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HP Byron Nelson Championship preview

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By Pete Pappas

GolfWRX Staff Writer

The PGA Tour gallops back into the “Longhorn State” for the 2012 Byron Nelson Championship and third leg of the Tour’s Texas Swing.

Keegan Bradley returns to defend his title in a Lone Star field featuring 10 past champions, 12 of the top-30 players in the FedExCup standings, and 10 major winners.

Bradley’s 278 (three-under) last year was the highest winning score at “The Nelson” since 1981 and the fourth-highest since the tournament was first played in 1944.

His come from behind playoff victory over Ryan Palmer kicked off a sensational rookie campaign which included (another playoff) victory in his first major, the PGA Championship, and 2011 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year honors.

“I went from being an unknown rookie trying to keep his card to winning a PGA Tour event and locking up my future a bit,” Bradley said.  “This tournament will be special to me.”

Bradley tries to become the first back-to-back winner of the Dallas event since Tom Watson did it three consecutive times over three decades ago (1978 to 1980).

Seven players inside the Official World Golf Rankings top-25 and six winners in 2012 will also tee it up at TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas (where more than a quarter-million people are expected to attend over the weekend).

World No. 5 (and always smiling) Matt Kuchar comes off his fourth career and most prestigious victory at The Players last week.  A win in Dallas would make him only the second player this season to win multiple times (Hunter Mahan).

“I love the challenge that the game provides,” Kuchar said.  “I’m trying to find a way to get better and win [more] golf tournaments.”

The 33 year-old Kuchar finished tied for sixth last year at Four Seasons.

Meanwhile Phil Mickelson (World No. 10) is the favorite to win this week despite a five year hiatus from the Byron Nelson.

“Phil the Thrill” has finished in the top-10 four times in his last eight events and hopes to cap off a magnificent World Golf Hall of Fame induction last week with his second win of the season and 41st of his illustrious career.

Hot Tamales Or Soul Grapes?

Tiger Woods has not played the Byron Nelson Championship since 2005 when his PGA Tour record 142 consecutive tournaments without missing a cut came to an end.

The previous Tour consecutive cut streak record was held by none other than tournament host “Lord Byron” (113 events without a missed cut).

Historic Moments

In 1946 Ben Hogan defeats Herman Keiser and dubiously enters the record books with the highest winning score in tournament history (284, four-over). 

In 1980 Tom Watson wins for the third consecutive time becoming the only four-time multiple winner in tournament history.

In 1981 Watson is nearly victorious for the fourth consecutive year but is turned away in a playoff by Bruce Lietzke. 

In 2008 Australian Adam Scott rolls in a 49-foot birdie putt to defeat runner-up Ryan Moore on the third playoff hole.

In 2010 on sponsor’s exemption 16 year-old Jordan Spieth becomes the youngest player in tournament history to play in the event and goes on to finish 16th overall.

A Course Worth Playing For I Have Decreed It!

TPC Four Seasons got the David Feherty “?#@*%! up” stamp of approval in his 2010 Sports Illustrated article about PGA Tour greenskeepers.  “A course worth playing for I have decreed it,” quipped the quick-witted GolfChannel host.

Small lakes, rolling fairways, and indigenous oak and mesquite trees make TPC Four Seasons is an attractive course.  And its extensive bunkers (68) and formidable length (7,166 yards) also make it a challenging one.

But the story at TPC Four Seasons is the greens (and the main reason the course ranked fifth in difficulty in 2011) and more precisely approach shots into them. 

Players must absolutely target specific areas on the greens rather than aim for the flags because of abrupt and extreme green undulations.  Good shots will use the slopes to funnel the ball towards the hole for manageable birdie attempts.  Poor shots will hit the greens but roll off.

And with a stimpmeter of 11 feet (Augusta National generally runs 12 feet), as Feherty says, TPC Four Seasons has managed to “ensure the almost impossible balance between keeping [the greens] alive yet firm enough to putt.”

