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The Greenbrier Classic Preview: Tuning Up for the Open

Greg Vara

Vara is the lead golf writer at RotoWire. He was named the 2013 FSWA Golf Writer of the Year. In addition to producing the weekly preview and the bulk of the draft kit content, Vara participates in Yahoo!'s "Experts Picks" where he routinely dominates. He also picks college football games against the spread in his "College Capper" article.

It is that time of the year. That time when out of the corner of your eye, you start to look ahead to the Open Championship, otherwise known as the British Open. With all due respect to Bill Haas, who just captured the AT&T championship, and both the upcoming Greenbrier Classic and John Deere Classic, the British Open is clearly the main draw each July. Considering how the first two majors unfolded this year, it's hard to blame anyone for looking past these next two events to the British Open in two weeks, but therein lays the point I'm trying to make. This week, many of those aiming for an Open Championship are making their final tuneup at the Greenbrier. Yes, technically there is one more event on the PGA Tour prior to the Open Championship, but those who follow this sport know that few in the John Deere Classic field will make the trip across the pond. While the type of golf played this week at the Greenbrier is not likely to translate well to Muirfield, one thing always carries over from week to week and that's confidence. So while you're watching the action this week, keep an eye on not only who's playing well, but those players who seem to exude confidence. Those are the golfers you want to look at two weeks from now when it's no longer time to look ahead, when it's British Open time.

This week:
The Greenbrier Classic

Last Year:
Ted Potter Jr. shot a final-round 64 on his way to a playoff victory over Troy Kelly.

Players to Consider:

1. Scott Stallings

His roll has slowed considerably over the last few weeks, but he's finally playing at an event where he has a history of success. Stallings won here in 2011, and a return to The Old White TPC should be just what he needs to snap out of this mini-funk.

2. Webb Simpson

Simpson seems to have everything working in his favor this week; a solid track record on this course (two top-10s the last two years) and some momentum coming in (off a top-5 at his previous event). With another major on the horizon, expect Simpson to be rounding into form.

3. Jordan Spieth

Spieth continued his fine play last week at the AT&T with yet another top-10. For a short time he was actually in the lead last weekend, but once again, he could not keep up the momentum. One of these weeks he'll figure out how to keep his roll going and hold onto a lead. Until then, we'll have to settle for top-10s.

4. Roberto Castro

It's about time that we recognize Castro. We've seen his name pop up on the leaderboard a few times this year, but it wasn't until last week that he really caught our attention with a runner-up finish. For the record, that's four top-25s in his last six starts. Castro also earned a top-10 here last year.

5. Bill Haas

Haas is one of those players who gets on a roll for a few weeks and then cools considerably. Fortunately for us, it looks like he's on the front end of a hot streak. Oh, and he's also played well here before with a runner-up finish in 2011.

Players to Avoid:

1. Phil Mickelson

Mickelson is clearly the biggest name in the field this week, so this is certainly a risky pick, but considering his close call at the U.S. Open a few weeks ago, I'm guessing he'll play this week with an eye on the British Open in two weeks. Mickelson is good enough to win while looking ahead, but I just don't see it this week.

2. Billy Horschel

Horschel seems to have lost any of the momentum he built up leading into the final round at the U.S. Open a few weeks ago. It doesn't appear that Horschel will go away now that his hot streak is over, but I'd still like to see some prolonged consistency out of him.

3. Jeff Maggert

Even if Maggert were to miss every cut the rest of the year, this season would have to be considered a success. He's already locked in a spot in the top 125, securing his card for yet another season. Now, about this week, he's coming off a missed cut last week and it appears as his mini-roll is over, which means it would be wise to pass on him.

4. Jimmy Walker

Remember when Walker was a lock to make the cut every week? Well, that's not the case any longer as he's missed his two most recent cuts. Hopefully this is just a hiccup and not a sign of things to come. Either way, it's probably wise to pass on Walker until he works out the kinks.

5. Justin Leonard

Leonard's had a decent season this year, but he's carded only one top-10, and it doesn't look like he'll get another this week at the Greenbrier where he's missed the cut the last two years. The added length to the layout certainly won't help Leonard either.


Group A

1. Bill Haas
2. Ted Potter Jr.

I don't often root against a player, but I really need Mickelson to take it easy this week. Haas is obviously my top pick from Group A this week and while most will pair him with Mickelson, I've chosen the defending champ - more on that later.

Group B

1. Graham DeLeat
2. Webb Simpson
3. Ricky Barnes
4. Scott Stallings

A pretty decent lot to choose from in Group B this week. A couple of the picks seem pretty obvious with Stallings and Simpson, and upon closer inspection, DeLeat looks like an obvious choice as well with his form coming into this week, but the Barnes pick is bound to catch some people by surprise. After a brutal start to the season, Barnes is finally coming around with consecutive top-30s heading into this week. That's not much by most standards, but when you are working your way out of a slump, it's pretty encouraging.

Group C

1. Roberto Castro
2. Jordan Spieth

I absolutely love this pairing from Group C this week. Who would have thought that a pairing of Roberto Castro and Jordan Spieth would garner such enthusiasm, but both players are in good form heading into this week, and I expect big things. Although they aren't the biggest names, with a lack of firepower in Group C this week, this pair could be quite popular.

Starters Round One

1. Bill Haas
2. Webb Simpson
3. Scott Stallings
4. Roberto Castro

Not much debate about the opening-round starters this week. Haas was an easy choice in Group A this week. To be honest, I'm leaning heavily on Haas as the omission of Mickelson could be costly if Haas doesn't come through this week. The starters for Group B were easy as well, as Simpson and Stallings are both in my top-5 this week. Group C was a little more difficult because there isn't much separating Spieth and Castro this week, but Castro has the track record here while Spieth will be teeing it up for the first time at this event. That's really the only reason Castro gets the start Thursday.

Round Two and Going Forward:

As you can probably tell, I'm really nervous about leaving Mickelson off the roster, but if Haas plays like I'm hoping and Potter Jr. can find something similar to what he had last year on this course, I should be fine. Potter Jr. is certainly a surprise pick, especially from me, the guy who doesn't like defending champs, but he's played some decent golf over the past couple months and a return trip to this event could jump start his season. Group B belongs to the starters, Stallings and Simpson, but a slow start from Stallings and he's out of there Friday. I'll give a longer leash to Simpson this week, but if DeLeat shows well early, I'll find a spot for him. Barnes is the last one in off the bench this week. Group C is up in the air after Thursday as Castro and Spieth are on even ground once the tournament starts.

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