Nelson Attracts the Big Four


04 EDS Byron Nelson ClassicFor the second straight week the PGA Tours biggest names will tee it up in the same event. And this week, Ernie Els will join the action as well. The Byron Nelson Championship marks just the fourth time this year that Tiger Woods, Vijay Singh, Els and Phil Mickelson will play in the same field.
They will be joined by three other players in the top 10 in Retief Goosen, Chris DiMarco and the defending champion Sergio Garcia.
The star power in this field may help extend two current trends on the 2005 PGA Tour schedule: Big names cashing a winners check and events decided in a playoff.
Starting with Singh's victory over John Daly at the Shell Houston Open, the last three events have all gone into extra holes including last week's Wachovia Championship, where Singh was again a participant. Singh alone has been in three playoffs this year, winning twice (Wachovia and Houston) and falling short to Padraig Harrington at the Honda Classic in March.
So far in 05, seven of the 19 events have gone to extra holes, with all seven coming in the last 13 weeks. The record for most playoffs in a season is 16, which happened twice, back in 1988 and 91. Last year, 14 events came down to a playoff.
Which leads us back to the Byron Nelson Championship where last year was - you guessed it - decided in a playoff. In fact, only the U.S. Open and the Shell Houston Open have had more playoffs in their tournament history.
With Garcia defending his crown in Dallas just days after his tough loss at Quail Hollow, expect him to be in the mix come Sunday along with some other big guns:
The Big Four
Vijay Singh
His stats are almost as staggering as his determination to win ' he came from six back in the final round to claim his third title of the season in Charlotte. In addition to his three wins, the big Fijian also has racked up a pair of runner-up finishes, a third and two more top-5s. Hes first on the money list, first in the all around ranking, first in total birdies and eagles, and second in scoring average for the year. And when it comes to playoffs, Singh can boast of a very impressive 7-2 mark all-time. Oh, and dont forget he won this very tournament two years ago.
Tiger Woods
Ranked No. 1 in the world. Three PGA Tour wins in '05. Masters champion. A mind-boggling 142 straight cuts made. All without being able to find a fairway on a consistent basis. Throw in the fact that he now has a chip on his shoulder after being assessed a two-stroke penalty in Sunday's final round in Charlotte, and Tiger will be ready coming into Big D. Woods finished a shot out of the playoff last year and visited the winner's circle here back in 1997.
Ernie Els
New label is starting to become 'Best player to seemingly never to play in America.' But the fact is the Big Easy has played in six events on the PGA Tour this season. Started the season strong with a third, a second and a sixth in the Mercedes, Sony and Buick Invitational, respectively. A disappointing 47th place finish at the Masters has the critics wondering, but he too has three wins on the year just as Vijay, Tiger and Phil do - albeit they're European Tour wins. Els has played well here in the past with a victory back in 1995 and a tie for seventh last year.
Phil Mickelson
Completes the cycle of the Big Four that have won the Nelson with his win sandwiched between Ernie's and Tiger's back in1996. Also had a chance in 2000 but lost to eventual champion Jesper Parnevik in a playoff (there's that word again). Has had mixed results though in his past several appearances with a missed cut last year and a 44th place finish in '03.
The Great G's - Goosen and Garcia
Retief Goosen
Although the quiet one will play in the Byron Nelson for the first time in his career, he may benefit with all the talk surrounding the Big Four and then proceed with his usual fly under the radar stellar play. Had a solid Masters performance with a third place showing and is coming of a strong runner-up finish to Adam Scott in the Johnnie Walker Classic in China. With the U.S. Open just over a month away, look for the big South African to start ratcheting up his play in time for his title defense.
Sergio Garcia
The not so quiet one will be hard pressed to rebound from his disastrous collapse in Sunday's final round at the Wachovia Championship. But as defending champion here in Dallas, Garcia's pride will ultimately keep him on the right track. Its been feast or famine for Sergio at this event: He has missed cuts in 2002 and 03 to go along with last years title and a tie for eighth in '01.
A Solid Par 3
Nick Price
St. Nick, a two-time PGA Tour player of the year award winner back in the 90s, won his only title here in 1991. Although that was long ago, he has had a remarkable run in each of the past six years here, never finishing outside the top-15. Price was seventh last year and was runner-up to Vijay in '03. One of the games best ball strikers, this course and its conditions set up well for the Hall of Famer.
Robert Damron
Despite not really having anything to write home about thus far in his 2005 PGA Tour campaign, Damron might just find the mojo he needs as he arrives back in town for the Byron Nelson. His lone career PGA Tour win came in a 2001 playoff over Scott Verplank and then last year he was gunning to repeat the feat before bowing out in the playoff to Garcia. Familiar with the course, Damron has played in the Nelson every year since getting his PGA Tour card in 1997.
Jesper Parnevik
The match-maker extraordinaire has some history here at this tournament. Struggling of late without a top-30 finish in his last eight starts, the colorful Swede did in fact win the event back in the turn of the century. And yes, it happened to come in a playoff. That bodes well for Parnevik. As does the fact that four of the past five winners have been come from outside the U.S..
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  • Full Coverage - EDS Byron Nelson Championship