By Tom LaMarre
It’s been only two weeks since Rory McIlroy hoisted the FedEx Cup by winning the Tour Championship, but the PGA Tour will kick off its new season on Thursday in A Military Tribute at the Greenbrier.
The tournament at the Greenbrier Resort https://greenbrier.com in White Sulphur Springs, W.Va., returns to the schedule after a one-year hiatus, with Kevin Na defending the title he won two years ago—when the event was played in July.
Na won by five strokes, ending a five-year victory drought.
“Oh, it’s undescribable,” said Na, who added a third PGA Tour title earlier this year in the Charles Schwab Challenge. “The amount of close calls I’ve had and disappointments I’ve had, walking off the 18th hole in the locker room, on the drive back to the hotel.
“I mean, a lot of heartbreaks, but today everything was going well. Everything was going my way, and it was nice to have that big lead going up to the last hole and enjoying the moment. It was well worth it.”
None of the top 10 players in the World Golf Rankings are in the field, with No. 11 Bryson DeChambeau the highest-ranked of the 156 golfers.
Last season, DeChambeau won the season-opening Shriners Hospitals for Children Open and finished in the top 15 of his first five tournaments en route to finishing 12th in the FedEx Cup standings.
In addition to Na, former champions Stuart Appleby, Danny Lee, Ted Potter Jr., and Scott Stallings also are in the field, along with major champions Zach Johnson, Bubba Watson, Jason Dufner, Jimmy Walker, Keegan Bradley and John Daly.
All 50 golfers who earned PGA Tour cards on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2019 are playing at the Greenbrier, including Scottie Scheffler, Matthew NeSmith, Viktor Hovland, Tom Lewis, Xinjun Zhang, Doug Ghim, Brandon Hagy, Fabian Gomez, Maverick McNealy, Tyler McCumber, Cameron Percy and Beau Hossler.
Scheffler finished first on the season-long points list on the triple-A circuit thanks to two victories, NeSmith had the most points during the Finals, and Lewis captured the Korn Ferry Tour Championship.
They’re all looking to get off to quick start in the 2019-20 FedEx Cup standings.
- Bryson DeChambeau, United States – Even though he didn’t win again after capturing last year’s opener, the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open, DeChambeau posted 10 finishes in the top 25 and wound up 12th in the FedEx Cup standings after tying for 12th in the Tour Championship. Tied for 14th three years ago at the Greenbrier.
- Bubba Watson, United States – After failing to make it past The Northern Trust, first event of the FedEx Cup playoffs last season, Bubba is trying to jump-start his new season in the opener. A 12-time winner on the PGA Tour including two Masters titles, he makes his sixth start at the Greenbrier, with his best results ties for 13th in 2015 and 2018.
- Mark Leishman, Australia – Coming off a season in which he claimed his third PGA Tour title in the CIMB Classic and recorded seven finishes in the top 10, Leishman would like to improve on his 24th place finish in the FedEx Cup standings. In five starts at the Greenbrier, his best finish a tie for 16th in 2010, but he has missed the cut three times.
- Jason Kokrak, United States – Despite failing to win a tournament last season, Kokrak finished 14th in the FedEx Cup standings, thanks to 14 finishes in the top 25—including five in the top 10. He came close when he tied for second in the Valspar Championship. In five starts at the Greenbrier, his best result was a tie for third in 2018.
- Sungjae Im, South Korea – Following a rookie season in which he played 35 events and was the only first-year player to reach the Tour Championship, Im will make his Greenbrier debut. A two-time winner on what was then the Web.com Tour two years ago, his best finish on the PGA Tour was a tie for third in the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
- Kevin Na, United States – Essentially the defending champion since he won the last time the Greenbrier tournament was played two years ago, Na claimed his third PGA Tour victory last year in the Charles Schwab Challenge. Won by five shots two years ago for his first win in seven year, and also tied for seventh in this tournament in 2012.
- Joaquin Niemann, Chile – The 20-year-old recorded six top-25 finishes last year, including ties for fifth in the Travelers Championship and the Rocket Mortgage Classic, while playing in the first two events of the FedEx Cup playoffs. In two starts at the Greenbrier, he tied for fifth in 2018 and tied for 29th in 2017, closing with 64 both times.
- Branden Grace, South Africa – Failing to make it past The Northern Trust to open the playoffs last season might be one reason Grace is making his Greenbrier debut this week. He had only two top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour, solo second in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and later a tie for ninth in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
- Bill Haas, United States – The 2011 FedEx Cup champion is hoping for a bounce-back year after failing to reach the playoffs last season. He had only two top-10 finishes, ties for 10th in the Safeway Open and the John Deere Classic. His best finishes in seven appearances at the Greenbrier were a tie for second in 2011 and a tie for ninth in 2013.
- Viktor Hovland, Norway – Although he didn’t earn his PGA Tour card in five starts on the circuit late last season, he nailed it down by tying for second in the Albertson’s Boise Open and during the Korn Ferry Tour Finals. Hovland also recorded four straight top-20 finishes on the big tour, including solo fourth in the Wyndham Championship.
OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH – Zach Johnson, United States; Russell Knox, Scotland; Sung Kang, South Korea; Patton Kizzire, United States; Stuart Appleby, Australia; Jason Dufner, United States.
- Scottie Scheffler, United States – Earned full PGA Tour status by leading Korn Ferry Tour overall points list, winning twice and finishing second twice among 10 top 10s.
- Xinjun Zhang, China – After winning four times in China, Zhang claimed his PGA Tour Card by winning twice among seven top-10 finishes on Korn Ferry Tour this year.
- Tom Lewis, England – Won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship after making last-minute decision to play. Also has status on European Tour, where he has two victories.
- Maverick McNealy, United States – Equaled Tiger Woods’ record of 11 victories at Stanford. Earned PGA Tour card with a second and a third this year on Korn Ferry Tour.
- Danny Lee, Australia – It’s been a bit of a struggle for Lee since he won at the Greenbrier in 2015, but he was second at Mayakoba among three top-10s last season.
For first-round tee times visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html