Equal Opportunity at Nelson

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If the 2005 EDS Byron Nelson Championship is remembered for anything, it isnt Ted Purdys maiden PGA TOUR triumph. It isnt Sean OHair break-through performance, his runner-up finish that helped lead him to Rookie of the Year honors.
 
It has nothing to do with any of the 76 men who made the cut that week in Irving, Texas.
 
Byron Nelson
Byron Nelson will hand out the trophy to the 53rd winner of this event.
It has to do with one man who did NOT make it to the weekend.
 
That man was Tiger Woods. His exclusion from the final two rounds at the TPC at Las Colinas overshadowed everything else that took place after he made his final putt for a 36-hole total of 1-over 141 ' one stroke higher than the cut line.
 
It was the first time since the 1998 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, a span of 142 events, that Woods had not earned a paycheck. And it was just the second time, including the 1997 Bell Canadian Open, that he had actually missed a cut on TOUR (he withdrew from the 98 Pebble Beach event).
 
His streak of finishing in the money for 142 consecutive events far surpassed the previous TOUR record of 113 by Byron Nelson. And it will likely remain for all time.
 
Tigers current run stretches to only eight events, since he also missed the cut in last years Funai Classic.
 
Woods will neither make nor miss the cut this week, as he is not in the field.
 
Woods, the 1997 Byron Nelson champion, said a few weeks ago that he was taking time off to spend with his ill father, Earl, who passed away last week.
 
Its just the second time in the last 10 years that Woods has not played this event.
 
While Woods is understandably absent, the Nelson field is not without star power. Vijay Singh and Ernie Els ' each past tournament winners ' are in attendance. As are: Wachovia winner Jim Furyk, Sergio Garcia, Chris DiMarco and Adam Scott.
 
With such a talent-laden field on hand ' and considering many of these players are past champions -- any and all of them could be listed among the favorites this week.
 
So, instead, here is a list of five other players who have a chance to knock off the big boys this week outside of Big D.
 
Nick Price
If youve got a couple of hours to kill, ask Price about the current state of the game. The Zimbabwean has been outspoken about the lack of restrictions on technology. At 49, the Hall of Fame member has seen the game pass him by like a 350-yard drive.
 
But there are a few courses on which he can still contend, like Las Colinas and Cottonwood Valley, the two courses in rotation this week. Though he hasnt won on TOUR since 2002, Price has five straight top-10 finishes at the Nelson. He has played this tournament 20 times and has nine top-10s, including a win in 1991.
 
Scott Verplank
Born in Dallas, Verplank will be making his 20th career appearance in this event. And hell be looking for his first victory. Hes come close before, earning three top-5 finishes, including a playoff loss to Robert Damron in 2001. He also tied for sixth a year ago. Verplank will be looking to regain his early-season form, which saw him jump out of the gates with a pair of runner-up finishes.
 
Trevor Immelman
Trevor Immelman did not need a sponsors exemption to make the field this year.
Justin Leonard
Leonard is Texan through-and-through. Born in Dallas, he still resides there. He went to the University of Texas and is a two-time winner of the Texas Open. Now he would like to add this tournament to his winning resume. Leonard has played this event 12 times and has made the cut on 11 of those occasions. His best finish is a tie for sixth in 2001. Like Verplank, Leonard is hoping to find his early-season form. He had a pair of top-10s in his first three starts, but has missed the cut in four of his last eight events.
 
Trevor Immelman
Immelman seems to be hitting his stride entering this weeks event. After starting the year with four cuts made in five starts, he missed his next four cuts. He then tied for 11th in Houston and lost in a playoff last week at the Wachovia Championship. The 26-year-old South African tied for 40th in this tournament a year ago on a sponsors exemption.
 
Sean OHair
OHairs sophomore season is looking a lot like his freshman effort ' and hed like to continue the similarity this week. OHair entered last years Byron Nelson without a top-10 in 11 events. He then went on to finish solo second behind Purdy, kick-starting his Rookie of the Year campaign. This year, he has played 14 tournaments and is once again seeking top-10 No. 1. OHair led after 54 holes last year in Irving, but Purdy passed him with a 65 on Sunday. He went on to claim his first TOUR title eight weeks later at the John Deere Classic.
 
Related Links:
  • Full Coverage - EDS Byron Nelson Championship