Inside the Ropes
HP Byron Nelson Championship
TPC Four Seasons Resort
TPC Four Seasons Resort
Yards: 7,166 as per the scorecard
Par: 70 (35-35)
Average green size: 6,000 square feet
Stimpmeter: 10.5-11 ft.
Water Hazards: 8
Course Architect: Jay Morrish (1986); Redesign -- D.A. Weibring and Steve Wolford (2008)
Notes: Bermudagrass fairways and rough; bentgrass greens
Winner’s Share: $1,170,000 and 500 FedExCup Points
Defending Champion: Keegan Bradley defeated Ryan Palmer on the first playoff hole
Date: May 17-20
Notes: TPC Four Seasons Resort became the exclusive host of this tournament in 2008. From 1994-2007, Cottonwood Valley hosted one round before the cut..
The HP Byron Nelson Championship was the first PGA TOUR event named in honor of a former player.
The tournament is the ninth-longest-running on TOUR. It was first contested in 1944.
The TPC Four Seasons has been one of the host courses in this event since it opened in 1986.
Tom Watson (four wins between 1974 and 1980) and Bruce Lietzke (1981 and 1988) are the only multiple winners in the last 40 years.
Billy Ray Brown (1992), Robert Damron (2001), Ted Purdy (2005), Brett Wetterich (2006), Jason Day (2010) and Keegan Bradley (2011) recorded their first career victories at this events.
Ernie Els (1995), Day and Bradley won this tournament in their first attempts.
As of Tuesday, seven of the top 25 in the Official World Golf Ranking are in the field this week.
Young Guns versus Old Guns
In 21 tournaments this season the “Young versus Old” argument now stands at 10-9-2 as Matt Kuchar added another victory for the “Middle” crew.
For the “young,” Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24), Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE lead the way.
Mark Wilson (37) is joined by George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods (36), Bubba Watson (33), Carl Pettersson (34), Ben Curtis (34) Jason Dufner (35) and now Kuchar (33) in the “Middle.”
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are flying the flag for the “Old” folks on TOUR.
Kuchar’s win makes it four in a row for the U.S.A. crew and seven of the last nine heading back to Luke Donald’s win at the Transitions Championship.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
Welcome to the TPC Four Seasons Resort in lovely Irving, Texas. This is the TOUR’s third stop in the Lone Star state in 2012 after the SHO and VTO.
As spring rolls along, so can the weather. Wind. Heat. Hot wind. The players who have had success in Texas and on this course will be the ones I am watching this week. TPC Four Seasons has tree-lined fairways, undulating greens and tougher-than-normal rough around them. It is perennially one of the most challenging courses to put the ball in the fairway and it’s just as difficult to scramble around the greens. Once on the greens, the undulations will give the average chippers and putters problems this week. Ball-striking and short game will be the qualities that this week’s winner will possess.
Lord Byron Nelson would have been 100 years of age this year. In honor of his centennial and his tournament, we’ll use Lord Byron as our motif this week.
Lord Byron’s Court
My five best players this week ...
Phil Mickelson: He should be smiling even more that he is out of the state of Florida where he finished T43 (WGC-Cadillac), T24 (API) and T25 (last week's PLAYERS). His best finishes this season are in some of his favorite places -- Pebble Beach, Riviera, Redstone and Augusta. I doubt he added this tournament because he does NOT like the course, layout, set-up and I expect him to play well this week. It’s not very often that Mickelson doesn’t hit the top 10 three weeks in a row and this is week three of a potential drought. The layout here is plays right into his game around the greens and prerequisite to shape shots off the tee.
Matt Kuchar: THE PLAYERS champion had so much fun playing tennis and hanging with his family last week that he’s decided to play this week as well. After pocketing $1.7 million, why not! And with his stats, there is no reason to think he can’t go back-to-back. He's 24th in driving accuracy, 16th GIR, eight in scrambling and 33rd in total putting. He’s only finished outside the top 13 once in his last six events and leads the TOUR with 17 consecutive cuts-made. He would be ranked higher except nobody has won in back-to-back weeks since Tiger Woods in August of 2009 at the Buick Open and WGC-Bridgestone Invitational. Kuchar might do a “Fowler” and go WIN-T2 though…
Jason Day: After injuring his ankle heading into the Masters and eventually WD, Day bounced back nicely with a T9 at Quail Hollow before missing the cut last week at THE PLAYERS. His history at the HP is better than good as he won in his maiden voyage in 2010 and was fifth last year. After two weeks of rounding his game into shape, he should be at ease with the familiar surroundings and great vibes he obviously gets from this course and this event.
Adam Scott: The steady Australian has finished as follow in his last four events T13 (WGC-Cadillac), T8 (Masters), T12 (Ballantine’s) and T15 (last week's PLAYERS). His steady ball-striking plus his 2008 championship should place the Aussie near the top of any list this week. He was T6 in GIR last week but three double bogeys kept him from finishing higher up the leaderboard.
