Teater on the brink of success
Ben Coley previews the Greenbrier Classic and reckons Josh Teater is overpriced as he bids for a first PGA Tour win.
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The Greenbrier Classic produced one of the shocks of the season last year when unheralded journeyman Ted Potter Jr got the better of Troy Kelly in a play-off.
Potter arrived having finished outside the top 50 on the Web.com Tour a week earlier and sat 23rd at halfway before back-to-back 64s saw him win the event via a play-off. It's fair to say nobody saw it coming.
- 1pt e.w. Josh Teater at 150/1 (BetVictor, Paddy Power 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6) - big price for a player who is gaining confidence all the time
- 1pt e.w. Patrick Reed at 125/1 (BetVictor, Paddy Power 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6) - huge potential and really building some momentum
- 1pt e.w. Roberto Castro at 50/1 (BetVictor 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6) - in-form and played brilliantly here as a rookie
- 1pt e.w. Gary Woodland at 55/1 (BetVictor 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6) - fourth here in 2011 and returning to that sort of form
- 1pt e.w. Scott Piercy at 50/1 (BetVictor 1/4 1,2,3,4,5,6) - game looks to suit the venue and excels at this time of year
A year earlier, it was Scott Stallings who caused an upset. Like Potter, Stallings was a PGA Tour rookie and although he arrived in slightly better form, his victory also represented a huge upset, not least because he got the better of Bill Haas and Bob Estes in a play-off.
And to complete the confusion, the inaugural edition of this event in 2010 saw Stuart Appleby win with a closing 59, in the process denying Jeff Overton who had looked set to win comfortably.
It's hard to draw any firm conclusions from these three renewals and clues as to who might win this year's are hard to find.
One emerging trend is for those still looking for a maiden win to flourish. Both Stallings and Potter were winning for the first time on tour and just behind Appleby were the likes of Overton, Brendon de Jonge and Jimmy Walker, three names who figure prominently in lists of best players yet to win.
The timing of this event may have something to do with it. In 2010 and 2011 it sat a week before the WGC-Bridgestone Invitational and even in its new position, it's clear that this is an event that has work to do to compete with more established tournaments like next week's John Deere Classic, the preceding AT&T National, and the majors between which these tournaments are sandwiched.
It's also worth noting that this event is a lot of fun for players and their families. The off-course facilities in West Virginia are considered second to none, and to some perhaps the importance of the golf tournament becomes secondary to a week with those closest to them. Perhaps that's why family man Phil Mickelson has missed the cut in both visits to The Old White TPC.
As for the course, it's a par-70 with just two par-fives, both of which are on the back-nine, and four tough par-threes, the shortest of which is the closing hole which has actually been lengthened this year to increase the overall yardage to 7,287.
Although the course is set to play firm and fast, the new yardage does suggest that longer hitters have an advantage here. That looked to be the case in 2012 despite the fact that Potter is no bomber, as Kelly and third-placed Charlie Beljan are long off the tee and even John Daly managed to finish 12th.
Go back to 2011 and again the top 20 is littered with big hitters, with 18th-placed slugger Steven Bowditch commenting that hitting the ball high is a big advantage; it's a trait that is usually found among the tour's stronger men.
The 2010 renewal is less relevant, as the course underwent some serious changes after Appleby proved that it might just be a shade too easy. Conditions were also soft and while storms are possible this year, the course should play a good deal faster.
All in all I'm left clutching at straws when it comes to profiling the winner. It does seem that non-winners and rookies are more likely to get over the line here than they are elsewhere, but with Open Championship spots up for grabs there's no doubt the pressure will be on come Sunday and it'd clearly come as no surprise were experience to count for plenty this time around.
If ever there was an event where throwing some loose change at some rags seems a sensible policy it's this one, but my selections fall somewhere between the market leaders and those who on any other week would appear to have no hope.
First up is Josh Teater, who doesn't for one second look a 150/1 shot in this field.
The fact that he is owes to two things: an apparently modest run of form and a clearly modest bank of form at the course.
However, if we dig a little deeper things don't seem so bad. Last year, Teater shot 70-75 when in terrible form. In 2011 he wasn't playing especially well yet finished 43rd, while in 2010 he carded a second-round 68 before missing out on a weekend spot.
Clearly, it's not great but as we saw with Haas last week, simply having experience of a venue can help and if a player looks like they should have the game for a certain course, time often shows their earlier efforts to be simply part of a learning curve.
I'm hopeful that'll prove to be the case with Teater, who might just be playing better than his form figures imply. I'm certainly prepared to look at 57th in the Memorial and 56th in the US Open favourably, particularly as the latter was his major debut.
Prior to that, Teater had once again demonstrated his qualities with a share of seventh in the Crowne Plaza Invitational, his third top 10 of the season. So far in 2013 he ranks 41st in driving distance, 40th in greens, 38th in birdie average and 36th in the all-around. Any course which requires long, straight driving should suit and the lower the winning number the better.
As well as having what appears the right game for the course and simply being too big a price in my opinion, there are a couple of other reasons to think Teater could improve on his efforts here so far.
Firstly, he's a Russell Athletic golfer and part of a very small team which includes Kenny Perry, who won his first senior major last Sunday. Teater appeared delighted for his team-mate on Twitter and small triggers like that can often facilitate improved performances.
