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Once Phil Mickelson agreed to play in the Greenbriar Classic for a third straight year, resort owner Jim Justice asked him to make the cut.
Associated Press | File January
Phil Mickelson agreed to play in July’s Greenbriar Classic, where he has yet to make the cut in the PGA Tour event held at White Sulpher Springs, W.Va.
Tuesday, June 4, 2013
WHITE SULPHUR SPRINGS, W.Va. — Jim Justice revealed Tuesday that he’s again successfully landed one of the biggest fish on the PGA Tour for next month’s Greenbrier Classic.
The Greenbrier resort owner now has his fingers crossed that huge draw Phil Mickelson will swim for four days instead of just two at the July 4-7 PGA Tour stop. Practice rounds begin on July 1.
Despite missing the 36-hole cut the past two years at The Old White TPC Course, Mickelson committed to the tournament Monday, Justice announced during a news conference Tuesday.
Justice, one of the greatest storytellers around, then revealed what he told Mickelson during a dinner last November in Florida.
“I said in this world, there are three ways you can make a friend: ‘You can tell a secret, make a confession and ask a favor,’ Justice began.
“And I said there’s a lot of people who would regard you as friends in West Virginia. I said, ‘Phil, let me make a confession to you and say it really meant a tremendous amount to me for you to commit and come to our tournament.
“And then I said, ‘Let me tell you a secret, Phil, and that is there are several West Virginians who can be pretty dadgum rowdy!’
“And then I said, ‘Phil, let me ask a favor?’
“And that is for God sakes make the cut!”
Mickelson, a 41-time career Tour winner, has yet to break par in four rounds at The Old White, a friendly par-70 course that has yielded some of the lowest scores in its short three-year Tour history.
The left-hander shot 73-70 in his first trip to the land of “Wild and Wonderful” and headed home early in 2011. Last year, Mickelson had another abbreviated stay, shooting consecutive 71s and failing to make the cut by three shots.
“Phil is bewildered about this golf course,” Justice said. “He says: ‘I can play that golf course, I can really play it!’
“I really honestly believe that the Old White has a way that if you opt to try and attack it, it will bite you. And if you let it come to you, it will reward you! And I think that’s the marks of a great, great golf course. “But if you really attack it and you’re fighting with your nerves and stress and everything else to make that par-saving putt after you’ve knocked it 6 feet by [the hole] and it’s got two breaks in it and some grain in it and everything else, it can really bite you.”
While he managed to lure Mickelson back for another shot, Justice said the jury is still out on a possible encore appearance by Tiger Woods. Pro golf’s biggest drawing card shot 71-69 in his tournament debut last year and missed the cut by a shot.
“All I can report on Tiger is that we don’t have a ‘no’, and we certainly don’t have a ‘yes’ either,” Justice said. “He’s in super demand, that’s for sure. And I’m sure he’s got a lot to think about. We would all love to have Tiger come back, I mean that’s a given.
“You won’t get the great, big-time commitments until either right prior to or right after the U.S. Open. We’re still hopeful on Tiger.”
Justice, who also confirmed a commitment from Tom Watson, said the other marquee name still on his hit list is last year’s Masters champion, Bubba Watson.
Some of the bigger early commitments include former U.S. Open champs Webb Simpson and Lucas Glover, 2013 Tour winners Boo Weekley and D.A. Points, 12-time Tour winner Justin Leonard, defending champion Ted Potter Jr., 2011 winner Scott Stallings, as well as Tour winners Rory Sabatini, Bo Van Pelt, Sean O’Hair, Freddie Jacobson and Jon Senden.
Latest additions to the commitment list include event regular John Daly and former Virginia Tech standout Johnson Wagner.
Concerned about possible health issues with the 6-foot-7, 378-pound Justice last year, Daly offered to pay the big man $100 for every pound he lost before this year’s tournament. Daly cured his weight problem a few years back by losing 80 pounds after undergoing lap-band surgery.
When asked about the deal Tuesday, Justice said: “Let’s say this, it’s not going to break him!
“I made a real run at the weight deal. After John was here, I said, ‘OK, I’m going to do it.’ I did it.”
Justice said he underwent two lap-band surgeries and his heart rate “went to nothing.”
“Really I got into a lot of trouble,” he said. “I ended up in the intensive care unit in Johns Hopkins about six days and the only recourse was to take the band out. So I went through two weeks of band in, band out. So I’m a living fatty with two lap band surgeries.”
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