Big Names Carry on Nelsons Legacy

By Golf Channel DigitalApril 24, 2007, 4:00 pm
2007 EDS Byron Nelson ChampionshipIRVING, Texas - For the first time in a long, long time, the Byron Nelson Championship will be missing the most important figure in event's history -- Byron Nelson.
Mr. Nelson passed away last fall at the age of 94. His name has been attached to this tournament since 1968. Surely the players will miss greeting Mr. Nelson and his wife after completing their rounds.
Phil Mickelson
All eyes will be on Phil Mickelson and how the coaching change affects his play. (WireImage)
Nelson won 11 consecutive events in 1945 and claimed 18 titles overall that year. In a two-year span of 1944-45, Nelson won 31 of 54 events he played in, including the 1945 PGA Championship. In all, Mr. Nelson collected 52 tour wins before retiring at the age of 34.
Last year, Brett Wetterich held off Trevor Immelman by a single stroke. Immelman, who blew a late lead the week before, needed to birdie the last to possibly force a playoff.
However, Immelman pulled his tee shot into a lake. He did manage to save par, but Wetterich calmly two-putted for par from 18 feet to secure his first PGA TOUR crown.
'This makes me feel really good,' said Wetterich after the win. 'To come out here and win this great golf tournament, it's just an unbelievable feeling. And being Mr. Nelson's tournament, also, it's truly an honor.'
With the new PGA TOUR schedule, this event is being played three weeks earlier than it was last year. The last several years, the Byron Nelson and the Colonial, were played back-to-back, but this year the Colonial will be contested the final week of May.
The event will use two courses -- TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas and Cottonwood Valley Golf Course -- for the opening two rounds. Las Colinas will host the final two rounds once again.
The GOLF CHANNEL will cover the opening two rounds as usual before handing it over to CBS for the weekend. Next week, the PGA TOUR moves to North Carolina for the Wachovia Championship, where Jim Furyk won last year.
Here are five key players in the Byron Nelson field:
Phil Mickelson
Mickelson has played well in this event, although his best results came from 1996 through 2000 when he posted a win, a tie for second, a T-6 and a T-12. Lefty withdrew from the event last year for personal reasons and the year before had missed the cut. He comes into Dallas after a disappointing Masters Tournament, but should be refreshed and ready to add to his lone victory thus far of 07 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am. He ranks in the top-5 on both the money and FedExCup points lists. And, of course, all eyes will be on Phil to see if he will reap immediate results off the tee after leaving his long-time coach Rick Smith for Butch Harmon.
Sergio Garcia
Ever the enigma, Sergio had a great start to the 2007 season with three top-6 showings ' including an impressive T-3 at the WGC ' CA Championship - before falling flat on his face at the Masters, where he missed the cut. He does, however, like the Dallas-Ft. Worth area, as two of his six career PGA TOUR wins have come here and at the Colonial. But in true Garcia form, he has also missed the cut here in three of his last five starts. His win came in 2004 in a playoff over Robert Damron and Dudley Hart.
Shigeki Maruyama
Shigeki Maruyama hopes to continue to build on his recent success in Dallas. (WireImage)
Shigeki Maruyama
The Smiling Assassin has good reason to grin when he rolls into Dallas for the Byron Nelson Championship. In addition to it being the site of one of his three career PGA TOUR victories ' his win here coming in 2002 ' he has posted three straight top-7 finishes at Lord Byrons event, including back-to-back T-6s. He also owns the best scoring average of those who have played in the event over the past five years with a 67.83 average.
Vijay Singh
Right behind the aforementioned Maruyamas scoring average over the previous five seasons is Singhs 68.61. And that would be much lower if not for a couple un-Singh-like closing Sundays in 04 and 06, when he posted a 78 and a 73, respectively. His win here in 2003 preceded his monster nine-win season in 2004 and he also finished in a tie for third two years ago. The Fijian already has two wins this year and sits atop the FedExCup points list.
Bubba Watson
The hard-swinging style of Watson should be looking forward to playing on a couple of the shortest courses on TOUR, even though both play as par-70s. He leads the TOUR in driving distance at 314.2 yards and with a strong start to his sophomore season has risen to 90th in the world rankings after starting the year in the 162nd spot. Currently sitting 17th on the money list, Watson has yet to win on TOUR but has four top-10s already this season, including a tie for fifth last week and a runner-up to Adam Scott in Houston.
Four others to keep an eye out for in Dallas:
Justin Leonard
The Dallas-born-and-bred Leonard will be hoping that his hometown event will allow him to show friends and family in the area that his game is truly back on track. After a disastrous 2006 season and a rough start of 07, Leonard has made the cut in three straight events, including his best result (T-16) in over a year at the Verizon Heritage.
Scott Verplank
Like Leonard, Verplank was born in the area and, also like Leonard, is still looking for his first win in his hometown event. He will be making his 21st start; and although without a victory, Verplank has three top-6s in the last six years.
Chad Campbell
Campbell is another Texan who will be looking to build on his solid effort a year ago when he tied for fifth. He has struggled somewhat this year after his strong showing at the WGC Match Play Championship, where he made it to the semifinals.
Nick Watney
Confidence is a very powerful thing in golf and Watney has loads of it as he heads west into Texas. Although he missed the cut two years ago and finished T-61 last season, he did manage to shoot a second-round 64, one of the best rounds of the tournament. He won last week in New Orleans.
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    McIlroy growing 'comfortable' on Open courses

