Byron Nelsons tournament not as lordly as it was

By Associated PressMay 20, 2010, 12:15 am

HP Byron Nelson ChampionshipIRVING, Texas – The Byron Nelson Championship ain’t what it used to be.

For decades, the biggest names and best players were regulars at this tournament, lured by handwritten notes from its beloved namesake or the chance to chat with one of golf’s greatest champions. The field included six of the top 10 players in the world as recently as 2005.

Nelson died a year later and the field has been slipping ever since. This year, No. 17 Hunter Mahan will be the highest-ranked player teeing it up at the TPC Four Seasons course and the best they could muster on the money-leader list is No. 9 Dustin Johnson.

“It’s sad,” said Corey Pavin, who is playing the event for the 23rd time. “I would like to see this field remain strong. … Byron is fresh in my memory; to me, he is the epitome of golf, what it stands for.”

Although the tournament is well known for its hospitality and philanthropy (PGA Tour-best $112 million for charity), it has a tough spot on the schedule – the middle of a three-week run in Texas and the same weekend as the BMW PGA Championship, the European Tour’s flagship event. The lure across the Atlantic was especially strong this year, with Europeans eager to make the Ryder Cup squad as their side tries to reclaim the trophy.

But this event still bears Nelson’s name, always draws large crowds and is the rare “home game,” as Mahan called it, for the dozens of Tour players like himself who live in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The course also has gotten rave reviews for a redesign by D.A. Weibring several years ago that’s reached maturation.

“I am a little surprised (by the low-caliber field), personally a little disappointed,” said Rory Sabbatini, another local and the defending champion. “I see it, in a sense, as being a little disrespectful to Byron Nelson’s name.”

Tom Watson was here Tuesday, and the four-time tournament champion still has a prime parking spot with his name on it. Alas, he was only here to collect an award.

Former champions like Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson had to send their regrets for various, well-publicized reasons. Former champ Ernie Els is at the BMW and Adam Scott, the 2008 winner, is taking the week off after winning in San Antonio last weekend.

Dallas Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo made it to the final round of qualifying and would’ve made a big splash if he’d gotten in the field. A conflict with his day job forced him to drop out; odds are, he wouldn’t have shot the 65 needed to get in anyway.

Still, there are some good story lines among established players, like Pavin and Vijay Singh, and some young up-and-comers, like Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth.

Haven’t heard of Spieth?

Well, he won just last weekend – the Texas high school state tournament.

A 16-year-old junior at a Dallas high school, Spieth was late to the course Wednesday because he had to make a presentation in his physics class. But the folks who run this event didn’t let him into the field simply for the local-boy-makes-good angle; the last high schooler they invited was Woods, in 1993, and Spieth is the reigning U.S. Junior Amateur champion.

He’s been coming to this tournament since he was 5 and he’s played the course enough that he won’t be too wide-eyed when he tees off Thursday.

“When I’m out there, I don’t think of myself as a 16 year old; I think of myself as a competitor in this tournament,” Spieth said. “Everyone here has more experience than me, but it’s a game of momentum, at least for me out here. You start getting it going and making a few putts, you might get it to where nothing can stop you. … Obviously I know the percentage chances of me winning an event like this right now, but anything can happen.”

Fowler, a PGA Tour rookie with four top 10 finishes this season, needs a top-five finish to automatically qualify for both the U.S. and British Opens. He would get in as a reward for being in the top 50 by Monday.

Singh is facing the same deadline.

He was in the top 50 from August 1992 until this past Monday, when he dipped to No. 51. He’s already secured his spot in the British Open, so he needs to play well enough to move up one spot to secure a place in the U.S. Open.

As for Pavin, his focus is all over the place these days – playing some PGA Tour events, getting comfortable on the Champions Tour and doing leg work as the captain of the U.S. Ryder Cup squad. On Wednesday, he chatted up Fowler and others on his radar for his four captain’s picks.

But he also has another goal this week: become the first person to complete the Texas Slam. He’s already won in Fort Worth, San Antonio and Houston.

Although he hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since 2006, he’s coming off a tie for seventh at a Champions event.

“I wouldn’t be here if I didn’t think I could win,” Pavin said. “The last probably two months I’ve hit the ball quite nicely, and oddly enough my putting hasn’t been where I wanted it to be. … If I can get in contention on Sunday that would be fantastic.”

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Crenshaw pleased with reaction to Trinity Forest

By Will GrayMay 21, 2018, 12:02 am

DALLAS – Despite the tournament debut of Trinity Forest Golf Club coming to a soggy conclusion, course co-designer Ben Crenshaw is pleased with how his handiwork stood up against the field at this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson.

Crenshaw was on property for much of the week, including Sunday when tee times were delayed by four hours as a line of storms passed through the area. While the tournament’s field lacked some star power outside of headliner Jordan Spieth, Crenshaw liked what he saw even though Mother Nature didn’t exactly cooperate.

“We’re pleased. It’s off to a nice, quiet start, let’s say,” Crenshaw said. “The week started off very quiet with the wind. This course, we envision that you play it with a breeze. It sort of lends itself to a links style, playing firm and fast, and as you saw yesterday, when the wind got up the scores went up commensurately.”

Full-field scores from the AT&T Byron Nelson

AT&T Byron Nelson: Articles, photos and videos

That assessment was shared by Spieth, a Trinity Forest member who has become the tournament’s de facto host and spent much of his week surveying his fellow players for opinions about a layout that stands out among typical Tour stops.

