WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. – Rare is the tournament that can get Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods to share the same turf. The Greenbrier Classic was able to accomplish that feat, increasing the visibility of this quaint event that is nestled deep in West Virginia.
Big names don’t make up the bulk of this week’s field, though. Look beyond Woods, Mickelson, U.S. Open champion Webb Simpson, Keegan Bradley and Steve Stricker, and you’ll see that the Tour had to dig fairly deep to fill the 156-player field.
That’s a common trait of these midsummer events, which are important for players looking to keep cards or earn their way back on Tour. With many international players headed to the European Tour in advance of the Open Championship and the long summer days allowing 156-player fields, the number of PGA Tour playing opportunities increases as the temperature does.
Players low in the Q-School and Nationwide Tour graduates category made as few as three starts in May and June. The Greenbrier is the first of possibly five consecutive starts for them. They’ll be able to play at least four of the next five events. Other players could be looking at seven consecutive starts beginning with the Travelers Championship two weeks ago.
“It’s hard not to push,” said William McGirt, currently 120th on the PGA Tour money list. “You just have to relax and let it happen. That’s the big thing.”
That’s easier to do this week, as players bring their families to The Greenbrier Classic to take advantage of the resort’s facilities.
Billy Hurley showed the impact that one good week can have. Hurley, who had earned less than $100,000 in 17 starts this year, finished fourth on a sponsor exemption at last week’s AT&T National, three years after fulfilling his Navy obligations. Last week’s $255,937 check represents 75 percent of his season earnings. He moved from 193rd to 135th on the money list.
“I had a very poor start to the year,” he said. “Nobody really wants to start that way. Almost put myself behind an 8-ball, so to speak, just having to play really well to finish out the year. But, you know, I did it last year, … so I guess having done that, having that perspective, it helps knowing you can do it.”
Hurley had made just $26,284 by last July on the Web.com Tour. He made more than $150,000 the rest of the year to finish 25th on the money list and earn his first PGA Tour card. A man who served in the Navy knows something about the mental toughness necessary to stave off the panic that can set in when one’s poor play stretches into the summer months.
“The mental toughness does sort of translate and correlate just from having been in very stressful situations,” he said. Many players find themselves in a similar situation this summer. Now is their opportunity to change their fate.