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:45 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – For a player who once complained about the vagaries of links golf, Rory McIlroy enters this Open with a dazzling record in the sport’s oldest championship.

    Though he missed the 2015 event because of an ankle injury, McIlroy has now posted three consecutive top-5 finishes in the year’s third major.

    “It’s surprising a little bit that my best form in major championships has been this tournament,” he said Wednesday, “but at the same time I’ve grown up these courses, and I’m comfortable on them. I think going to courses on The Open rota that I’ve played quite a lot. I think that helps. You have a comfort level with the golf course, and you’ve built up enough experience to know where to hit and where not to hit it.”

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    McIlroy still regrets what happened in 2015, when he “did something slightly silly” and injured his ankle while playing soccer a few weeks before the event. That came a year after he triumphed at Royal Liverpool.

    “Since 2010, I couldn’t wait to play The Open at St. Andrews,” he said. “I thought that was one of my best chances to win a major.”

    He tied for 42nd at Carnoustie in 2007, earning low-amateur honors.  

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    Height of irony: Phil putts in front of 'rules' sign

    By Grill Room TeamJuly 18, 2018, 1:36 pm

    A picture is worth 1,000 words and potentially two strokes for playing a moving ball under Rule 14-5 but not Rule 1-2.

    Phil Mickelson has been having some fun during his Open prep at Carnoustie hitting flop shots over human beings, but the irony of this photo below is too obvious to go over anyone's head.

    Mickelson also tried tapping down fescue two weeks ago at The Greenbrier, incurring another two-shot penalty.

    And so we're left to wonder about what Phil asked himself back at Shinnecock Hills: "The real question is, ‘What am I going to do next?’”

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    Rory looking for that carefree inner-child

    By Ryan LavnerJuly 18, 2018, 1:28 pm

    CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Eleven years later, Rory McIlroy cringes at the photo: the yellow sweater with the deep V-neck, the chubby cheeks and the messy mop that curled under his cap.

    “You live and you learn,” he said Wednesday, offering a wry smile.

    The last time McIlroy played at a Carnoustie Open, in 2007, he earned the Silver Medal as the low amateur. He tied for 42nd, but the final result had mattered little. Grateful just to have a spot in the field, courtesy of his European Amateur title, he bounced along the fairways, soaking up every moment, and lingered behind the 18th green as one of his local heroes, Padraig Harrington, battled one of his favorite players, Sergio Garcia. Waiting for the trophy presentation, he passed the time playing with Padraig’s young son, Paddy. On Wednesday, McIlroy spotted Paddy, now 15, walking around Carnoustie with his three-time-major-winning father.

    “He’s massive now – he towers over me,” he said. “It’s so funny thinking back on that day.”

    But it’s also instructive. If there’s a lesson to be learned from ’07, it’s how carefree McIlroy approached and played that week. He was reminded again of that untroubled attitude while playing a practice round here with 23-year-old Jon Rahm, who stepped onto each tee, unsheathed his driver and bombed away with little regard for the wind or the bounce or the fescue. McIlroy smiled, because he remembers a time, not too long ago, that he’d attack a course with similar reckless abandon.

