The HP Byron Nelson Championship has been an exciting stop on the PGA Tour throughout its illustrious history, and a strong field will travel to Irving, Texas, for the 2014 edition of this marquee event.
A number of different narratives have shaped the tournament at TPC Four Seasons Resort in recent years. After Rory Sabbatini set the 72-hole scoring record in his 2009 triumph, a premier young talent in Jason Day followed up the next year for his first tour victory.
Keegan Bradley used his win at the Byron Nelson as a stepping stone ahead of his major coronation at the 2011 PGA Championship. The man he defeated in a playoff for the Wanamaker Trophy, Jason Dufner, backed up his previous first victory by seizing his second win of 2012 in Irving.
The defending champion is Sang-Moon Bae, who defeated Bradley by two strokes for his only PGA Tour win here thanks to four rounds in the 60s. But he'll have a hard time guarding the trophy given the caliber of golfers vying to take it from him.
Read on for a closer look at the tournament, along with analysis on some of the big developments to watch in another week that promises thrills on the links.
Note: Statistics are courtesy of PGATour.com.
When: Thursday, May 15 through Sunday, May 18
Where: TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas
Tee Times: For a complete list of tee times for the first two rounds, visit PGATour.com.
Purse: $6,900,000; Winner's Share: $1,242,000
FedEx Cup Points: 500
|Thursday, May 15||3-6 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Friday, May 16||3-6 p.m.||Golf Channel|
|Saturday, May 17||1-2:30 p.m., 3-6 p.m.||Golf Channel, CBS|
|Sunday, May 18||1-2:30 p.m., 3-6 p.m.||Golf Channel, CBS|
Can Martin Kaymer Keep It Going?
Last week's win at the Players Championship—made far more suspenseful by some shaky shots down the stretch following a weather delay—was monumental for Kaymer as he works his way back up the world rankings.
Kaymer is a former world No. 1, but he opted to rebuild his swing and struggled to find his form. Now the 2010 PGA Championship winner appears destined for further greatness after fending off an elite field for a wire-to-wire triumph, punctuated by a spectacular par save at the par-three 17th on Sunday:
The German star credited his longtime swing coach, Gunter Kessler, for the return to prominence at TPC Sawgrass last weekend, per the Associated Press, via PGATour.com:
He has the talent to teach really everyone, and that is for me really a world-class coach. He doesn't like the big stage and he doesn't like to be in all those newspapers and stuff. But I really [believe] he deserves that. It doesn't make him a happier person, and that makes him even nicer. ... Working together worked out very well. We have a lot of trust in each other because it worked out fairly well the first 13, 14 years. So now I can bring the trophy home and show him that we did well.
It's been a long road back, but Kaymer is no doubt thrilled to get such a great result. Even in the midst of lackluster play by his high standards, the Byron Nelson Championship was kind to Kaymer last season, as he finished in joint fifth.
Given how well he played for at least 68 holes last week and the strong finish in Irving in 2013, there's plenty of evidence to suggest Kaymer can indeed keep the ball rolling and put up another strong result.
Ranking fourth in total driving on tour will help Kaymer's cause, as he should position himself well off the tee to fortify the confidence in his swing. As long as his putter is behaving, expect him to be a factor again over the final 36 holes.
Hometown Hero Jordan Spieth Due For Breakthrough
Yes, Spieth was in the final pairing with Kaymer at the Players. Don't mistake this as an exercise in leaning on last week's big tournament too much, because Spieth deserves the recognition even in a forward-looking sense.
It is rather mind-boggling to contemplate how much Spieth has accomplished after having zero PGA Tour status entering last season. Now in the top 10 in the world, the 20-year-old sensation came close to winning both the Masters and the Players in two of his past three starts, with a tie for 12th at the RBC Heritage sandwiched in between.
Some have criticized Spieth for not having more wins on his resume other than last year's John Deere Classic. ESPN's Gene Wojciechowski came to the youngster's defense:
Seriously, am amazed people question @JordanSpieth ability to close out Sundays. One thing he dsnt lack is toughness. He's 20. He'll learn.— Gene Wojciechowski (@GenoEspn) May 12, 2014
American golf is looking for the next Tiger Woods and will likely never find anyone quite like him. Spieth shouldn't be admonished for not living up to Woods' gaudy standards. Plus, the native Texan deserves a grace period, considering Woods didn't have his historic 12-stroke Masters victory in 1997 until age 21.
What helps him stand out from the rest of the game's prodigies is that Spieth has uncommon composure and is so developed in all areas to the point that he doesn't have a glaring weakness. There's at least some sentiment from Spieth that he'll break through again soon after his high finishes in golf's biggest events:
Thanks for all the support it means a lot.. Closing on tour obviously takes a couple tries in the big ones. Home game this week let's go!!— Jordan Spieth (@JordanSpieth) May 12, 2014
Being confident but not cocky while staying in the moment and not looking too far ahead has to be borderline impossible for Spieth. He has such a bright future and has risen so fast that it's hard to even put into historical context.
Although the consistency of his ball-striking offers room for improvement, an impeccable short game should keep Spieth in contention almost every time he tees it up. Ranks of 11th in birdie or better conversion percentage and eighth in scrambling assure that to be true and may forecast victory No. 2 on the horizon soon.
Underrated Group to Watch
Who is a likelier first-time winner this week?
The trio of Brian Davis, Martin Flores and Morgan Hoffmann has a grand total of zero PGA Tour victories, but all three players are more than capable and long overdue to find the winner's circle.
Davis has had poor results here in recent years, yet he did finish runner-up in the 2009 Byron Nelson and is coming off of a tie for 11th at the Players.
All that really held Davis back from contending in that event was two double bogeys on the daunting par-three penultimate hole at TPC Sawgrass, and four overall. If he can cut out the big numbers, perhaps Davis is in for a career-altering moment in Irving.
A third-place finish at the Wells Fargo Championship had to be somewhat disappointing for Flores in light of his final-round 72 and a real shot at grabbing his first tour title.
Hailing from Fort Worth, Texas, this will no doubt be a venue Flores wants to perform well at to build on his recent success. Flores' previous two starts in the Lone Star State have seen him finish inside the top 20, too.
As for Hoffmann, he struggles to string together good weeks, though he is coming off his second-best finish of the season with a tie for 17th at the Players. The former Oklahoma State standout is just 24, ranked tied for sixth at TPC Sawgrass with 20 birdies and could become yet another 20-something winner on tour this year.
Tying for fifth at this tournament last year bodes well for Hoffmann in his quest to capitalize on his talent and match fellow former Cowboy Rickie Fowler's win total.
A lot of star power will descend upon the TPC Four Seasons this week, and whether a precocious player can once again rise to the occasion remains to be seen. It would certainly be good for golf for Spieth to emerge with the trophy, but the HP Byron Nelson Championship has been a gold mine for first-time winners and those on the cusp of superstardom.
The argument can be made that Spieth is already there, and that Kaymer has simply reaffirmed that he deserves the superstar label. Both players would benefit a ton from backing up their strong form with an additional win here.
But as difficult as it is to stay steady in the game of golf and with how many hungry players are taking their talents to the course, there is room for a new household name at the 2014 HP Byron Nelson Championship.