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There's been plenty of action -- good and bad -- at the Greenbrier Classic. With big names like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson in the field, we were set up for a promising weekend. We still are -- everyone is within eight shots of the lead on a course that can produce low scores -- but not as expected.
First thing's first: Tiger and Phil won't be around. This is the second cut Tiger has missed in 2012; the last time that happened it was 2005. He remains an enigma, but really he just didn't putt well this week and his distance control with his wedges was off. In his post-round presser, he said he never could get a feel for how far the ball was flying, saying that he really had things "dialed in" at Congressional so it was surprising to him. His swing looks great, however, and I'm not too worried about him. Let's lead off with Lefty in our other news and notes:
The 10-Fer picks are getting on a roll, in case you haven't noticed. Nine for 10 last week and 10 of 11 this week. Hitting stride. Or lucky.
- As mentioned on Tuesday, Mickelson isn't a good play at The Old White course. He's now missed the cut in two consecutive years. But don't feel bad for Lefty, as he's reportedly taken home just as much money in this event as the winners have: $2 million in appearance fees over two years (which is against PGA Tour policy). According to Steve Elling's article, Woods was also paid as much as $1.5 million to play this year. I'm sure they've structured the arrangement so they're within the fringes of Tour policy, but it's still shady at best. Regardless, Phil hasn't broken par in seven consecutive rounds, the longest stretch of his career. He's not exactly rounding in major championship form.
- Webb Simpson looks very solid. Rounds of 65-66 have him in the lead after 36 holes and there's no reason to think he won't extend his lead on Saturday (more on that below). He was a poplar pick in our One and Done game: 27% of players across all leagues used him this week.
- Twenty-seven-year-old Tour rookie Charlie Beljan blistered Old White for a 62 on Friday and surged to the top of the leaderboard. It was his best score of 2012 by four strokes, and he was legitimately flirting with 59 until the end of his round. He is one of the longer hitters on Tour, but one of the worst in putting and GIR%… until the last two weeks. He's healthy now and might be one to watch as we head down the stretch this season.
- A classic course produces some classic rock. Several gray hairs are in or around the lead, including Jeff Maggert, Jerry Kelly, Bob Estes, Billy Mayfair, Davis Love III, Kenny Perry, John Daly, Gavin Goles… heck, even Tom Watson had it with five shots of the lead before settling at -2 (and making the cut). Distance isn't everything at Old White. Of this group, Estes is the best bet to stick around; he lost in a playoff at Greenbrier last year and has had a very solid season. DL3 is another one who has threatened to contend recently and has above average distance.
- Jonathan Byrd's putting is light's out. He's not hitting it overly far (t76) or straight (t65 in accuracy), but he's holing just about everything on the greens (2nd in strokes gained-putting). He's been putting well all year and that's why I put him atop my rankings this week, but it's tough to expect these kind of results all weekend. His proximity to the hole (41'5) is seven feet worse than the field average, so if this turns into a shootout he would be hard-pressed to keep up.
- Some guys are set up to move up on Saturday. Johnson Wagner (t31at Greenbrier) is among the Tour leaders in scoring average when teeing off early in the third round (12th), as well as one of the best in the third round overall (t10). The same for Webb Simpson (co-leader, 4th in third round scoring average), who is especially good when teeing off late on Saturdays (11th).
- On the flip side, others haven't had as much success when in similar positions on the leaderboard. Charlie Wi is t142 in scoring when teeing off late in the third round, and Kevin Streelman (who has shown some flashes recently) is t115 in third round scoring average.
- In the 'hunch' category, I'd recommend Vijay Singh on Saturday. He has one bad round every tournament, and he had one Friday. Luckily for him he shot -7 on Thursday so his Friday 74 didn't take him out of contention. I expect him to shoot in the 66-67 range on Saturday, but then fall back on Sunday. It's just what he does these days.
- Seung-yul Noh continues to impress. He's t14 and if he improves his position on the weekend, it will be three top-10's in four events for the rookie.