The Greek Syndicate

It’s a cherished pastime of ancient Greeks to gamble.  In fact some accounts say Greeks are the forerunners of gambling. 

Whatever the case may be, it’s in my blood and it was only a matter of time before I rolled the dice on the PGA Tour.

I’m putting my money where my mouth is this week.  A good week and I’ll be packing my bags for San Francisco and the U.S. Open a little early.

A bad one and I’m barricading myself inside, not answering the door, telephone, or emails until my flute nymph says it’s safe to see daylight.

Histories, streaks, and stats, I’ve passed the point of no return. 

Top-25

Mickelson (11/1)

Phil’s the favorite to win this week and owns a lower scoring average (67.5) in this tournament than anyone in the field for the past five years.

The problem is Lefty has only played one time here in that time period.

“The Nelson” will be Mickelson’s third consecutive event played (T-26 at the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago and T-25 at The PLAYERS last week).

And the last time Lefty put three in a row together he finished T-4 at the Shell Houston Open (after a T-43 at the WGC-Cadillac Championship and T-24 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational).

However “Fairway Phil” is ranked 129th on Tour in driving accuracy (57.44) and that’s going to make it extremely difficult for him to hit his spots on approach to the slippery Four Seasons greens.

Despite Mickelson’s much improved putting (ranked 28th on Tour in putting average) which has been key to his success this season, Phil won’t contend this week.

Johnson Wagner (45/1)

Wagner’s victory at the Sony Open and four top-10s are impressive.  But most of those came very early in the season.

His past four events have resulted in two missed cuts and finishes of T-65 at Wells Fargo and T-35 at The Players.

I’ve got Wagner sneaking in the top-25 this week based purely on his (68.89 percent) greens-in-regulation (good for 18th on Tour) and T-12 finish here in 2010.

Top-10

Kuchar (12/1)

No one’s hotter than Kuchar coming in.  And he ranks fourth in bogey avoidance, eighth in scrambling, and 24th in driving accuracy, all of which will be important this week in Dallas.

Kuchar finished T-6 here last year after three finishes outside the top-35 the previous three years.

There’s no reason to not pick Kuchar to win. 

Except that it’s been nearly impossible to win multiple times so far this season and putting back-to-back victories together seems even more improbable.

Ernie Els (30/1)

Like Mickelson Els hasn’t played here in five years.  However he’s finished inside the top-15 the last four times he’s played here.

Els has three top-5 finishes in his past six events this season.  But two missed cuts in his past three.

It all depends on which Els shows up.  The one who went 68-67 the final two days at the Zurich Classic to finish in second place? Or the one who shot 74-74 to miss the cut at The Players?

I’m betting on Els 69.5 scoring average over the past five weeks (which is tops in the Four Seasons field).

Top-5

Oosthuizen (22/1)

A missed cut at The Players was very disappointing. 

But Oosthuizen was impressive finishing second at The Masters and third at the Shell Houston in his prior Tour events.  He also picked up a victory at the Malaysian Open on the European Tour

Oosthuizen’s fifth in total driving, seventh in ball striking, 14th in birdie or better conversion, and 15th in GIR.  A recipe for contention at TPC Four Seasons.

D.A. Points (60/1)

Points has the third best scoring average here of all the players in the field for the past five Nelson events (68.75).  And he finished T-7 here in 2010 and 3rd in 2009.

Points also has the third best scoring average on Tour over the past five weeks of the 2012 season (70.17).

The only thing that might keep Points outside the top-5 is his putting.  T-111 in putting average (1.78) will be a concern if he doesn’t stick his approach shots close.

Outside Top-25

Bradley (18/1)

Bradley is slumping hard.  No top-25s in his past four events.

Carl Pettersson (30/1)

Pettersson is coming off an impressive T-10 finish at The Players with seven one-putts in the final round.  He finished T-4 here in 2008.