Similarly, he could well take inspiration from last year's winner. Like Potter, Teater has spent much of the last decade or so playing mini-tours.
"There were days for sure when I didn't have the financial ability, sponsorship and local people to even pay entry fees, but obviously there were some people who stepped up and helped me out and I thank them for that," he said in a recent interview.
Perhaps seeing a man who has been through similar struggles win the Greenbrier will allow Teater to win for the first time, something he says he feels ready to do.
Next, Teater got married in March, so perhaps arriving at the tour's most noted family stop will go down well.
And finally, he's from neighbouring Kentucky so will have plenty of support from friends and family.
These small snippets might well be tenuous but in a week where there's so little to go on, combine them with a quote of 150/1 about a player more able than many at shorter prices and Teater looks a fine bet.
Next on my list is Patrick Reed, for whom the case is more straightforward.
Quite simply, Reed - who is technically in his first season as a full PGA Tour member but is no longer a rookie since the term was redefined - is playing too well to be a three-figure price here.
The 22-year-old Texan has a fine amateur pedigree, which includes some standout performances at Augusta State plus a semi-final defeat to close friend and eventual winner Danny Lee in the 2008 US Amateur Championship.
It was therefore little surprise to see him gain some success on tour last year, chiefly by qualifying for events on a Monday which shows just how low he can go given the emphasis on birdies in typical 36-hole qualifiers.
Reed's 2013 season took a little while to get going but he's now made six consecutive cuts, contending at the FedEx St Jude Classic and backing that up in the Travelers before performing well on his debut in the AT&T National last week on a course which punishes the errant.
Reed puts his recent improvement down to some work with coach Kevin Kirk and says that he's now able to fix any problems right away, instead of relying on lengthy range sessions. Couple that with the fact that he says that every course suits him - a bold claim but one he's gone some way to proving - and you have a player who looks ready to make his mark.
A long hitter who holes plenty of putts, Reed looks the right type for this layout and like Teater he'll be looking forward to a family week with his wife Justine. The pair married late last year and she's his caddie too, so they'll be side-by-side all week long.
Of course we're taking a chance that Old White TPC suits Reed but he looks a big price for one so talented who looks primed to go very close, very soon.
Usually when we get a perfect marriage of course and current form, we're forced to take a skinny price if we want to back the player. But this week the one who leaps off the page looks to offer value too so Roberto Castro gets the vote.
Castro, renowned for being among the most intelligent men on tour, will arrive at the Greenbrier in a really good frame of mind having registered his best PGA Tour finish last week, chasing home Haas at Congressional and sticking to the task admirably.
He's a player who has shown flashes of brilliance but struggled to put it together, which was the case here last year when he finished seventh with two rounds of 71 negating stunning knocks of 64 and 63.
However, a year on and he's clearly putting the pieces together. He said as much last week and while his form prior to the 2012 Greenbrier was poor, this time it's excellent.
What's really interesting is that Castro, who is noted for his tee-to-green supremacy, was excellent on the greens last week. He ranked second in strokes gained putting and a similar performance here would surely see him feature.
Last year he ranked third for driving accuracy, first in greens and fifth in putting here so he really should've been right up with the leaders and, having learned plenty since, I see no reason this level-headed character shouldn't hold his form.
Castro's good friend Cameron Tringale is another who might go well at a price but I'll complete my staking plan with two big-hitters who can go very low.
First of them is Gary Woodland.
One of the longest hitters on the PGA Tour, Woodland looked a player with the golfing world at his feet when winning the 2011 Transitions Championship at the expense of Webb Simpson.
However, it's Simpson who has gone on to achieve greatness while Woodland has battled injuries and swing changes, and it's Simpson who is rightly challenging for favouritism here.
But recent signs point towards Woodland recapturing his best form and this track, were he finished fourth in 2011, is a great venue for him to really step up and contend again.
Woodland spoke of how much he enjoyed the tournament and how it suited his game two years ago, when he famously reached the par-five 17th hole with an eight iron from well over 200 yards.
It's a tournament which means something to him, as he's close friends with John Klemish who is part of the management structure at Greenbrier Sporting Club and is heavily involved with the running of the tournament.
Woodland has three top 20s in his last three completed starts and at anything 50/1 or better looks worth backing in a tournament he's keen to win.
Finally, Scott Piercy rates good value at a similar price.
Piercy spoke of how much he enjoyed visiting West Virginia when 16th here in 2010, and showed that the course changes haven't harmed his prospects of success with a share of 12th last season, when he arrived in awful form.
This time around he only needs to put a missed US Open cut behind him and as a player who once claimed that he gets bored when he can't unleash driver, it's really not a surprise that he struggled at Merion.
Prior to that he'd finished fifth, 26th and 16th and on all three occasions he ranked highly in greens hit, an area in which he's struggled at times this season.
Piercy is among the streakiest players on tour when on-song, as a closing 61 in Phoenix demonstrated, and this venue allows for that type of scoring when conditions are benign as is expected this week.
Crucially, we're getting towards Piercy's time of year. He's managed four wins across the Web.com Tour and the PGA Tour, and they've all come in late-July or August.
Perhaps we're a couple of weeks too early but it was here where Piercy turned around his season in 2012 and, arriving in better form, he can make an impact.