    Full-field tee times from the 147th Open Championship

    Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

    “I just think, as you get older, you get a little more cautious in life,” said McIlroy, 29. “I think it’s only natural. There’s something nice about being young and being oblivious to some stuff. The more I can get into that mindset, the better I’ll play golf.”

    And so on the eve of this Open, as he approaches the four-year anniversary of his last major title, McIlroy finds himself searching for a way to channel that happy-go-lucky 18-year-old who was about to take the world by storm, to tap into the easygoing excellence that once defined his dominance.

    It’s been a year since he first hinted at what he’s been missing. Last year’s Open at Royal Birkdale was the final event of his long run with caddie J.P. Fitzgerald. The chief reason for the split, he said, had nothing to do with some of the questionable on-course decisions, but rather a desire to take ownership of him game, to be freed up alongside one of his best friends, Harry Diamond.

    That partnership has produced only one victory so far, and over the past few months, McIlroy has at times looked unsettled between the ropes. It’s difficult to compute, how someone with seemingly so much – a résumé with four majors, a robust bank account, a beautiful wife – can also appear disinterested and unmotivated.

    “I think sometimes I need to get back to that attitude where I play carefree and just happy to be here,” he said. “A golf tournament is where I feel the most comfortable. It’s where I feel like I can 100 percent be myself and express myself. Sometimes the pressure that’s put on the top guys to perform at such a level every week, it starts to weigh on you a little bit. The more I can be like that kid, the better.”

    It’s a decidedly different landscape from when the erstwhile Boy Wonder last won a major, in summer 2014. Jordan Spieth had won just a single Tour event, not three majors. Dustin Johnson wasn’t world No. 1 but merely a tantalizing tease, a long-hitting, fast-living physical freak who was just beginning a six-month break to address "personal challenges." Two-time U.S. Open champion Brooks Koepka hadn’t even started playing in the States.  

    McIlroy’s greatest asset, both then and now, was his driving – he put on clinics at Congressional and Kiawah, Hoylake and Valhalla. He was a mainstay at or near the top of the strokes gained: tee to green rankings, but over the past few years, because of better technology, fitness and coaching, the gap between him and the rest of the field has shrunk.

    “I think at this stage players have caught up,” Harrington said. “There’s many players who drive the ball comparable and have certainly eaten into that advantage. Rory is well on pace to get into double digits with majors, but it has got harder. There’s no doubt there’s more players out there who are capable of having a big week and a big game for a major. It makes it tough.”

    It’s not as though McIlroy hasn’t had opportunities to add to his major haul; they’ve just been less frequent and against stronger competition. In the 13 majors since he last won, he’s either finished in the top 10 or missed the cut in 11 of them. This year, he played in the final group at the Masters, and was on the verge of completing the career Grand Slam, before a soul-crushing 74 on the last day. His U.S. Open bid was over after nine holes, after an opening 80 and a missed cut during which he declined to speak to reporters after both frustrating rounds.

    “I’m trying,” he said Wednesday. “I’m trying my best every time I tee it up, and it just hasn’t happened.”

    A year after saying that majors are the only events that will define the rest of his career, he recently shrugged off the doom and gloom surrounding his Grand Slam drought: “It doesn’t keep me up at night, thinking, If I never won another major, I can’t live with myself.”

    Eleven years ago, McIlroy never would have troubled himself with such trivial questions about his legacy. But perhaps a return to Carnoustie, to where his major career started, is just what he needs to unlock his greatness once again.


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    Own history, grow the game with Open memorabilia auction

    By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 18, 2018, 1:00 pm

    Get a piece of history and help grow the game, that's what The Open is offering with its memorabilia auction.

    The official Open Memorabilia site features unique Open assets from famous venues and Champion Golfers of the Year. All net proceeds received by The R&A from this project will be invested to support the game for future generations, including encouraging women’s, junior and family golf, on the promotion and progression of the sport in emerging golf nations and on coaching and development.

    Items for auction include limited edition prints of Champion Golfers of the Year, signed championship pin flags and limited edition historical program covers. Memorable scorecard reproductions and caddie bibs are also available to bid for on the website, with all items featuring branded, serialized holograms for authenticity.

    Click here to own your piece of history and to get more information on the auction.