Pettersson’s third in putting average, 12th in strokes gained putting and 22nd in bogey avoidance on Tour.

But I sense a letdown for the Swede this week.

Missed Cut

Adam Scott (14/1)

Scott won here in 2008 but has only played in 5 events this season.  Fifth in GIR will help his cause but he simply hasn’t played enough to not be rusty. 

Ryan Palmer (45/1)

Palmer has missed the cut four of the last five times he’s played here.

Winner

Jason Day (22/1)

Two of the last three events have been tough going for Day with a WD at The Masters and a missed cut last week at The Players.

“It fuels the hunger,” Day said of his performance last week.

He won here in 2010 and finished in fifth place in 2011.  He clearly likes the course and can go low here (evidenced by his second round 65 in 2010 and final round 67 in 2011). 

Day picks up his second career Tour win this week.

Gripping Groups 

Johnson Wagner, Y.E. Yang, Charles Howell III

Danny Lee, Edward Loar, Patrick Reed

Phil Mickelson, Adam Scott, Ernie Els

Jason Dufner, Jhonattan Vegas, Louis Ooshuizen       

Matt Kuchar, Vijay Singh, Padraig Harrington

Keegan Bradley, Rory Sabbatini, Jason Day

Derek Lamley, John Rollins, Justin Leonard

Harrison Frazar. D.A. Points, Ryan Palmer

Lord Byron

If ever there was a player worthy of having a tournament named after him it’s the gentlemanly Byron Nelson (passed away in 2006).  And the Byron Nelson Championship was the first PGA Tour event to be named after a professional golfer.

“This tournament is the best thing that’s ever happened to me in golf,” Byron once said.  “Better than winning the Masters or the U.S. Open or eleven in a row; because it helps people.”

The tournament has raised over $121M in total charitable giving since its inception.

“Lord Byron” is sixth all time in total wins on the PGA Tour (52) including five majors.  And his 1945 season remains arguably the best single season in the history of the PGA Tour.  18 wins, with 11 coming consecutively (and margins of victory were routinely in the double figures).

Only three others players have consecutive win streaks of four or more: Ben Hogan (six consecutive), Jackie Burke (four consecutive) and Tiger Woods (seven consecutive).

Byron was awarded the Congressional Gold Medal in 1974 (the highest honor given to U.S. citizen) and his kindness, dedication, and awe-inspiring accomplishments (both on and off the course) will forever remain one of the greatest legacies the game has ever known.

Notes

Prior to last years Byron Nelson Championship a severe Tuesday evening hail storm wrecked havoc on TPC Four Seasons pummeling the greens with more than 4,000 divots (some the size of baseballs) forcing Four Seasons employees to evacuate.

“The Other Rory” Sabbatini set the tournament scoring record (261) with his win here in 2009.

To the victor go the spoils.  The winner picks up a cool $1.17M (of the $6.5M purse) and 500 FedExCup points. 

Television Coverage

Thursday and Friday: Golf Channel 3 – 6 p.m. EST

Saturday and Sunday: NBC 3 – 6 p.m. EST

Radio Coverage

Thursday through Sunday: SiriusXM Satellite Radio 12 – 6 p.m. EST

Odds

Odds provided by Las Vegas PGA Tour Golf Betting Odds 

Follow Pete on twitter @TheGreekGrind

Click here for more discussion in the “Tour Talk” forum.

 

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Pete is a journalist, commentator, and interviewer covering the PGA Tour, new equipment releases, and the latest golf fashions. Pete's also a radio and television personality who's appeared multiple times on ESPN radio, and Fox Sports All Bets Are Off. And when he's not running down a story, he's at the range working on his game. Above all else, Pete's the proud son of a courageous mom who battled pancreatic cancer much longer than anyone expected. You can follow Pete on twitter @PGAPappas

1 Comment

1 Comment

  1. Chippster

    May 18, 2012 at 9:59 am

    It’s easy to forget what a great golfer Byron Nelson was. Byron is remembered as a kindly old gentleman because he was one for such a long time; he lived to a ripe old age. But, he was a fierce competitor, tiger-esque in his capabilities. For example, he would hit flagsticks with his approach shots regularly, up to six and on multiple occasions. Tom Watson and Jack Nicklaus have made similar statements about Byron’s ball striking ability. Also, look up his record against Ben Hogan. It might surprise you about who dominated who.

