Welcome everyone to this years Byron Nelson Championship. This event has been part of the PGA schedule for many years dating back to 1944 when Mr. Nelson won the inaugural tournament by a convincing ten strokes over Harold McSpaden. Have any other golf legends won this event? Well let's see.. Sam Snead won here 3 times, Ben Hogan won it in 1946, Jack Nicklaus won it back to back in '70-'71(in '70 another legend, Arnold Palmer finished runner up), Tom Watson won 4 times over a six year period between '75-'80, Ben Crenshaw won it in '83, Fred Couples in '87, Ernie Els '95, Phil Mickelson '96, Tiger Woods '97. Safe to say all of the games greats have played and/or won this event at some point in their career. Last year Jason Dufner kissed the trophy for the second time in a three week period as he beat out Dicky Pride by one stroke finishing at -11/269.
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This course sets up as a 7166 yard** par 70 that under went major renovations in 2007/2008. It is now home to large undulating greens, that will force players to stick close on their approach shots. One of the tours most challenging courses off the tee. Players will need to be fairly long as well as accurate off the tee this week, total driving will be a key stat. Also with the large greens we'll want to look closely at GIR(as always) and more importantly proximity to hole. The Texas winds often have an impact on this event and it looks like will be seeing around 20 mph most of the week. Interesting to note that since Bruce Litzke won for the second time in 1988 their has been a different winner every year! Texas residents have enjoyed some recent success of late 3 of the previous 6 winners here call Texas home including Scott Verplank('07), Rory Sabbatini('09) and Jason Day('10). Another interesting note is the winning score variance, depending on the wind this course can show teeth in a hurry. In 2009 Rory Sabbatini won this event with a final score of -19, in '10 Day won it at -10, in '11 when Keegan Bradley won he finished at just -3 and last year Dufner posted -11 for the win.
This years field is rather weak with Louis Oosthuizen(7th) the only player in the field in the WGR top 10. Some of the other notables include Matt Kuchar, Dufner, Day, Charl Schwartzel, 2011 winner Keegan and Dustin Johnson who w/d during last weeks Players Championship with a sore wrist. It'll be interesting to see how he plays this week. Also teeing it up with the big boys will be 14 y/o Guan Tianlang who is in on another sponsors exemption along Texas' own Jordan Spieth who has been playing great this season also on sponsors exemptions.
Jason Day 14/1
Winner here in 2010, Day is a great pick this week on top of his game. Since his win he's posted two more top tens here taking solo fifth in '11 and T9 last year. Jason as also been playing some great golf this season making 10/10 cuts with four top 10's including solo thirds at the WGC Match Play and The Masters. A good all around player, Jason uses good course management to his advantage. Long off the tee and good with the flat stick as well as a good scrambler look for Jason to grind his way into contention as he's done in years past. He currently ranks 14th driving distance, 20th strokes gained putting, 14th scrambling, 24th par 4 performance, 20th par 5 performance.
Keegan Bradley 20/1
Also a previous winner here Keegan is another solid golfer who we'll be happy to back this week. Keegan won this event as a tournament rookie in 2011 when the winds were howling, with some wind expected this week Bradley should have an advantage once again. This year he's made 10/13 cuts with five top 10's including three top 5's at the TOC(T4), Honda(T4) and Bay Hill(T3). The last event he played in Texas was the Shell where he took a T10. Last year Keegan ranked first in the all around department and this year ranks 17th. Also ranks 5th in total driving, 22nd ball striking, 12th par 5 performance and 3rd going for the green.
Ryan Palmer 25/1
Ryan is a born and raised Texas is boy who has enjoyed some success here. Ryan has played this event each of the last nine years and though it took him awhile it seems he has found a niche here. He missed 6 cuts in his first 7 trips but since then has posted back to back top tens. Lost in a playoff during the very windy edition of this event in 2011 and T9 last year. Has been playing well this season making 9/12 cuts with three top 10's including a T5 at last weeks Players. This course sets up nicely for Palmer's game look for him to be in contention all week. Some of Ryan's key stats for this week, 11th driving distance, 22nd all around, 17th in ball striking, 20th par 4 performance, 15th par 5 performance, 66th proximity to hole, 7th going for the green.
Jordan Spieth 40/1
Another born and raised Texas player, Jordan has done well here recently. Although he's a rookie on tour this will be his third time playing this event. He T16th here in his debut and T32 during the windy '11 edition. Jordan has been playing well this season making 6/9 cuts with three top 10 finishes highlighted by his T2 in Puerto Rico. Jordan is going to win on tour soon and this could very well be his week. A solid all around player, Jordan's game sets up nicely for this course. Some his key stats this week, 22nd total driving, 12th all around, 9th par 4 performance, 27th ball striking and scrambling, 42nd proximity to hole.
John Rollins 66/1
Yes Texas residency is the theme this week for the most part and John is offering some nice value for us at this event. He's been here before, many times, having played this event every year since 2002 where he's made 8/11 cuts including 5 of his last 6 with his best finish coming during the aforementioned 2011 season when he T6th. A good all around player and solid ball striker I expect him to perform well this week. Some of his key stats this week, 26th all around, 31st ball striking, 27th fairway proximity, 26th GIR.
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