Carl Pettersson: In his last five events, he has finished second, won by five at Hilton Head, MC, T46 and T10 (last week). He threw away a few thousand with his double bogey the sixth hole on 18 Sunday last weekend, but has been playing excellent golf. Remember, his win was on a short-ish course at Harbour Town so tight fairways won’t bother the new American citizen. Neither will these greens as he's 12th in Strokes Gained-Putting. I’m riding this train until he goes back on his healthy diet!
The Next 11
In honor of Lord Byron’s 11 consecutive wins in 1945, we choose one extra this week. That’s a nice CAREER, 11 wins…
Louis Ooshuizen: The South African is known for his excellent ball-striking and tee-to-green game. He also has no problem making birdies in windy conditions which he proved when he ran away from the field in the 2010 Open Championship. Before his CUT last week at THE PLAYERS, he dusted himself off after his P2 to Bubba Watson at the Masters and flew halfway around the world to win for the second time in 2012 at the Maybank Malaysian Open.
Keegan Bradley: After not finishing outside of the top 16 in his first nine events, the defending champion this week has struggled recently. He had a respectable T27 at the Masters but followed that up with consecutive CUTS at Zurich and Wells Fargo. He showed encouraging signs of life last week as he played three of four rounds at TPC Sawgrass at par or better. Did we already mention that he’s the defending champion here? Good, so he has that going for him, which is nice.
John Huh: The man with the nickname “The Question Mark” is removing doubt almost on a weekly basis during his excellent rookie season. He’s made 10 of 13 cuts, and in his two appearances in Texas this season, he finished T14 (SHO) and T2 (VTO). I guess he doesn’t mind a little wind! An accurate driver of the golf ball and very solid putter, Huh has the game to contend this week.
Jason Dufner: Now that his honeymoon rust is off, the newlywed can slide right back on TOUR as Matt Kuchar will be the man under the spotlight this week. Dufner should return to banging fairways (10th) and GIR (26th). His T68 was his worst finish of the season in the 11 events where he made the cut. He has just two of 11 finishes outside T33.
Ernie Els: Els mentioned in his recent blog entry that TPC Sawgrass just didn’t fit with what he was doing on the course recently and he wasn’t surprised he didn’t play that well. The last time I read his blog, he mentioned how he was shocked that he played poorly at Harbour Town because he was playing and practicing so well. I expect him to bounce back this week as he’s a GIR machine and his scrambling has been excellent. After he was CUT at RBC, he finished P2 to Dufner at Zurich. I believe Els will bounce again this week.
D.A. Points: A sore back forced him to WD from THE PLAYERS just before his tee time on Thursday, so he had last weekend to recharge his battery after finishing P2 at Quail Hollow the week prior. Just teeing it up at TPC Four Seasons should make Points’ back feel better as he’s finished third, T7 and T40 in his last three outings. Points has struggled to take advantage of the par fives this season but is currently 20th in par-4 birdie leaders. I’m going with the hot hand here.
Brian Davis: In making his last nine cuts in a row, Davis has hit the top 25 in five of those appearances, including T4 is his last visit to the Lone Star State at the SHO. Davis’ accuracy off the tee and high-quality short game will come in handy as looks to hit the top 10 for a third time in seven events at the HP. He finished T25 last week at THE PLAYERS, yet was T8 in GIR.
Brian Gay: In the last four editions of the HP, Gay has finished T7, CUT, T2 and T14. His best finish of 2012 was also in Texas at the SHO. Gay makes his money on and around the short stuff as he sits ninth in Strokes Gained-Putting and third in scrambling. His lack of length off the tee will not be a factor this week shown by his previous history at this event. Horse for Course.
Jeff Overton: In his last two starts at the HP, Overton has finished T2 and T8. He opened with a 78 at last week's PLAYERS but righted the ship with 69 in the second round. Even though he missed the cut, he’s heading in the right direction entering a week where he began last year with 64 at TPC Four Seasons. He was T4 at the SHO earlier this year.
John Rollins: In eight cuts made in 2012, Rollins has hit the top 25 seven times and has hit the top 10 on four occasions. In his last two outings, the Texas resident was T7 at the Zurich and T25 at THE PLAYERS. Ranks first in total driving and 11th in ball-striking, His putter will be the difference between a top 10 or top 50. He finished T6 at last year's HP.
Robert Garrigus: He finished T13 (RBC) and T15 (Wells Fargo) before failing to make the cut at THE PLAYERS last week. He's 19th in ball-striking and 22nd in birdie-or-better conversion percentage. His putting leaves a bit to be desired (184th total putting) but his record at the HP the last three years is quite solid as he’s finished T16, T26 and T20.
