Big Names Carry on Nelsons Legacy

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 EDS Byron Nelson ChampionshipIRVING, Texas - For the first time in a long, long time, the Byron Nelson Championship will be missing the most important figure in event's history -- Byron Nelson.
 
Mr. Nelson passed away last fall at the age of 94. His name has been attached to this tournament since 1968. Surely the players will miss greeting Mr. Nelson and his wife after completing their rounds.
 
Phil Mickelson
All eyes will be on Phil Mickelson and how the coaching change affects his play. (WireImage)
Nelson won 11 consecutive events in 1945 and claimed 18 titles overall that year. In a two-year span of 1944-45, Nelson won 31 of 54 events he played in, including the 1945 PGA Championship. In all, Mr. Nelson collected 52 tour wins before retiring at the age of 34.
 
Last year, Brett Wetterich held off Trevor Immelman by a single stroke. Immelman, who blew a late lead the week before, needed to birdie the last to possibly force a playoff.
 
However, Immelman pulled his tee shot into a lake. He did manage to save par, but Wetterich calmly two-putted for par from 18 feet to secure his first PGA TOUR crown.
 
'This makes me feel really good,' said Wetterich after the win. 'To come out here and win this great golf tournament, it's just an unbelievable feeling. And being Mr. Nelson's tournament, also, it's truly an honor.'
 
With the new PGA TOUR schedule, this event is being played three weeks earlier than it was last year. The last several years, the Byron Nelson and the Colonial, were played back-to-back, but this year the Colonial will be contested the final week of May.
 
The event will use two courses -- TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas and Cottonwood Valley Golf Course -- for the opening two rounds. Las Colinas will host the final two rounds once again.
 
The GOLF CHANNEL will cover the opening two rounds as usual before handing it over to CBS for the weekend. Next week, the PGA TOUR moves to North Carolina for the Wachovia Championship, where Jim Furyk won last year.
 
Here are five key players in the Byron Nelson field:
 
Phil Mickelson
Mickelson has played well in this event, although his best results came from 1996 through 2000 when he posted a win, a tie for second, a T-6 and a T-12. Lefty withdrew from the event last year for personal reasons and the year before had missed the cut. He comes into Dallas after a disappointing Masters Tournament, but should be refreshed and ready to add to his lone victory thus far of 07 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He ranks in the top-5 on both the money and FedExCup points lists. And, of course, all eyes will be on Phil to see if he will reap immediate results off the tee after leaving his long-time coach Rick Smith for Butch Harmon.
 
Sergio Garcia
Ever the enigma, Sergio had a great start to the 2007 season with three top-6 showings ' including an impressive T-3 at the WGC ' CA Championship - before falling flat on his face at the Masters, where he missed the cut. He does, however, like the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, as two of his six career PGA TOUR wins have come here and at the Colonial. But in true Garcia form, he has also missed the cut here in three of his last five starts. His win came in 2004 in a playoff over Robert Damron and Dudley Hart.
 
Shigeki Maruyama
Shigeki Maruyama hopes to continue to build on his recent success in Dallas. (WireImage)
Shigeki Maruyama
The Smiling Assassin has good reason to grin when he rolls into Dallas for the Byron Nelson Championship. In addition to it being the site of one of his three career PGA TOUR victories ' his win here coming in 2002 ' he has posted three straight top-7 finishes at Lord Byrons event, including back-to-back T-6s. He also owns the best scoring average of those who have played in the event over the past five years with a 67.83 average.
 
Vijay Singh
Right behind the aforementioned Maruyamas scoring average over the previous five seasons is Singhs 68.61. And that would be much lower if not for a couple un-Singh-like closing Sundays in 04 and 06, when he posted a 78 and a 73, respectively. His win here in 2003 preceded his monster nine-win season in 2004 and he also finished in a tie for third two years ago. The Fijian already has two wins this year and sits atop the FedExCup points list.
 
Bubba Watson
The hard-swinging style of Watson should be looking forward to playing on a couple of the shortest courses on TOUR, even though both play as par-70s. He leads the TOUR in driving distance at 314.2 yards and with a strong start to his sophomore season has risen to 90th in the world rankings after starting the year in the 162nd spot. Currently sitting 17th on the money list, Watson has yet to win on TOUR but has four top-10s already this season, including a tie for fifth last week and a runner-up to Adam Scott in Houston.
 
Four others to keep an eye out for in Dallas:
 
Justin Leonard
The Dallas-born-and-bred Leonard will be hoping that his hometown event will allow him to show friends and family in the area that his game is truly back on track. After a disastrous 2006 season and a rough start of 07, Leonard has made the cut in three straight events, including his best result (T-16) in over a year at the Verizon Heritage.
 
Scott Verplank
Like Leonard, Verplank was born in the area and, also like Leonard, is still looking for his first win in his hometown event. He will be making his 21st start; and although without a victory, Verplank has three top-6s in the last six years.
 
Chad Campbell
Campbell is another Texan who will be looking to build on his solid effort a year ago when he tied for fifth. He has struggled somewhat this year after his strong showing at the WGC Match Play Championship, where he made it to the semifinals.
 
Nick Watney
Confidence is a very powerful thing in golf and Watney has loads of it as he heads west into Texas. Although he missed the cut two years ago and finished T-61 last season, he did manage to shoot a second-round 64, one of the best rounds of the tournament. He won last week in New Orleans.
 
