PGA Tour: My Observations From Outside The Ropes at the Byron Nelson

Todd KaufmannSenior Writer IMay 29, 2010

Normally I wouldn't do this, but I'm feeling somewhat inspired to, so bear with me, ok?

Last weekend, I got my first opportunity to cover the Byron Nelson Classic in Irving, TX, or as the native Texans call it, "The Nelson."

The drive from my home to "The Nelson" is about 35 to 40 minutes though it doesn't feel that long since I've done this kind of drive before, so much it's become automatic.

As I exited the freeway and started north, the closer I got to the golf course the more I started to notice small signs either on the side of the road or in front of people's homes. The signs either read "Nelson tickets here" or "need Nelson tickets."

It made me chuckle a little bit because of the signs that sat in front of people's homes. I can't imagine someone would be comfortable with some stranger knocking on their door and saying, "your sign says you're selling Nelson tickets."

Call me crazy, but I'm not exactly comfortable with having a stranger come to my home and knock on my door for tickets to a sporting event. Though it does make me curious if those signs are up on Sundays selling Dallas Cowboy tickets.

After parking and boarding the media shuttle bus, I found my way to the media center and took a quick look around, just to get my bearings. I got to meet a few members of the media and had a great time getting to know them over the next couple of days.

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I know you didn't come here to read about who I met there, so let's get back to the fun stuff shall we?

The first thing I will say is a big thank you to the Four Seasons Golf Resort and Spa for feeding us incredibly well. For my first ever PGA Tournament event as a member of the media, I didn't really expect the food to be any good, but the food was incredible.  So, big ups to The Four Season's in Irving.

I made the mistake of not staying in the air conditioned media center where I was nice and comfortable and could get updates on any of the players I needed updates on.

Instead, I decided to make a bad decision and venture out on to the course to follow around 16-year old Jordan Spieth, who was getting a lot of attention for becoming the sixth youngest to ever make a PGA Tour cut.

Needless to say, and for those of you who live in Texas, you know what I'm talking about.   It was a tad warm already and it wasn't even 10 o'clock yet.

I followed Spieth around for maybe four or five holes until I realized that wearing pants was another horrible decision on my part. So I wandered back in to the media area and stayed there to follow the rest of his round, a round that he finished three-under par, which undoubtedly impressed me.

I did end up going back out on the course with a few friends and began to make some observations of what I was seeing, and it wasn't the players I was noticing.

Prior to my trip to the Nelson, I was told by one of my good friends that the Nelson is a "see and be seen" type of tournament. I wasn't quite sure what that meant but I quickly realized just what he was talking about.

Now, for those of you that have walked a tournament before or followed your favorite golfer at a local PGA tournament, you know that dressing comfortably is the way to go with the amount of walking that you'll be doing.

What that usually means is tennis shoes, shorts, and a comfortable t-shirt or collared shirt that doesn't make you sweat profusely.

So, with that in mind, imagine my surprise when I see girls in stiletto heals and dresses that don't leave much to the imagination. The "see and be seen" was finally clicking in my mind and it became clear just what my buddy was referring to.

The first question out of my mouth, and apparently it was said loud enough for one the guys I was with to hear, was "why in the world would you do that?" To which this friend of mine responded, "because they can." Now, a response like that normally wouldn't send me in to fits of laughter, but the look on his face said more than the three words that came out.

For those of you who haven't been to "the Nelson" it's definitely a great place to watch a tournament and it's a beautiful golf course, especially after the amount of money that was spent making improvements after complaints had been made after the tournament a few years ago.

One observation that surprised me the most came from this young 16-year old Jordan Spieth, who had galleries so big you'd think it was Tiger Woods playing if you couldn't see Jordan.

He was playing like a champ on Saturday. He was sinking putts, making good choices, and capitalizing on opportunities. But that wasn't what I was most impressed with.

After his round had come to a close, they announced in the media center that Spieth was about to enter the interview room to answer questions about his round that day. To my surprise, not only did he answer every question he was asked, but he answered it like he'd been playing on tour his entire life.

He was poised, he was confident, and he spoke way beyond his 16 years. After his press conference concluded, I quickly figured out where he got that.

In listening to both his mom and dad doing interviews after Jordan left, it became clear to me that his down to earth mentality and humbleness were taught at a very early age. I overheard his father saying they've turned down several media interviews because they want to keep him a "kid" for a long as they can.

That's definitely refreshing after I hear about so many parents pushing their kids to stardom way too soon.

The following day, I arrived back at the Nelson an hour earlier than I had the previous day and I filed a story about Jordan Spieth and how he could be the next up and coming star in the PGA Tour. Though he still had a lot of growing up to do, the way he carried himself on Saturday and the way he played showed tons of potential.

Apparently I jinxed him, because Spieth showed his age and inexperience in a big way on Sunday. He couldn't find the fairway, he was missing putts, and he didn't reach a single green on any of the par three's. That, above all else, will keep you out of contention in just about any tournament you play.

With all that being said, and even after a horrible front nine, Spieith found himself just three shots back as he played hole number 10. It left a lot of us in the media room raising our eyebrows and wondering aloud if this kid could actually pull off the impossible.

But, missed opportunities and missed fairways continued to plague the young phenom and eventually fell victim to his own emotions.

I remember during his post-round press conference on Sunday, someone in the media telling him that he "saved the tournament" especially since Tiger wasn't in the field. That's a lot of pressure to put on a young kid, especially with it being his first PGA Tour event.

The kid handled the question like a veteran, staying humble disregarding the fact that he saved anything. Even after a tough round and multiple missed opportunities, the young phenom showed us that it's not the last we'll see of him.

Little did most of us know, there was drama unfolding on the 18th hole as Spieth was speaking. Seems Jason Day, the current leader at the time, was trying to give away the tournament after hitting his first shot in the water.

Just when it looked like Day was going to give both strokes back, he hit a solid putt from outside 20 feet for the win and just barely hung on to win the 2010 Byron Nelson Championship.

The tournament was a blast, especially for my first time. The course was beautiful, the fans were excited and loud when they needed to be, and the volunteers and course officials were as nice as they could be. It made the tournament a success and it's the reason that it's such a big draw each and every year it comes to town.

Though I had my laughs at some of the apparel choices by some of the patrons, it was a fun weekend for me and a great experience.

I use the lessons learned last weekend for this weekend's PGA Tour event in Fort Worth, TX at the Crowne Plaza Invitational, or better known as The Colonial.

Unfortunately, Phil Mickelson missed the cut, so the defending Master's champion will not be here for the weekend.  This will almost certainly cut down on the number of fans in attendance.

Covering the PGA Tour is not only an honor for myself personally, especially to be able to watch some of the best golfers this sport has to offer, but the people watching is probably the most fun. It never ceases to amaze me the things people will wear.

More observations to come as the Crowne Plaza Invitational rolls on.

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