The HP Byron Nelson Championship is to the PGA Tour what the GoDaddy.com Bowl is to College Football. If you didn’t know better, its placement on the schedule suggests a big time event, when in reality it’s simply odd schedule-filler fodder for the marquee tournaments nearby as it’s sandwiched on the calendar by Wells Fargo, Players, Colonial and Memorial. In reality, this used to be a bigger stop on the schedule, as evidenced by the girthy list of past champs, both recent and distant.
The big news that came out Tuesday was that the tournament organizers went all in on the NLU movement by grouping Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, and Justin Thomas (which, I’m sure by now you’re sick of me reminding you of, was a guest on our podcast this week). The question remains, is it safe to have this many pillars of the game concentrated in such a tight space? Although it’s not an official Secret Service policy, there is a reason that the president and vice president of the United States do not fly together. What if an unnamed terrorist came along and sought to end this OWGR takeover from the young guns and was able to take out three heroes with one swipe? With the mob scene that is going to surround this grouping on Thursday, I’m hoping that the Secret Service volunteer marshalls are on the lookout for characters like this:
Keep your eyes peeled for this guy this week
TPC Four Seasons – Las Colinas
(From Tron Carter):
Before proceeding, in the interest of full disclosure I will go ahead and say that I do work for a luxury hotel company (rhymes with Schnitz-Tarlton), which is an obvious rival of Four Seasons in the lux hospitality game. However, any biases I harbor are on the back burner when it comes to golf, as Four Seasons does a fantastic job, and I haven’t been afraid to express disappointment for a couple of the course designs in my company’s portfolio (see: WGC Match Play venue in prior years). So, I’m not at all hesitant to proclaim that Dallas deserves a better showcase course than this bland resort course. By all accounts, the resort itself is topnotch and the conditions are pristine. However, the course itself was rated the fourth worst course on the entire tour by the players, and was described by an anonymous tour pro (who I always envision to be Jeff Maggert for obvious reasons) as: “The worst course we play on tour. It doesn’t reward a good shot. Just terrible all around.” Golf Digest has ranked the top 30 courses in Texas, and the TPC doesn’t even make the list. If that doesn’t get you fired up for this week, I’m not sure what will!
The TPC Four Seasons has somehow hosted this event since 1986 (at one time over two courses in an effort to spread the field out and combat weather-related delays), and despite a redesign in 2007 by D.A. Weibring, I’d imagine the strength of the field speaks volumes about the event. The course is defined by its large and undulating greens, along with manufactured creeks and ponds that scream “resort course” and smack golf purists in the face with their stacks of dollar bills. Although come to think of it, well-manicured, artificial mounding doesn’t sound too out of character for Dallas.
Fear not, MetroPlexuals, as it sounds like Ben Crenshaw & Bill Coore are coming to your rescue by way of Trinity Forest Golf Club (here’s another one). Though there’s a paucity of information on relevant facts like if construction started yet, when the course will open, and when the tournament will relocate, it does seem that this site on a former landfill presents a unique canvas for the Crenshaw & Coore dream team (I’m betting the results will be better than another high profile landfill track – Liberty National). Ironically enough Crenshaw consulted on the original TPC Four Seasons design.
NLU‘s longtime MetroPlex correspondent, Andy Staron, was kind enough to sprinkle his local knowledge this week:
Las Colinas (née El Ranchito de Las Colinas) is a perfectly nice, little planned community set in Irving, Texas that is basically 22 million sq ft of office space and some statues of galloping horses that have somehow garnered the tiniest amount of local notoriety (no word on if they’re the same breed as Ricky Barnes). Las Colinas is sandwiched between DFW and Love Field, and the ease with which you can get in/out/get/grab/bonk is probably why it’s home to nearly as many companies as it is people. Dallas sits just to the east, and shares a regional catch-all designation (The Metrolplex) with Fort Worth, and I’ve got to believe the thousands of businessmen keep the multitude of nearby “massage” parlors in business. Ultimately, everybody knows somebody who works in Las Colinas, but I don’t think anybody cares to know shit about it.
Horses for Courses?
Dallas is a sports crazy city with a ton of golfers so I expect a full house. What does that mean for the people watching? Just imagine a strong contingent of Matt Stafford and Clayton Kershaw look-alikes milling about (minus the athletic prowess) sporting names like Aiden, Jackson, Reed, and Trip. In that same vein, expect a strong showing from the SMU crowd. The more discerning fans in and around The Metroplex likely shot their PGA Tour load at Colonial last week.
Sure, Brendon Todd won, but the real story here is… Mike Weir! Since then he has played in 20 events, and has promptly failed to to make the weekend in 18 of them. Derek Ernst thinks this was a random weekend.
Justin Thomas (30/1) – I’m going to keep betting him until he wins. Which will be soon. (By the way, can you imagine how nauseating I’m going to be if he wins the week after doing our podcast? If this happens then just feel free to unfollow).
Ian Poulter (40/1) – Casting the hate aside to point out that the guy has been pretty hammer on the course lately, and currently has longer odds than Mark Leishman (albeit, a very strong track record here) and Zach Johnson. (UPDATE: Poults continues to troll me, and has withdrawn. I’m at least trying here Ian. Meet me halfway?)
Ryan Palmer (45/1) – Finished top 10 here in 2012 and 2011, including a runner up in 2011. Expect the Texas narrative to be jammed down your throat if he’s in contention come Sunday, which I expect him to be.
Brooks Koepka (55/1) – What? The 23rd rank player in the world is like 17th on the odds list? Jet lag and recent form may be the contributing factors, but I didn’t expect to see Koepka again this year with these odds (same as Morgan Hofmann??).
Boo Weekley (100/1) – Got off to a fast start at Colonial but faded. He finished top 5 here last year, and has had a solid last couple of months.
Fantasy Corner: As much time as I spent ripping on the event and the course, the field at the top is strong to quite strong. Spieth, DJ, J-Day, Sneds, Woodland, and JT headline the field, and combinations of these guys should help you fill out your fantasy rosters.
- The other side of the pond has a much more intriguing event this week with the Irish Open at Royal County Down. I previewed this event with resident Irish expert Barry O’Hanrahan on our podcast this week.
- Scott Verplank is making his 28th career start in this event. That’s over half of a year of your life spent at the HP Byron Nelson Classic! Voluntarily! He’s a Dallas resident, but still: 28 weeks of the Byron Nelson Classic kind of sounds like a punishment sentence along the lines of community service.
- The Byron Nelson tends to rattle off ridiculous stretches of winners: ’08-’12…Adam Scott, Sabo, JDay, Keegan, Dufner. ’03-’05…Vijay, Ted Purdy (!!!), Sergio. ’95-’97…Els, Mickelson, BigCat. ’78-’80…Tom Watson, Tom Watson, Tom Watson. ’44-’46…Nelson, Snead, Hogan.
- Byron Nelson was a gentleman and a class act. Always enjoyed when he held court up in the booth with the CBS crew, damn near up to his death in 2006. Along with his wife Peggy, Mr. Nelson was a wonderful steward of this event. It’s a shame to see the tournament lose it’s footing over the past few years. The New York Times took note of the trend way back in 2010. In my opinion, several things need to happen – the Texas Swing needs to be recombined into a consecutive four week stretch, create a little four week “Texas Cup” for the best finishers in those four events, and the Byron Nelson obviously needs to move to a better course. Texas’ economy is going gangbusters, can’t imagine it would be too tough to dredge up some increased sponsorship dollars.