    You often read about who is the greatest golfer of all time, Jack or Tiger. But when you take an encompassing look at all the qualities that make up a champion, I’ll take Byron every time.

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Tour News

Tour Rundown: Rahm gets win No. 2 and goes to world No. 2

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Week two of the 2018 calendar season added events on the PGA Champions and European tours. The PGA caravan left Hawaii for California and found its first playoff of 2018, just as the Champions Tour reached the islands. The Euros teed it up in Dubai, and the Web.Com Tour stayed in the Bahamas for a second week. With an Asian Tour event in Singapore, the globe’s eyes were once again on professional golf. Time for Tour Rundown at warp speed!

Rahm continues to build career with win at CareerBuilder Challenge

For all of the final round, it looked like Jon Rahm would pull away for a 4-stroke victory. His driving was impeccable and his irons were dialed in. His putting stroke looked sound, but some of the birdies simply did not nest. Throughout the four-hole playoff with Andrew Landry, it seemed as if Rahm was destined to lose. Somehow, he persevered and won.

Rahm’s patience pays off with second PGA Tour win 

How many edges of holes were singed with putts and chips by Jon Rahm down the stretch? At least four, not counting the playoff. Fortunately for the Basque, only Andrew Landry made enough of a move to track him down temporarily. Rahm played like the 3rd-ranked player should, and now he’s the world No. 2 player. Perhaps the fact that he couldn’t or didn’t separate himself from his pursuers, yet had enough weaponry to pull out a victory, mattered more than a runaway triumph. Yet golf is a funny game. The only fairway Rahm missed in extra time came on the 4th hole. Despite that errant tee ball and his misses on the first three playoff holes, Rahm was able to drain the only birdie of the playoff and walk away a champion.

See the clubs Jon Rahm used to win

Landry and others made the most of their opportunities

Andrew Landry showed more gumption than anyone anticipated. The 2016 first-round leader of the U.S. Open stayed around even longer this week. A 72nd-hole birdie brought him to 22-under par and a tie with Rahm. The Arkansas alumnus drove the ball straight and far on each of the playoff holes, and never once sniffed a bogey. His irons brought him within birdie range but, like Rahm, he could not find the proper combination of line and speed. In the end, Landry missed last and settled (if such a term might be used) for a runner-up finish.

Fleetwood greets 2018 with title defense at Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship

Tommy Fleetwood looks for all the world to be a millenial hipster with his free-flowing hair and his strands of beard. In absolute contrast, he is equal parts passion and cold blood. When opportunity beckons, he doesn’t look away. Given the slightest opportunity to defend his 2017 Abu Dhabi title, Fleetwood assented and took charge.

How Fleetwood dispatched Fisher and the rest

Through 9 holes of Sunday’s final round, the tag for Tommy Fleetwood’s title defense percolated as He gave an admirable effort. Nine holes and six birdies later, that tag line had changed to How in the name of all that is known did he defend his title? And yet, there was Fleetwood with the fourth European Tour title of his career and third in the past dozen months. When Fleetwood needed a great drive, he got it. When he didn’t hit a great drive, he came through with a stellar approach. When his approach was off, he drained a long putt. And for good measure, he hit a wonderful pitch at the 18th, nestling the ball 5 feet for birdie, and made that. The end result was a 2-stroke margin of victory over the runner-up, Ross Fisher.

What is it about Ross Fisher?

