On Wednesday night, a multitude of T.V. executives and PGA Tour sponsors were in a state of panic.
In the morning, the dewy, verdant fairways of TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, TX would play host to the HP Byron Nelson Championship, but there was an ominous, palpable void plaguing the minds of the big-whigsnone of the top 10 ranked players in the world would be competing this week.
After watching the first round of play, I don't miss the top ten; I don't miss Tiger throwing clubs, Mickleson smiling like a big dog strolling across the fairway, or Jim Furyk's misshapen swing.
Just like on the golf course when a 50-foot lag putt incredulously rolls in, or you march up to the elevated, viridescent green to find your ball just inches from the cup—I too was delightfully surprised by the constant suspense of today's round.
Here were my highlights.
Potential: Day's Debut
Jason Day has got game. His backswing is a little short at the top, reminiscent of Anthony Kim's patented 3/4 backswing, which then unravels as he whips his club on the downswing and literally pounds the ball. The swing is a fluid, Michelangelean piece of art, illuminating Day's relenteless precision throughout his golf swing. But all the same, he brutally rips through the golf ball, as if loading up in his back swing to chop wood.
Ranked 11th in Driving Distance on the PGA Tour, Day has enormous potential to become a threat each time he enters a tournament. However, the flat-stick has clearly hindered his progress, as he is ranked at 152nd on the Tour in Putting. After a six-birdie day, with two reparable birdies on his ninth and 18th holes, Day is currently in the lead at 4-under par.
Don't be surprised if the Byron Nelson is Day's debut.
Power: Alert Dustin Johnson now approaching the tee-box
Announcer's predicted that, regardless of the obstacles posed by the 7th hole542-yards, up-hill, into the wind, with a plethora of sand-traps protecting any and every entrance to the fairway Dustin Johnson would carry the bunkers (at least 285 yards away), knock his second shot onto the green, and tap in his eagle, strolling off the green with his calm, cool, and collected demeanor.
Though Johnson would end up pushing his drive left, hitting a tree on his second shot, missing the green on his third, chipping it close on his fourth, and tapping in for par on his fifth shot, that didn't concern me.
What was visible to me was the level of anticipation, hype, and excitement that went hand in hand with Johnson's play. He had a massive crowd following him, announcer's constantly mentioning his unparalleled power off the tee, and produced a solid round of 3-under par, a shot behind leader Jason Day.
Don't forget, he's only 25-years old and has already won three times on Tour. If Johnson starts dropping putts and tightens up his driving accuracy, he could easily be holding the trophy come Sunday.
When Kelly Tillman asked Brad Faxon why he has had such success on the putting greens throughout his career, as well as why his putting stroke has become a model for emulation emong Tour pros, Faxon, without hesitation, explained, "Because I am not afriad to miss."
On a course like the TPC Four Seasons Resort that boasts large, undulated, and slick greens, competitors this week need to know how and when to be aggressive. For example, throughout his round Justin Leonard continued to leave putts inside of eight feet short, but he was running his lag putts five or six feet past the hole. Whereas Faxon, considered one of golf's archetypes for putting, rarely missed putts beyond a three-foot radius of the hole.
The best putters can putt under pressure. But, they can also gauge distance and speed better than their peers. They don't leave themselves tough comebacker's and rarely three-puttprobably one of the most awful feelings in golf.
So come one, come alldo not fear the void posed by the top-ten, for there is a wonderful world of golf awaiting you at the HP Byron Nelson Championship.
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