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Greenbriers Old White may steal the show

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There is a dirty little secret that the best TV executives know: Sometimes golf fans are only watching the golf course.

Yes, we love stars like Tiger and Phil, who make marvelous shots on command, but the golf course is always the co-star. The cut 3-wood that Tiger hit to end his third round at the U.S. Open would have been a good shot anywhere else. But the shot had added significance because it came at the iconic 18th hole at Pebble Beach.

Here is a not-so-dirty little secret: Players choose most of their based upon the golf courses. That leads us to the Old White Course at The Greenbrier this week. It is the first course designed on the property (C.B. McDonald with Seth Raynor in 1914), but is lesser known by the current generation than the adjoining Greenbrier Course.

The Greenbrier Course is the one that has hosted the big events in the resort’s history (Ryder Cup, Solheim Cup, Champions Tour events), but it is only being used by select resort guests this week. That is how deep the roster of courses is at the Greenbrier (4 in total -- you can see some pictures on my Twitter feed -- @scottwalkerontv).

So why wouldn’t the PGA Tour use such an historic venue? Slugger White is vice president of rules and competitions for the Tour. The West Virginia native told me that the decision to use the Old White Course was a gut feel while touring the property a few years ago. That turned out to be a popular decision by the players this week.

“I am a big Seth Raynor fan. I like squared off greens and squared off bunkers. You don't see that a lot around here,” said Brandt Snedeker.

Jim Furyk was also attracted to the McDonald/Raynor design that was updated by Lester George in 2006.

“I am a classic golf course connoisseur,” added Johnson Wagner, who got to see these courses a few times while he played at Virginia Tech, which is about 70 miles away from The Greenbrier.

There are quirks on the course that some may never accept. The valley that runs through the third green (a classic Biarritz green) is one you can hide your car in, as Wagner said in his news conference. There is a blind approach to the 13th green. And there is a “boomerang” ridge that sits in the middle of the par-3 finishing hole that has the players’ attention.

“If someone were to draw up the 18th green today they would get killed. There is an elephant buried in the middle of it. I think it is fun. It's different,” said Richard S. Johnson.

And that is the point this week. If you can get used to the quirks, you can appreciate the challenge. So, keep this in mind you make your weekend viewing plans. The co-star of the tournament, the Old White, may just steal the show.