By Dave Shedloski
What began as the Dallas Open in 1944 was named after legendary Byron Nelson in 1968, making it the first PGA TOUR event to put a player on its marquee. Nelson just happened to be the very first winner of what today is known as the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Four of the top 10 players in the world and 10 of the top 30 will be in attendance at TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas in the Dallas suburb of Irving, Texas, and another hometown hero will have plenty of attention. That would be world No. 2 Jordan Spieth, the reigning U.S. Open champion, who has played in this event since he was 16 years old. Oddly, he’s never improved on his 16th place finish from that debut in 2010, but he’ll certainly be highly motivated after missing the cut at THE PLAYERS last week.
Weather will be a factor, with rain in the forecast, adding to the copious amounts that have fallen already on the 7,166-yard, par-70 layout that has been home to the event since it opened in 1983. Of course, so much rain fell last year, when Steven Bowditch claimed his second TOUR title, that the par-4 14th hole had to be converted to a par-3, making the layout play to par-69, believed to be a first in TOUR history.
Three of the last six champions won their first TOUR titles at TPC Las Colinas — and in their debut in the event, to boot: Jason Day in 2010, Keegan Bradley in 2011 and Sang-moon Bae in 2013. Only Bradley returns, and he has made the cut in each of his five appearances.
CBS Sports veteran golf analyst Ian Baker-Finch looks at the course, the field and what to expect at TPC Las Colinas.
This was the first PGA TOUR event that took on the name of a player. What does that mean, and how special is it to be paying homage to Byron Nelson?
Having Byron’s name adds a lot of credibility to the tournament. It’s one of the most special events, in the realm of the Arnold Palmer Invitational, Jack Nicklaus’ Memorial or Colonial, which is associated with Ben Hogan. You look at the past winners, starting with Byron, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan the first three years. You can’t do better than that. I’ve been coming here since 1985, so this is 30 years for myself. It’s a great tournament that honors a special guy.
Is this potentially a fun week for the field after difficult tests at Quail Hollow and TPC Sawgrass? Ten of the last 16 winners have shot all four rounds in the 60s.
I think this will be a much-needed enjoyable week. Soft conditions after a ton of rain, and there might be more. Rough will be quite thick with all that rain. Wind comes into play in the Dallas area, but maybe not this week. Yes, you might see the guys tear it up.
After missing the cut at THE PLAYERS, does Jordan Spieth have to show something this week, even just to himself?
It’s great that he supports his hometown event. He’s probably more worried about how many tickets he needs to get and things of that nature. But I think he has that mentality every week, to be the best he can be and get back to [the] No. 1 ranking and mix it up with Jason Day, who is on a tear. As much as he wants to redeem himself and play great, it’s a tricky one for him. As good as he is, there are a lot of distractions for him.
Defending champion Steven Bowditch, who lives nearby, has struggled recently and has missed the cut in five straight events. Will a return home get him untracked?
Let’s hope he gets his confidence back. He’s had an injury to his hand, and one of the hardest things to come back from is an injury that changes what you’ve been doing. Then he loses his confidence. It’s a chicken-and-egg thing now. Does he need to play well to gain confidence or have confidence to play well? Maybe fond memories will get him going. He got married there on the 18th green to Amanda, won there last year… maybe that’s the remedy.
Three of the last six winners, including World No. 1 Jason Day in 2010, won their first PGA TOUR title here. Any particular reason for the trend?
I’m not sure there’s any particular reason. Sometimes it takes the right environment. After some tough events, this is a little bit of a breather of sorts, not that it’s easy. You’ve got 10 of the top 30 in the world. But guys are ready to win, even if they haven’t done it before. You can’t discount anyone.
Give us your picks for favorites and long shots.
My favorites would include Matt Kuchar, who always plays pretty well here. Louis Oosthuizen is a good one, too. When Louis is on, he’s good as anyone in the world. I like Charley Hoffman; he’s in really good form. You can’t call Jason Dufner a dark horse with a major, and he’s a past champion, but he’s on my radar. I also like Colt Knost. He played well last week at THE PLAYERS, and this is a hometown event for him, too.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.