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Bunker Shots Spotlight on Europe

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Blasting into the week ahead, from the European Tour’s flagship event to the LPGA’s return to match play and the PGA Tour’s salute to Lord Byron ...

PGA TOUR

PGA Tour (75x100)

HP Byron Nelson Championship

Nobody in the top 10 in the world rankings will tee it up in suburban Dallas this week.

Hunter Mahan’s the highest ranked player in the field at No. 17.

There’s tough competition this week overseas, where the BMW PGA Championship in England is attracting a stellar field with the top international players competing in the European Tour’s big event.

Bunker shot: Who’s the best player under 30? According to the world rankings, it’s Rory McIlroy, who at No. 9 ranks highest in that age category. Anthony Kim (No. 10), Martin Kaymer (No. 11) and Camilo Villegas (No. 14) are next. If you’re going by PGA Tour victories, Adam Scott’s the best. With seven PGA Tour titles now, he’s more than doubled the totals of any other player under 30. But Scott’s leaving the ranks of the twentysomethings this summer. He turns 30 on July 16. None of those players just mentioned are in the field at the Byron Nelson, but there’s lots of young talent on display this week. That brings us to Dustin Johnson and Sean O’Hair, who are in the field. They’re tied with Kim and Villegas behind Scott with three PGA Tour titles each among players under 30. Mahan and J.B. Holmes, twentysomethings with two PGA Tour titles apiece, also are scheduled to play. Rickie Fowler doesn’t have a PGA Tour title, but the rookie arrives at the Byron Nelson No. 54 in the world rankings. Ricky Barnes, Michael Sim and Yuta Ikeda are in that young class worth watching this week.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Rory Sabbatini. Contender – Hunter Mahan. Darkhorse – Rickie Fowler.

  • Course: TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas, Irving, Texas. Par 70, 7,016 yards (Designed by Jay Morrish, opened in 1996, redesigned by D.A. Weibring in 2008).
  • Purse: $6.5 million (winner’s share, $1,170,000).
  • TV times: Thursday-Friday, Golf Channel, 3-6 p.m., replay 8:30-11 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, CBS, 3-6 p.m.
  • Last year: With a 6-under-par 64 to close, Rory Sabbatini finished two shots better than Brian Davis.


EUROPEAN TOUR

2009 European TourBMW PGA Championship

Five of the top 10 in the world rankings lead a strong field in the European Tour’s flagship event.

No. 3 Lee Westwood, No. 6 Ian Poulter, No. 7 Ernie Els, No. 8 Paul Casey and No. 9 Rory McIlroy join Padraig Harrington, Martin Kaymer and Henrik Stenson in an event that will feature lots of world ranking points.

Bunker shot: If it’s a big event, Westwood will be knocking on the door at the end, but will he finally barge through? Westwood’s enjoying a terrific run of contention in majors and quasi-majors, but there has to be frustration failing to win any of them. This season, Westwood became the first player in 33 years to lead the Masters and The Players Championship after 54 holes in the same year, but he came away without a trophy. He tied for fourth at The Players, finished second at the Masters. A year ago, he tied for third at the PGA Championship and the British Open. The year before that, he finished third at the U.S. Open. He’s come up a shot short of forcing playoffs at the U.S. Open and British Open in the past two years. Makes you wonder if the close calls inspire or frustrate, encourage or discourage. Only Westwood truly knows.

Mell’s picks: Winner – Lee Westwood. Contender – Rory McIlroy. Darkhorse – Francesco Molinari.

  • Course: Wentworth Club’s West Course in Surrey, England. Par 71, 7,261 yards (Designed originally by H.S. Colt and opened in 1927).
  • Purse: 4.5 million euros (winner’s share, $750,000 euros).
  • TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Friday, 10 a.m.-1 p.m.; Saturday, 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., replay 6:30-9:30 p.m.; Sunday, 9:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m., replay 7-9:30 p.m.
  • Last year: Paul Casey defeated Ross Fisher by a shot.


LPGA

LPGA Tour _newSybase Match Play Championship

After a two-year hiatus, match play returns to the LPGA.

Seon Hwa Lee (2007), Brittany Lincicome (2006) and Marisa Baena (2005) won this championship the first three times it was staged.

Sixty-four players will compete. In a bustling weekend, the round of 16 and quarterfinals are planned for Saturday with the semifinals and finals on Sunday.

Bunker shot: Asian dominance is the early storyline this LPGA season. Asians have claimed all six of the events played so far. Japan’s Ai Miyazato has won three of the titles, South Korea’s claimed two with Hee Kyung Seo and Se Ri Pak winning and Taiwan’s claimed a title with Yani Tseng a winner at the year’s first major, the Kraft Nabisco. This season also has been witness to South Korean Jiyai Shin’s rise as the first Asian to be No. 1 in the Rolex Women’s World Golf Rankings. Michelle Wie is the only American to win an LPGA title in the last 12 months.  

Mell’s picks: Winner – Brittany Lincicome. Contender – Morgan Pressel. Darkhorse – Azahara Munoz.

  • Course: Hamilton Farm Golf Club’s The Highlands, Gladstone, N.J. Par 72, 6,585 yards (Designed by Michael Hurdzan and Dana Fry).
  • Purse: $1.5 million (winner’s share, $225,000).
  • TV times: Golf Channel, Thursday-Friday, 1-3 p.m., replay 6:30-8:30 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 2-5 p.m., replay 9:30-11:30 p.m.
  • Last year: Was not played.


NATIONWIDE TOUR

Nationwide TourThe Rex Hospital Open

There’s a new leader atop the Nationwide Tour money list.

Even with a bogey at his final hole last week at the BMW Charity Pro-Am, Kevin Chappel earned a tie for second and enough money to vault him to the top of the money list with $190,621 in earnings, a little more than $4,000 ahead of Bobby Gates.

Bunker shot: Jamie Lovemark’s doing everything but win his rookie year. The 2007 NCAA champ from USC tied for second last week at the BMW Charity Pro-Am, his fourth top-5 finish in eight starts this season. He jumped four spots to No. 8 on the Nationwide Tour money list and appears poised for a bigger move.   

Mell’s picks: Winner – Jamie Lovemark. Contender – Justin Hicks. Darkhorse – Jeff Gallagher.

  • Course: TPC Wakefield Plantation, Raleigh, N.C. Par 71, 7,257 yards. (Designed by Hale Irwin, opened in 2000).
  • Purse: $550,000 (winner’s share, $99,000).
  • TV times: No TV.
  • Last year: Kevin Johnson defeated Gallagher in a playoff for his fifth Nationwide Tour title.