Ross Fisher is eternally composed. Not like his countryman Colin Montgomerie (more on him later), who wore every disappointment like a Halloween mask. Yet, the two share a certain sad penchant for missing opportunities. Last October, Fisher wasn’t going to catch Tyrell Hatton in St. Andrews, but he was chasing immortality. He had a 25-foot putt for the first 59 at The Old Course…and missed. He had a 4-foot putt for the first 60 at the Old Course…and missed. He broke the course record with his 61, but, you know. Fisher has an 0-5 record in European Tour playoffs. On Sunday, he was victimized by Fleetwood’s marvelous back 9 of 30 strokes, but by his own inability to gather the fruits of opportunity. Case in point: Fisher made a long and testy putt for bogey on the par-5 10th, a hole that many birdied. Rather than use it as a springboard to return to his coach on the birdie train, he floundered with four pars and one bogey over his next five holes.

Kelly wins at the Mitsubishi Electric Championship

Jerry Kelly earned the 2017 PGA Tour Champions rookie of the year award, on the strength of consistent play and his first two tour titles. On Day 3 of the 2018 season, he added to his victory total with a 1-stroke win over Colin Montgomerie. A 2-stroke swing on 18 decided the fate of both…here’s how!

How Kelly klaimed the championship

For fans of Hideki Matsuyama and his deceptive reaction to fantastic shots, Mr. Kelly is guilty of the same on well-struck putts. He drops his putter from one hand and slumps his shoulders after mid-range putts. All the while, the ball is tracking toward the hole, and usually drops. Kelly played a fine round on Saturday, with 5 birdies and 1 eagle. It might have been the sole bogey of the round, on No. 16, that ignited his hockey-bred fire. The miscue allowed Colin Montgomerie to take a 1-shot lead into the final 2 holes, but Kelly’s birdie on No. 18 brought him the title. How’s that?

How Monty lost his opportunity

We forget how difficult it is to hold a lead in any event, at any juncture. Colin Montgomerie never figured the recipe out in major championships on the regular tour, but he had it down, for the most part, in regular tour events. On the Champions Tour, he has been quite solid, winning six times as a senior in the U.S. and five times in Europe. In the third round at Hualalai, Monty’s most reliable club betrayed him at the least opportune time. A drive into a fairway bunker at the last hole left him 100 yards to the green. He flew the putting surface with his approach and played an indifferent flop shot to 7 feet for par and a playoff. His effort was off the mark and the title slipped from his grasp.

Sergio’s Singapore Open

Despite this unexpected result, Sergio Garcia opened the 2018 season with a victory in Singapore. We’ll run down what he did right.

Sergio and Singapore on a Sunday

The #SingOpen2018 and @TheSergioGarcia made a perfect match on an extended final day. Wet weather forced a last-day completion of Round 3, and most golfers played more than 20 holes on the final day. Garcia stormed from behind with 66-68 over those final 36 holes to wrest the lead from Danthai Boonma of Thailand. Nine birdies and 1 bogey over that stretch of two rounds finished the task for the Spaniard, who looks to defend his 2017 Masters title in the spring.

See the clubs Sergio used to win

The battle for second ended in a tie

With Garcia separating himself from the peloton, attention turned to Boonma and cast for the runner-up resolution. After three stellar rounds (70-68-65), Boonma stumbled in Round 4 with 73, finishing in a tie for 4th with countryman Jazz Janewattananond. Satoshi Kodaira of Japan and South Africa’s Shaun Norris each birdied the final hole to finish tied for second at 9-under, 5 blows behind the champion.

Hello, World for Sungjae Im at Web.Com Opener

Sungjae Im, all of 19 years of age and pegging it in his first Web.Com event ever, gave us a Hello-World moment with a closing 65 and a 4-shot win over Mexico’s Carlos Ortiz. How did the young Korean pro flu powder his way to the top of the podium? We’re asking ourselves the same question

How Im became I’m The Champ

Im entered the final round of the Great Exuma Classic in a tie with Ortiz, but eyes were on proven winners like Rhein Gibson, Steve Marino and Erik Compton. Sungjae Im went out in Round 4 and played perfect golf. He had 4 birds on his outward half, then seized the trophy by both handles with 3 more chirps on holes 14 to 16. Simply put, there was nothing that Ortiz or any other entrant could do, beyond bow and salute the victor.

