287-yard par-70, the Old White TPC features only two par-5’s, both on the back nine. Greenbrier isn’t known as one of the tougher courses on the schedule, but a premium will be placed on approaches into the green and, of course, converting birdie putts whenever the opportunity arises.

Without any further delay, then, here are my top five picks for the Greenbrier Classic.

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5) Bubba Watson

Debby Wong - USA TODAY Sports

This will be Bubba Watson’s first tournament at the Old White TPC at Greenbrier, but he’s coming in on the heels of his best finish of the year, taking fourth at the Travelers Championship. The long-bombing lefty can get a little squirrely off the tee, but still hits more greens in regulation than almost anybody (fourth on Tour in 2013). Sitting 39th in the FedEx Cup rankings, Watson is looking for a win to provide a late-season boost in his playoff push.

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4) Graham DeLaet

Jim Cowsert - USA TODAY Sports

Graham DeLaet is coming in this week having scored back-to-back top-10 finishes, so his game is obviously on point. DeLaet is hoping for an improvement on last year’s Greenbrier performance, in which he finished tied for 12th place at 10-under par. DeLaet leads the Tour in greens in regulation and ranks in the top five in both par-4 and par-5 performance. Solid combination of distance and accuracy off the tee will help him tame Old White once again.

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3) Billy Horschel

Billy Horschel
Eileen Blass - USA TODAY Sports

Billy Horschel will be playing in the Greenbrier Classic for the third time, and he’s made the cut both times. While he hasn’t scored a top 25 here, he’s also in the middle of a breakout year on Tour, so anything is possible. I don’t think his down week at the AT&T National will affect him too much this week, as his excellent ball-striking and putting (24th in strokes gained, 12th in total putting) will get him out of any jams.

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2) Bill Haas

Bill Haas
Debby Wong - USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard enough to win once on the PGA Tour, let alone back-to-back, but Bill Haas has a good chance to handle that challenge this week. He had a phenomenal finish last week at Congressional, has seven top 10’s this year, and has enjoyed success at The Greenbrier before. His 2011 tie for second came in a three-way playoff with Bob Estes and eventual champion Scott Stallings.

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1) Webb Simpson

Debby Wong - USA TODAY Sports

It really is surprising that Webb Simpson hasn’t won this year, but he’s been close with four top 10’s and a playoff loss to Graeme McDowell at the RBC Heritage. The last two seasons, Simpson has been in the top 10 at the Greenbrier, with ties for ninth in 2011 and seventh in 2012. He ranks 14th in this week’s FedEx Cup rankings, and the only thing missing in 2013 is a win.