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    What's in the bag: CareerBuilder winner Rahm

    By Golf Channel DigitalJanuary 22, 2018, 10:37 pm

    Jon Rahm defeated Andrew Landry in a playoff to earn his second PGA Tour title at the CareerBuilder Challenge. Here's what's in his bag:

    Driver: TaylorMade M4 (9.5 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Fairway wood: TaylorMade M3 (19 degrees), with Aldila Tour Green 75 TX shaft

    Irons: TaylorMade P790 (3), P750 (4-PW), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Wedges: TaylorMade Milled Grind (52, 56 degrees), Milled Grind Hi-Toe (60 degrees), with Project X 6.5 shafts

    Putter: TaylorMade Spider Tour Red

    Ball: TaylorMade TP5x

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    Strange irked by Rahm-Landry friendly playoff

    By Jason CrookJanuary 22, 2018, 9:45 pm

    Curtis Strange knows a thing or two about winning golf tournaments, and based on his reaction to the CareerBuilder Challenge playoff on Sunday, it’s safe to say he did things a little differently while picking up 17 PGA Tour victories in his Hall-of-Fame career.

    While Jon Rahm and Andrew Landry were “battling” through four extra holes, Strange, 62, tweeted his issues with the duo’s constant chit-chat and friendly banter down the stretch at La Quinta Country Club, where Rahm eventually came out on top.

    The two-time U.S. Open champ then engaged with some followers to explain his point a little more in depth.

    So, yeah ... don't think he's changing his perspective on this topic anytime soon ever.

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    Randall's Rant: The Euros won't just roll over

    By Randall MellJanuary 22, 2018, 9:36 pm

    The Ryder Cup may not be the King Kong of golf events yet, but you can hear the biennial international team event thumping its chest a full eight months out.

    As anticipation for this year’s big events goes, there is more buzz about Europe’s bid to hold off a rejuvenated American effort in Paris in September than there is about the Masters coming up in April.

    Thank Europe’s phenomenal success last weekend for that.

    And Rory McIlroy’s impassioned remarks in Abu Dhabi.

    And the provocative bulletin board material a certain Sports Illustrated writer provided the Europeans a couple months ago, with a stinging assault on the Euro chances that read like an obituary.

    McIlroy was asked in a news conference before his 2018 debut last week what he was most excited about this year.

    The Ryder Cup topped his list.

    Though McIlroy will be trying to complete the career Grand Slam at Augusta National come April, he talked more about the Ryder Cup than he did any of the game’s major championships.

    When asked a follow-up about the American team’s resurgence after a task-force overhaul and the injection of young, new star power, McIlroy nearly started breaking down the matchup. He talked about the young Americans and how good they are.

    “Yeah, the Americans have been, obviously, very buoyant about their chances and whatever, but it’s never as easy as that. ... The Ryder Cup’s always close,” McIlroy said. “I think we’ll have a great team, and it definitely won’t be as easy as they think it’s going to be.”



    McIlroy may have been talking about Alan Shipnuck’s bold prediction after the American Presidents Cup rout last fall.

    Or similar assertions from TV analysts.

    “The Ryder Cup is dead – you just don’t know it yet,” Shipnuck wrote. “One of the greatest events in sport is on the verge of irrelevancy. The young, talented, hungry golfers from the United States, benefitting from the cohesive leadership of the Task Force era, are going to roll to victory in 2018 in Paris.”

    European Ryder Cup captain Thomas Bjorn won’t find words that will motivate the Euros more than that as he watches his prospective players jockey to make the team.

    And, boy, did they jockey last weekend.

    The Euros dominated across the planet, not that they did it with the Ryder Cup as some rallying cry, because they didn’t. But it was a heck of an encouraging start to the year for Bjorn to witness.

    Spain’s Jon Rahm won the CareerBuilder Challenge on the PGA Tour, England’s Tommy Fleetwood started the week at Abu Dhabi paired with American and world No. 1 Dustin Johnson and won the European Tour event, and Spain’s Sergio Garcia won the Singapore Open in a rout on the Asian Tour.

    And McIlroy looked close to being in midseason form, tying for third in his first start in three months.

    Yes, it’s only January, and the Ryder Cup is still a long way off, with so much still to unfold, but you got an early sense from McIlroy how much defending European turf will mean to him and the Euros in Paris in September.

    The Masters is great theater, the U.S. Open a rigorous test, The Open and the PGA Championship historically important, too, but the Ryder Cup touches a nerve none of those do.

    The Ryder Cup stokes more fervor, provokes more passion and incites more vitriol than any other event in golf.

    More bulletin board material, too.

    Yeah, it’s a long way off, but you can already hear the Ryder Cup’s King Kong like footsteps in its distant approach. Watching how the American and European teams come together will be an ongoing drama through spring and summer.

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    Quail Hollow officials promise players easier conditions

    By Rex HoggardJanuary 22, 2018, 9:14 pm

    Quail Hollow Club - a staple on the PGA Tour since 2003 - debuted as a longer, tougher version of itself at last year’s PGA Championship, receiving mixed reviews from players.

    The course played to a lengthened 7,600 yards at last year’s PGA and a 73.46 stroke average, the toughest course in relation to par on Tour in 2017. As a result, it left some players less than excited to return to the Charlotte, N.C.-area layout later this spring for the Wells Fargo Championship.

    It’s that lack of enthusiasm that led officials at Quail Hollow to send a video to players saying, essentially, that the course players have lauded for years will be back in May.

    The video, which includes Quail Hollow president Johnny Harris and runs nearly five minutes, begins with an explanation of how the first hole, which played as a 524-yard par 4 at the PGA, will play much shorter at the Wells Fargo Championship.

    “I had a number of my friends who were playing in the tournament tell me that tee was better suited as a lemonade stand,” Harris joked of the new tee box on the fourth hole. “I doubt we’ll ever see that tee used again in competition.”

    Harris also explained that the greens, which became too fast for some, will be “softer” for this year’s Wells Fargo Championship.