“A lot of guys said, ‘It’s grown on me day to day, I really enjoyed it as a change of pace, I had a lot of fun playing this golf course.’ Those were lines guys were using this week, and it shouldn’t be reported any differently,” Spieth said. “It was an overwhelmingly positive outlook from the players that played.”

Crenshaw didn’t bristle as tournament leaders Aaron Wise and Marc Leishman eclipsed the mark of 20 under par, noting that he and co-designer Bill Coore simply hoped to offer a “different experience” from the usual layouts players face. With one edition in the books, he hopes that a largely positive reaction from those who made the journey will help bolster the field in 2019 and beyond.

“To me, the guys who played here this week will go over to Fort Worth, and hopefully the field at Colonial that wasn’t here would ask questions of the people who were here,” Crenshaw said. “You hope that some good word spreads.”

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A. Jutanugarn wins Kingsmill playoff for 8th title

By Associated PressMay 20, 2018, 11:32 pm

WILLIAMSBURG, Va. – Ariya Jutanugarn birdied the second hole of a playoff Sunday to win the Kingsmill Championship for the second time in three years.

Jutanugarn closed with a 5-under 66 to match Nasa Hataoka (67) and In Gee Chun (68) at 14-under 199.

Jutanugarn and Hataoka both birdied the first extra hole, with Chun dropping out. Hataoka putted first on the second extra hole and missed badly before Jutanugarn rolled in a 15-footer for her eighth career victory. The 22-year-old Thai star's older sister, Moriya, won the HUGEL-JTBC Championship in Los Angeles in April for her first LPGA Tour victory

Full-field scores from the Kingsmill Championship

Jutanugarn started the day two shots behind Chun and had a two-shot lead before making bogey at the par-5 15th. Hataoka, playing with Chun in the final threesome, birdied No. 15 to join Jutanugarn at 14 under, and Chun made a long birdie putt on the par-3 17th to also get to 14 under.

The tournament was cut from 72 holes to 54 when rain washed out play Saturday.

Brooke Henderson closed with a 65 to finish a shot back. Megan Khang was fifth after her third straight 67.

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Jimenez wins first Champions major at Tradition

By Associated PressMay 20, 2018, 9:32 pm

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – Miguel Angel Jimenez finally got to light up a victory cigar after winning a senior major championship.

Jimenez won the Regions Tradition on Sunday for his first PGA Tour Champions major title, closing with a 2-under 70 for a three-stroke victory. He celebrated with a big embrace from fellow Spaniard and two-time Masters winner Jose Maria Olazabal, who hoisted him in the air.

After a round of photos and speeches from local dignitaries, Jimenez finally got to break out the celebratory cigar.

''It's time to have a medal in my pocket and it's nice to be on the first major of the year,'' he said.

Jimenez held or shared the lead after every round, taking a three-shot edge into the final round at Greystone Golf & Country Club. The Spaniard finished at 19-under 269 for his fifth PGA Tour Champions victory.

''It's been a wonderful week,'' he said. ''My game was amazing, really.''

Full-field scores from the Regions Tradition

Steve Stricker, Joe Durant and Gene Sauers tied for second.

It was the third time Jimenez had entered the final round of a senior major with at least a share of the lead but the first one he has pulled out. He tied for third at the 2016 Senior British Open and for second at the 2016 U.S. Senior Open.

Durant and Sauers finished with matching 69s, and Stricker shot 70.

Jimenez birdied two of the final three holes including a closing putt for good measure.

Jimenez entered the day at 17 under to tie Gil Morgan's 21-year-old Tradition record through 54 holes. He got off to a rough start with an errant tee shot into a tree-lined area on his way to a bogey, but he never lost his grip on the lead.

Jimenez had three bogeys after making just one over the first three rounds, but easily held off his challengers late.

His approach on No. 18 landed right in the center of the green after Stricker's shot sailed well right into the gallery. He had rebuilt a two-stroke lead with a nice birdie putt on No. 16 while Durant and Stricker each had a bogey among the final three holes to leave Jimenez with a more comfortable cushion.

Stricker and Durant both had par on the final hole while Sauers also birdied to tie them. Durant had produced two eagles on No. 18 already in the tournament but couldn't put pressure on Jimenez with a third.

Stricker's assessment of his own performance, including a bogey on No. 17, was that he ''made quite a few mistakes.''

''Just didn't take care of my ball, really,'' he said. ''I put it in some bad spots, didn't get it up and down when I had to a few times, missed a few putts. Yeah, just didn't have it really, didn't play that good, but still had a chance coming down to the end.''

Jeff Maggert finished with a 64 and was joined at 15 under by Scott McCarron (67) and Duffy Waldorf (66).

Jimenez made a birdie putt on No. 16 one hole after falling into a tie with Stricker with a bogey. Durant faltered, too, with a bogey on No. 16.

''When (Stricker) made birdie and I make a bogey on the 15th, everything's going up again very tight,'' Jimenez said. ''It's time to hole a putt on 16, for me that makes all the difference.''

Stricker had two wins in his first four senior tour events this year and remains second on the money list. He has finished in the top five in each of his events.

Bernhard Langer finished five strokes off the lead in his bid to become the first to win the Tradition three straight years. He shot 66-67 over the final two rounds after a slow start.