How Ortiz and the others took the shock

Carlos Ortiz did what he had to do during Tuesday’s final round. He played a solid round, minus-3 with 5 birds and 2 bogies. He stayed ahead of Gibson and all the others, but would have needed to turn his bogies into birdies to tie Im atop the board. Rhein Gibson began round four like a boss, with birdies on 5 of the first 6 holes. He reached 8-under and looked like the eventual winner. The engine sputtered, and it was 1-birdie-1-bogey-10-pars the rest of the way. Gibson would have needed 10-under on the day to tie for the trophy, but with a few more birdies along the way, would he have frightened Im? Who knows!

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Lexi Thompson signs multi-year endorsement deal to play Bridgestone ball

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Lexi Thompson, who currently plays Bridgestone’s Tour B X ball, will now do so in an official capacity. The company announced today it inked the 22-year-old to a multi-year deal.

The eight-time LPGA Tour winner had been playing Bridgestone’s B330-S for the past two seasons.

“I’ve used Bridgestone for years and the new Tour B product is shockingly good,” said Thompson. “It gives me tremendous distance off the tee without sacrificing any performance around the green. What’s more, I feel confident hitting any type of shot the situation calls for.”

“When I’m testing a golf ball, I look for three things – distance, accuracy and feel,” said Thompson. “For me, the new Tour B delivered in spades. I’ve never played anything that has responded so positively to any situation the golf course throws at me.”

Bridgestone’s Tour B Series includes four models–X, XS, RX and RXS (each $44.99). The company leveraged data from more than three million consumer ball fittings, as well as third-party insights and Bridgestone’s own resources, to create the four-ball lineup.

RELATED: Bridgestone’s Tour B balls were designed with the player in mind

Bridgestone’s professional staff includes, among others, Tiger Woods, Brandt Snedeker, Matt Kuchar, Fred Couples, and Bryson DeChambeau.

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Sergio Garcia WITB 2018 (with commentary from Sergio)

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This special-edition of Sergio Garcia’s WITB includes commentary about his clubs from a podcast he recently did with Callaway, Garcia’s new equipment sponsor. Below are the clubs he is using in Singapore this week.

Driver: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (9 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi KuroKage Dual Core 70TX
Sergio says: “This new driver feels really, really good. I love the ball flight. I can hit it both ways, left to right, or right to left. And I’ve been driving it quite well. So that gives me even more confidence.”

3 Wood: Callaway Rogue 3+ (13.5 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi KuroKage XT 80TX

5 Wood: Callaway Rogue Sub Zero (18 degrees)
Shaft: Mitsubishi KuroKage XT 80TX

Irons: Callaway Apex Pro 16 (3-4 iron), Callaway Apex MB 18 (5-9 iron)
Shafts: Nippon Modus 130x

Wedges: Callaway Mack Daddy 4 (48-10, 54-10 and 58-08)
Shafts: Nippon Modus 130x
Sergio says: “I loved the wedges right away. They feel so much better for me. I got a lot more spin and different ball trajectories. And because I get more spin, I can be more aggressive with my chipping.”

Putter: Odyssey Toulon Azalea

Golf Ball: Callaway Chrome Soft
Sergio says: “My golf ball feels really nice. It’s definitely much better around the greens for me. It was important for me to make sure I liked the golf ball (when I came to Callaway)… It’s very important to see and feel that you can work the ball, and flight the ball. And that’s obviously one of the reasons why I decided to come to Callaway.”

Discussion: See what GolfWRX members are saying about Sergio’s switch to Callaway in our forums

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