The PGA Tour moves to Texas this week for the HP Byron Nelson Championship taking place at TPC Four Seasons. Named in honour of theone of the game’s true greats, the event has a roll of honour to rival any regular season tournament. Tiger Woods, Phil Mickelson, Ernie Els, Vijay Singh, Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead and of course Byron Nelson have won this event in its various guises. Last year, Jason Dufner added his name to the roll of honour to claim his 2nd victory in a 3-week period where he picked up his maiden PGA Tour victory in New Orleans and got married, quite incredible.
The Byron Nelson has been held at a variety of locations during its history, all
of them within the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. However, since 2008 it has been held exclusively at TPC Four Seasons following an extensive renovation of the course. Four Seasons provides a stern examination of player’s games, particularly in respect of approaches to the greens. The greens at Four Season are large and undulating and simply hitting greens in regulation will not lead to a good score, proximity to the hole or a hot putter are much more important.
Compared to the Players, the field this week is lacking in terms of top world ranked players. Louis Oosthuizen is the sole representative from the world’s top 10, with just 12 others in the world’s top 50. However, the field can still boast 12 major winners, including 2011 Byron Nelson & PGA Championship winner, Keegan Bradley. Other major winners include Angel Cabrera, Martin Kaymer, Charl Schwartzel and Padraig Harrington. Another exciting tournament is in prospect and here are the 5 players I expect to be challenging for the win followed 5 players who I think will be potential surprise packages.
5 for the win
Jason Day – It’s hard to crab Day’s record at TPC Four Seasons, in his three appearances he has finished 1st, tied 5th & tied 9th. Put simply it is an impressive record and he clearly likes the course which is unsurprising as it is the home of his sole PGA Tour win to date. His form this season has been very solid with no missed cuts in 10 starts, the highlight of which was his 3rd place finish at Augusta. He would have finished much further up the leaderboard but for an unusually cold putter during round 2. It is easy to see why he will be one of the favourites this week and it would take a brave man to bet against him putting himself in contention for the win on Sunday.
Dustin Johnson – Despite his withdrawal from the Players on Friday, Johnson is all set to line up this week and is another who boasts strong course form. He’s made the cut in all 4 starts and his last three have resulted in finishes of tied 4th, 7th & 20th. He has had an eventful season, leading the Masters during round 2 before dropping 6 shots in his last 5 holes and winning the first tournament of the season in Hawaii. He will be looking build up momentum going into a period of 3 major’s in 7 weeks, ultimately a major is the next step for DJ but he will take a win here along the way.
Marc Leishman – Leishman is in a real purple patch with a run of form that has seen him finish tied 4th at Augusta, tied 9th at Hilton Head and tied 8th at Sawgrass. He made 4 appearances at TPC Four Seasons, missing 1 cut but the 3 cuts made have resulted in finishes of tied 3rd, tied 8th and tied 12th. The confidence he gained from his performance at Augusta looks to have propelled his game to a new level. His sole PGA Tour victory came on a par 70 track at River Highlands so it all paints the picture of someone with very solid claims this week.
Vijay Singh – Singh’s name has been in the headlines for all the wrong reasons this year but this week represents a genuine opportunity to break his winless streak which is approaching 5 years. Coming into this event with just a solitary top 25 finish all year and off the back of two missed cuts, you could argue that Singh would rate as a surprise package this week but that would be disrespectful to him. Despite his average looking results, he sits 21st in greens in regulation, 26th for total driving and 6th in proximity to hole, statistics that could be invaluable this week, He finished tied 9th last year and will want to finish a few places higher this year.
Charl Schwartzel – When Charl recorded 2 wide margin victories at the end of 2012 and start of 2013, there was an expectation that he would go on and be a prolific winner in 2013. Despite a number of impressive performances since he has not fulfilled that expectation yet and comes in to this week on the back of a disappointing weekend at Sawgrass where he was never at the races. He has all the attributes to succeed at Four Seasons, he is accurate off the tee and his putting stats are always strong. His capability of lapping a field by a wide margin could play on opponents mind should he get in or around the lead early in this event, I just feel that it will take one good opening round for his game to reignite.
5 surprise packages
Ken Duke – Duke ticks two big boxes for this week in my eyes, he has course form and has relevant statistics to back it up. Best described as journeyman veteran, Duke had his best season on tour last year with 6 top 10’s included a finish of tied 7th at Four Seasons. He has started 2013 with a great deal of inconsistency, a sole top 10 at Bay Hill came in the middle of 4 missed cuts. He played well in Texas earlier this year at San Antonio but for a torrid 3rd round of 75. He is top of driving accuracy for 2013 and 4th in proximity to hole; his lack of length should not be punished this week so he has plenty in his favour to surprise
Jeff Overton – There could be an argument against an Overton win being a surprise this week. However, considering he has put himself in position to win only to fall away so many times, I think he is in that bracket. He missedthe cut here last season but had finished tied 3rd and 8th in his two preceding visits to Four Seasons so the course appears to suit his game when on form. His putting statistics this year see him sitting 2nd in total putting and 18th in strokes gained-putting. On large greens like those at Four Seasons, his sharp putting could be lethal and might yield a surprising win.
Bob Estes – Texan Estes would be a popular choice of locals to do well this week and his tied 7th finish in San Antonio would suggest he is capable of producing a big performance this week. He has missed just 2 cuts all year and is 4th in 3-putt avoidance, 2nd in scrambling, 13th in proximity to hole and 2nd in bogey avoidance. His problem is that he is not making enough birdies to push him from being an also ran to being in contention, Four Seasons might play to his strengths this week and he will have the support of the galleries either way.
Jonas Blixt – 2013 has not started as Blixt would have hoped after claiming his maiden PGA Tour victory in late 2012. This is largely due to his putter going cold; this was his strongest asset in 2012 so it is no surprise to see him with lots of missed cuts so far in 2013. He has made 3 of his last 4 cuts and whilst he has finished well down the field, he has gained invaluable competitive golf time. I am willing to take a chance that a return a course where he finished tied 3rd last season, during a run of 3 good performances on tour, will lead to an upturn in form.
Camilo Villegas – Villegas would have been one of the favourites for this event just 3 years ago but his dip in form has been drastic and he only notched 4 top 25’s in 2012. However, he has started 2013 with 3 top 25’s including 1 top 10 at Hilton Head; he is definitely showing signs of being back on an upward curve. 3rd in proximity to hole, 18th in greens in regulation, and 20th in Par 3 performance are statistics that bare out the upturn in his form. This could be a big week for Camilo who, at 30, is young enough to recapture his past form and build on it further.