At the HP Byron Nelson Championship at the TPC Four Seasons Course at Las Colinas, it’s not so much how many greens you hit, but how close you can hit your approaches. Failing to put the ball in the right position on the large, undulating putting surfaces can take birdie out of the equation. Knocking at pins is more important than just hitting greens, so there's more of an emphasis on proximity to the hole on approach shots than there would be on a course with smallish greens. If you can hit it close and still make the long putts, you’ll go a long way toward winning.
That’s the recipe Sang-Moon Bae used last year to win his first PGA Tour event. The Korean was T-9 in greens in regulation, T-13 in proximity to the hole and T-1 in putting from more than 10 feet.
Key stats by winners of the Byron Nelson Championship
|Year||Player||GIR (rank)||Proximity to
10+ feet (rank)
|2013||Sang-Moon Bae||73.61% (T-9)||31' 1" (T-13)||12/43; 27.91% (T-1)|
|2012||Jason Dufner||80.56 (1)||27' 0" (1)||8/46; 17.39 (T-24)|
|2011||Keegan Bradley||65.28 (T-6)||37' 7" (T-32)||3/43; 6.98 (T-71)|
|2010||Jason Day||59.72 (T-50)||37' 9" (53)||10/38; 26.32 (T-2)|
|2009||Rory Sabbatini||68.06 (T-38)||30' 0" (T-11)||10/34; 29.41 (1)|
|2008||Adam Scott||63.89 (T-9)||39' 8" (33)||10/40; 25.00 (5)|
|2007||Scott Verplank||73.61 (T-5)||26' 10" (5)||6/29; 20.69 (17)|
|2006||Brett Wetterich||75.00 (T-3)||29’ 0”(2)||5/36; 13.89 (T-44)|
Bae’s percentages in the above stats were better than his season averages, going a long way toward explaining how a player who had just one top-25 finish all year could post four rounds in the 60s. In 2014, Bae hasn’t shown much seasonal improvement in the three statistics.
Bae’s statistical ranking at the Nelson, and on Tour in 2013
|GIR||Proximity to hole||Putting from 10+ feet|
|Nelson||73.61% (T-9)||31' 1" (T-13)||27.91% (T-1)|
|2013 season||63.72 (127)||35’ 3” (T-103)||18.70 (6)|
|2014 season||62.29 (T-166)||39’ 2” (T-177)||17.73 (16)|
It was Bae’s first visit to the Byron Nelson Championship and he became the third player in four years (with Keegan Bradley in 2011 and Jason Day in 2010) to win in his first appearance at TPC Four Seasons. They are among the 11 players who claimed their first career wins at the Byron Nelson Championship. Six of them have done so since 2000.
Players who got their first win at the Byron Nelson Championship
|2013||Sang Moon Bae|
The greens at TPC Four Seasons might be larger than most, but they’re not necessarily easy to hit. The field averaged 65.45 percent in 2013, which was the highest percentage in the last six years. The fairways also ranked among the hardest to hit since 2008.
GIR and Fairways hit percentage at the Nelson: 2008-2013
|Year||GIR Pct.||Acuracy Pct.|
|2013||65.45% (23)||55.53% (9)|
|2012||62.40 (17)||52.47 (8)|
|2011||56.22 (3)||52.74 (6)|
|2010||62.01 (13)||48.94 (2)|
|2009||65.06 (26)||55.05 (9)|
|2008||53.68 (4)||54.95 (10)|
Most of the top players on the Official World Golf Ranking are taking the week off, with only 14 of the top 50 players in the world making the trip from Ponte Vedra Beach. The best of this group has had success at Las Colinas. Fifth-ranked Matt Kuchar, eighth-ranked Jordan Spieth and 14th-ranked Dustin Johnson have never missed the cut at the Nelson.
Kuchar, Spieth and Johnson at the Byron Nelson Championship
But it isn’t the top-ranked players who have been winning on Tour in 2013-14, has it? Even Martin Kaymer, for all his world-class talent, was ranked just 61st in the world before winning last week’s Players. That’s a ranking that fits right in with who has been lifting trophies this season. Only three Tour winners were ranked in the top 20 in the world at the time of their victory, seven ranked between 21 and 50, and eight ranked between 51 and 100. Here’s a look at the nine players in this week’s field who rank between 51 and 100.
Players in the Nelson field ranked between 51-100 on the world ranking
|Rank||Player||Nelson starts||Best finish|
|71||Marc Leishman||6||T-3, 2012|
|73||Boo Weekley||2||T-63, 2012|
|78||Charles Howell III||11||T-7, 2013|
|83||Brendon de Jonge||3||T-51, 2007|
|86||Angel Cabrera||1||T-10, 2013|
|95||Paul Casey||None||T-12, 2013|
One final thought: Although Americans have dominated the PGA Tour in 2013-14, at least in the heavy lifting categories – trophies and paychecks – and players from only four countries have won this year, the Nelson’s roll of champions has a cosmopolitan feel. Since 2000, players from eight different countries have won the Nelson, with six Americans leading the way. There have been two Australian champs and one winner from Sweden, Japan, Fiji, Spain, South Africa and South Korea.