Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 13:57 PM
Greenbrier - Best Bets
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A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier
Old White TPC Course – Par 70 – 7, 292 yards
After an exciting ending to the PGA Tour season with Rory McIlroy winning the Fed-Ex Cup a few weeks ago, a new PGA Tour season is set to begin this week with a familiar tournament in a new scheduling spot.
The Military Tribute at the Greenbrier has been a favored event by some of the biggest name in golf this past decade as the Tour's first event here was in 2010, but with the move to September instead of late-July, many of the biggest names are passing on this event now. IN fact, the “wrap around” season starts much earlier in the year now with the revamped PGA Tour schedule, and while fans got to see one Major per month throughout the year, it's the events that got pushed to the fall that will end up taking a hit in terms of turn out from big names and likely fans as well. The swing season has always been a time the biggest names in golf spend time away from the course, and this week is no different.
However, the Old White TPC Course is still a great track that's a fair test of golf all the way around. Length isn't necessarily a prerequisite here given it's just under 7,300 yards, and with trees everywhere alongside the fairways, guys better be able to hit a straight ball or at least maneuver their ball into play. Staying out of all the sand that exists out there is another key part of success at the Old White TPC Course, and with the somewhat funky finish of the Par 5 17th hole followed by a Par 3 on 18, guys can really have some swings on their scorecards late. But as always on Tour, you'd better be able to knock down some putts – specifically birdies – at this track, and no one did that better then defending champion Kevin Na (-19) a year ago. Na's 261 score was the best here since the inaugural tournament here back in 2010 – Stuart Appleby shot 258 – and his five-shot victory last year was the biggest margin of victory ever for the Greenbrier.
Scores may not be as low now that it's being played in mid-September as opposed to late-July, but with a shorter course and nothing but generic trouble (trees, sand) awaiting the guys, going low is still key. With that being the case, let's take a look at a few names worthy of consideration this week as every guy on Tour knows it's a fresh start in the chase for the 2019-2020 Fed-Ex Cup and the $15 million payday that Rory McIlory is still rolling around in (likely) today.
Golfers to Watch
Sungjae Im (+2500)
Im was one of the most consistent golfers in terms of results and frequency of starts this past PGA Tour season, and in a field like this where he's among a group of eight favored guys below the +3000 threshold, he's a name that can get lost among that party. The 21-year old had seven Top 10 finishes during last year's schedule and with results like that you know it's only a matter of time before he gets into the winner's circle. Backing him during the swing season is a perfect scenario for him to hoist his first PGA Tour trophy and I'm hoping it's this week.
Even with the two weeks off, he comes in here riding some great form – T6, T38, T11 and T19 in the Tour Championship – in his past four starts, and if you take that back even further, to say the RBC Canadian Open in early June, outside of a missed cut at the British Open, six of his other nine starts in that span have all been Top 21 finishes or better. Tough to argue with that kind of form, even at this price when it comes down to it.
Im is new to this course which can be considered a knock in terms of backing him this week, but past winners like Ted Potter Jr, Scott Stallings, Xander Schauffele, and even Kevin Na last year, won this event after not teeing it up here the year prior. Schauffele was a rookie on Tour when he won in 2017, so it's not unheard of for someone with talent like Im has to come out and take this title without any specific experience at this track. He's a guy that knows how to go low -26th in birdie average last year – is one of the better guys in this field in terms of Strokes Gained: Putting (and overall mind you) – and is clearly on the ascend in terms of career trajectory right now. These swing months have been jumping off points for first time winners on Tour the past few seasons now, and Im is a guy that should get their sooner rather then later.
Kevin Na (+3300)
Typically I'm not big on backing defending champions of an event, and the fact that no one has repeated at The Greenbrier since it was established at the beginning of the decade is is something to consider. But it's also only been eight years of the event so it's not like that should hold much weight.
What does hold more weight, at least in my eyes, is how well Na played here a year ago, as his -19 winning score was phenomenal from start to finish. He's a guy that has made the cut here in each of the five times he's teed it up at the Old White TPC Course, and he had a 7th back in 2012 to go along with his win a season ago.
Positive memories from that win can hopefully spark Na's game as he was not in great form for weeks, but his shorter, plodding style of fairways and greens plays well at a track like this where length isn't necessary. If he has used his month away from competition to iron our some kinks with his irons to help his approach game back on track, who knows how hot his putter gets this week. It's so hard to repeat as champion on Tour which makes a Top 10 finish (+350) or Top 20 finish (+187) the more likely bet to win here, but don't be surprised at all to see Kevin Na's name in contention again this week.
Brice Garnett (+10000)
Garnett is a name that isn't exactly well known to the casual golf fan/bettor, but he did win in the Dominican back in 2018 at an alternate event where you absolutely need to go low. His odds suggest there are holes in his game and there are – most notably in Strokes Gained: Approach and Around the Green – but with a 71.45% (7th on Tour) driving accuracy percentage and 69.54% in greens in regulation percentage from last PGA Tour season, this guy knows how to give himself birdie looks.
A new season and a non-deep field will give Garnett more of a leg up in terms of all those birdie opportunities he gives himself, and he's not a horrible putter. Get that flatstick warmed up enough to stay in touch with the first page of the leaderboard come the weekend, and Garnett could be the next big 100-1 shot that claims this title. Schauffele and Na weren't in that range the past two years, but from 2012-2015, the four winners of the Greenbrier all closed as 100-1 longshots or worse, and Garnett does have a couple of top 35 finishes here during those years.
He might be another guy where a Top 10 (+1000) or Top 20 (+450) bet should be more attractive, but I wouldn't be so quick to close the door on his outright chances this week too.