Five Who Might Surprise
Bob Estes: The Austin, Tex. resident had tied the low round of the tournament last week with his Sunday 65 en route to a T15. He placed T4 at the VTO two starts previous. The elements and weather won’t bother this grizzled veteran. Caveat: he’s missed five consecutive cuts here.
Harrison Frazar: Another Texan who’s recent record here is very steady with a T16 and T14 in his last two starts. After missing four cuts in a row, the Dallas resident has made the cut in his last two events, including T46 last week at THE PLAYERS. Remember, these are long shots!
Jhonattan Vegas: The University of Texas grad finished the weekend six-under-par and T7 at THE PLAYERS, so I am riding a guy who is hot down here. Sure, last week’s round came out of nowhere as his best finish of 2012 was his first event of 13 on the season. Strike while the iron is hot, I say!
Jonas Blixt: SHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. He didn’t play THE PLAYERS last week but in his last two events he’s finished T13 at Zurich and T9 at WFC. He’s 39th in the all-around ranking so he’s worth a punt this week.
Patrick Reed: Mr. Monday Qualifier has done it again. That’s now three times in 2012 that he’s made the field by qualifying on Monday and he’s yet to miss a cut. And his fiancée is his caddy. If you are in a deep league like I am (14 players including a computer expert! Thanks, Kelly!) the betrothed non-member is worth a shot in the later rounds.
Who I might see at Five Guys on the weekend
Ryan Palmer: Last year’s P2 will be looking for some of the magic that he found here last year. In six previous events at HP, he had made the cut once, finishing T73.
Charles Howell III: The man who seems to have great finishes everywhere on TOUR has struggled in his last two outings with missed cuts at both Quail Hollow and TPC Sawgrass. After opening the season with a T2 at the Sony, his best finish in his next 13 events has been T16 (Mayakoba).
Y.E. Yang: In nine PGA TOUR events this year his best finish was a round-of-32 loss at the WGC-Match Play, which goes in the books officially as a T17. He played last week at THE PLAYERS and shot 80-68. No offense, but no thanks.
Vijay Singh: Another player who over the years seems to play well everywhere, he's been CUT in his last two events and only has one finish better than T24 in 11 starts in 2012.
Gary Woodland: After a WD from the Masters with a wrist injury, he was CUT last week at THE PLAYERS. His best finish in a full-field strokes-play event was a T26 in February.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: HP Byron Nelson (Glass’s Picks)
Group 1: Phil Mickelson
Group 2: Jeff Overton
Group 3: Bob Estes
Group 4: Alex Cejka
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Now, Ned also provides us with his Golf Channel fantasy game selections as well!
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Adam Scott -- I thought he had a great chance going into last weekend for his second PLAYERS' title, but three double bogeys left him in a tie for 15th place. He has a very good record at the Byron Nelson, with a T3 in '06 and a championship in '08.
Matt Kuchar -- He tends to play well even after winning a championship, so back-to-back wins are a real possibility. I view Mickelson as equal value in this spot, but I am running low on starts for Lefty.
Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley, Y.E. Yang
Ernie Els-- He had been playing well for the two months running into last week's PLAYERS, so I was very surprised how poorly he played last week. His record at the Byron Nelson is good, with four top 10s (victory in '95, T4 in '02, T7 in '05, T10 in '06) in eight career starts.
Brian Davis-- Like Els, Davis has been on a tear the last couple of months, with back-to-back T4s at the API and the SHO. He then added to his bank account early this month with a T9 at the Wells Fargo. He has been a hit-or-miss player at the Byron Nelson, but his hits are good with a T8 in '06 and a second place in '09.
John Rollins-- One of the hottest players on the TOUR at the start of the season, but he went into a slump in mid-February and just broke out of it recently with back-to-back quality starts. He earned his first top 10 at the Byron Nelson last year when he tied for sixth place.
Jason Day-- Another player that was on a roll going into last week's PLAYERS, then missed the cut. He has a very strong past history at the Byron Nelson, with a championship in '10 and a fifth place last year.
D.A. Points, Ken Duke, Ryan Palmer, Harrison Frazar, Charley Hoffman
Louis Oosthuizen-- He missed the cut at THE PLAYERS, but before that he was on a roll with third at the SHO, a second place at the Masters and a championship at the Malaysian Open. This is his first start at the Byron Nelson.
Jason Dufner-- He played well for most of the season, and then earned his first TOUR title in New Orleans. He got married just before THE PLAYERS. He made the cut at TPC Sawgras, but seemed to run out of gas on the weekend. I'm looking for him to rebound this week at a course he tied for eighth place last year.
Carl Pettersson, Jeff Overton, Brian Gay, Bob Estes, John Huh
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: HP Byron Nelson (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Matt Kuchar
Group 2: Brian Davis
Group 3: Jonas Blixt
Group 4: Will Claxton
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at noon ET. They will be breaking down the field at HP Byron Nelson Championship and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.