Here are some thoughts and observations while strolling the Greenbrier Classic on Saturday, Day 3 of the event.
1. With no Tiger and no Phil playing on the weekend, the buzz among the gallery is considerably diminished from the tournament’s first two days. When Woods was here on Thursday and Friday, he attracted a very diverse crowd, both racially and economically. Everyone wanted a glimpse of Tiger. Now that he is gone, the crowds are much more subdued.
2. If there is a new crowd favorite, it would appear to be Webb Simpson, He is creating the biggest buzz and has one of the two biggest fan followings on the course. The former Wake Forest golfer won the U. S. Open championship last month in the Bay Area and is the biggest name, among the younger golfers, left in the field. He is incredibly humble and considered one of the "nicest guys" on the Tour. Simpson is also 9th overall in the Fed-Ex Cup standings.
***Trivia question. Webb Simpson’s high school alma mater is Broughton High School in Raleigh, NC. Broughton High is also the alma mater of what basketball legend? Answer below.
3. The other crowd favorite is golf Hall of Famer, Tom Watson. The 62-year old Watson missed the cut last year and the crowd is thrilled he is playing on Saturday this year. Watson is the pro emeritus at the Greenbrier and knows the course well.
4. Most of the crowd this weekend are pure and true golf fans. Those are the fans that appreciate the fact that they are seeing a PGA golf tournament here in a small town in West Virginia. With a more knowledgeable crowd, you hear much less of the "get in the hole" cheer after every putt. The fans who still yell that are fans who should just write "DORK" on their forehead.
5. It is good to see Davis Love III here in West Virginia and playing well. Love, a former PGA champ, was a college star at North Carolina in the early 80′s. When he first came on the tour, he was a fan favorite for being one of the great long drivers on the tour. You remember the 90′s baseball commercial, "Chicks Dig the Long Ball". Well, so do golf fans.
6. It has been refreshing to see young Charlie Beljan play this week at the Greenbrier, The Mesa, Arizona native is a tour rookie and is soaking up every moment of being in contention. On Day 3, he is still very much in contention. He also has tremendous distance off of the tee. At his press conference on Friday, he admitted it was his first time in the media room.
7. Many of the golfers on the PGA Tour enjoy playing tennis for a change of pace. Last year, at the Greenbrier, Sergio Garcia spent most of his free time on the resort’s tennis courts. Yesterday, 2010 Greenbrier champ, Stuart Appleby, had his children on the courts getting a lesson.
8. Former major league baseball pitcher, Atlee Hammaker, has been a regular among the crowd at the Resort. He now lives in the area and his daughter was one of the stars of the Greenbrier East girls basketball team that won the AAA state title last March in Charleston.
9. Wake Forest has a strong presence at the Classic. Besides U. S. Open winner, Webb Simpson, Bill Haas is also in the hunt for the title. Haas is the son of Jay Haas who also played golf at Wake Forest. Haas lost in a play-off to Scott Stallings in a play-off here last year.
10. Troy Kelly is the story of the day. He shot an 8 under 62 today and is now 12 under for the tournament to sit atop the leaderboard. He is from Tacoma, WA, a state not known for golf. He lists Fred Couples as one of his idols growing up.
ANSWER TO TRIVIA QUESTION—-Pete Maravich.