New look greets Byron Nelson field
BY Bruce Young | US PGA Tour | 2008 EDS Byron Nelson Championship | Preview | 23 Apr 2008
A new look golf course will confront the field at this week’s EDS Byron Nelson Classic, the original Jay Morrish designed layout at the TPC Four Seasons Resort transformed just twelve months after hosting last year’s event by D.A Weibring.
Not only will the players face a new look golf course but to some extent a new look event with only one course in play this year compared the two previously used. The Cottonwood Valley Course, which was on the opening two days is now no longer involved and all play will be held at TPC Four Seasons.
Much of the redesign was carried out in an endeavour to create a more traditional layout in keeping with the legacy of the great Byron Nelson after whom this event is named and who is no longer with us. Just how that translates in terms of the course’s playability remains to be seen but the consensus already appears to be a positive reaction judging by early feedback from players.
The difference between the horror condition the course was in last year and this, appears like chalk and cheese and while it seems likely to play more difficult in 2008, there is a far greater quality about the condition of the course than was the case in 2007.
It seems however that all the money poured into making the course more playable might prove pointless in the attraction of the elite of the game with only one player, Adam Scott, from the world top ten in this week’s field and he is only just on that mark at number 10.
The reshuffling of the traditional dates of events such as the Players Championship in order to bring a greater balance of top line events to the season long schedule has meant that an event like the Byron Nelson, which previously fell in mid May, now precedes the Wachovia and Player Championship. Now, many of the game’s leading players who would previously have at least considered this week are using next week’s Wachovia as their final warm up to Sawgrass and missing this week.
The fact that the great man himself Byron Nelson passed away in 2006 also means that there is not quite the reverence of the event by players who would often play the event to pay homage to one of the game’s true greats.
That aside, the field does boast some very fine players and it does not always take the game’s great to make an event a success. Scott is here after a solid week at the Masters without ever looking like contending. His opening round of 63 before illness forced him to withdraw at the Houston Open is a reflection on the fact that his game is in reasonable shape.
Trevor Immelman gets his chance, provided he has both feet back on the ground, to be introduced on the first tee each day as the Masters Champion which will be quite a buzz. It is hard to say whether owning a green jacket will improve or decrease his chances this week but he is definitely a class act and one to keep an eye on. He finished runner up to Brett Wetterich in this event two years ago.
Luke Donald has mixed his form in 2008 but when he has been good he has been very good and I would imagine is a good chance to improve on his runner up place at the Honda and his third place at Riviera. That he was runner up at this venue last year to Scott Verplank after leading into the final round does not hurt his chances either despite the new look golf course.
Sean O’Hair has been impressive enough of late finishing a very solid 14th at Augusta after two very strong weeks in Florida, one of which was a win. He led this event after round one last year although that was at the Cottonwood course and then trailed by one after 36 before eventually finishing 25th. He could do very well this week. Importantly he finished runner up to Ted Purdy in this event in 2005.
Ryuji Imada is not playing to the level he was earlier in the season but he played very well in this event last year and if he can find the form that saw him finish runner up in Tampa and 35th at Riviera, his first PGA Tour victory could possibly come this week.
Another couple of players well worth keeping an eye on at longer prices are John Merrick and Stephen Marino, who have both played well in this event previously and who are in good solid form in 2008.
The Australasians are headed by Scott but others in the field are local residents, John Senden, Rod Pampling and Nathan Green, Jason Day, Steve Elkington, Mathew Goggin, Tim Wilkinson, Matt Jones, Nick Flanagan, Michael Sim, Mark Hensby, Stephen Allan, Stephen Leaney and David Lutterus.