The PGA Tour heads to the Big D for the Byron Nelson this week with many star players in tow from last week’s Players Championship. The event is headlined by Texas native Jordan Spieth, who will be playing in front of his home crowd. Spieth will be joined by World No. 1 Dustin Johnson, T-shirt-controversy-stricken Jason Day, Masters and defending champion Sergio Garcia and last year’s runner-up Brooks Koepka. Full field and tee times
Slaying the dragon
At last year’s event Sergio Garcia earned his first PGA Tour win since the 2012 Wyndham Championship, out dueling Brooks Koepka. When you look back and reflect, you have to think this moment was a big one for Garcia, who got it done on a big stage against a big time opponent and gained much-needed confidence that helped him finally vanquish his major championship demons at this year’s Masters.
End of an era
It will be the last year the Nelson will be hosted at the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas Resort, ending a 35-year run. The course, which was designed by Jay Morrish with input from Byron Nelson, is being replaced by Dallas’ new belle of the ball, Coore and Crenshaw-designed Trinity Forest. The course change is expected to infuse some much-needed excitement into the event. The past two years have seen TPC Las Colinas deal with some serious weather – flooding in 2015 and tornadoes in 2016. But word is this year’s course is playing firm and fast. However, there is a good chance of rain over the weekend which could hamper that aspect.
It was a disappointing week for the world’s elite at TPC Sawgrass. Jordan Spieth missed the cut. Dustin Johnson backdoored his way into a top 15. Jason Day continued his lackluster 2017 season and made matters worse for himself by wearing a t-shirt at the trophy presentation. Sergio Garcia overcame a poor start to get into contention, but struggled on Sunday, shooting a 78. It will be interesting to see how each bounces back. I expect to see at least two of these players in the mix on Sunday.
At long last a chance
We’re arriving at a critical junction in the seasons of many of the Tour’s lesser-known players. Those who either haven’t gotten off to the start they envisioned or haven’t gotten the chances needed to earn the FedExCup points they need will need to make a move. At the top of the latter list is former NCAA champion Max Homa, who missed the cut in all ten of his starts. Homa has a ton of talent and possesses one of the most interesting personalities on Tour. Personally, I feel that Homa’s lack of regular starts has contributed to his poor play, but as with everything in golf, the simple rebuttal to any excuse is “Play Better.”
Besides Homa, a few other players who fall in a similar situation are Bobby Wyatt, Rick Lamb, Zach Sucher, Brian Campbell, Ryan Armour, Nicholas Lindheim, Brad Fritsch and Brett Drewitt.
After another week of strong picks from Paulie, check out who he likes for DFS, One & Done and longshots here.
Closing thoughts from The Players…
I had an awesome time attending The Players last week. Walking inside the ropes enlightened me to some aspects of the golf and the tournament that I would have brushed under the rug had I been simply watching the telecast from my couch. Here are my deep thoughts on Si Woo Kim, the slim margin for error on Tour, winning, the course and much more in the first of a new semi-regular column: The Woke Yolk.
Some other recap articles I would recommend checking out are Brendan Porath’s article on golf’s biggest festival - The Players. Kevin Van Valkenburg also dives into three undercovered storylines from the Players.
Attempting to punch a ticket
The best teams in college golf are through two of three rounds at six NCAA Regional sites with the final round contested today. The top 5 teams and top individuals from non-qualifying teams from each site will advance to the finals. Here’s a quick rundown of each and the big storyline to watch today.
The hometown Texas Longhorns are four shots ahead of Big 12 rival Oklahoma State, with Ole Miss, College of Charleston and Arizona State holding down the rest of the top 5. On the individual front, Texas holds three of the top four spots with Junior star Doug Ghim leading the way. Currently, Wake Forest’s Will Zalatoris would qualify as the individual as the Demon Deacons are on the outside looking in.
Storyline to watch: National title contender Wake Forest is currently four shots out of the top five in a three way tie for seventh. Leaderboard
Baton Rouge Regional
The LSU Tigers are playing at home and hold a seven-shot lead over Duke, with Virginia another shot back. Trailing Virginia by eight shots and holding down the final two qualifying spots are the NCAA defending champion Oregon Ducks and Northwestern. They will have to play well to hold on with Kentucky just one shot back. On the individual front it’s the Sam Burns show. LSU’s star player and potential Haskins award winner holds a five-shot lead at his home track over college golf’s No. 1 player Wyndham Clark (Oregon) and Duke’s Alex Smalley.
Storyline to watch: One of college golf’s best teams this spring has been the defending champion Oregon Ducks. They boast two of the country’s best players in Clark and Norman Xiong but were forced to fly across the country for regionals and now in danger of not making it through to defend their title. Leaderboard
College Grove Regional
Playing in their home state of Tennessee, one of college golf’s powerhouses is flexing its muscles as the Vanderbilt Commodores lead by eight shots over Lipscomb, Clemson, UCF and by eleven over fifth-place Kennesaw State. Vandy has been paced by their star Patrick Martin who sits in second place, one shot behind Lipscomb’s Dawson Armstrong who is looking to punch his ticket back to Rich Harvest Farms host of this year’s National Championship and the site of his 2015 Western Amateur win.
Storyline to watch: One quick scan of the regionals and it's clear that this is the weakest of the bunch – small-school teams dominate the landscape and it looks as though three or four could get out. Leaderboard
Using a scintillating second round of 15 under the Baylor Bears surged ahead of host Stanford by seven shots. Holding the third and fourth spots are Pepperdine and Oklahoma, followed by a trio of teams tied for the fifth and final spot: BYU, Georgia Tech and North Florida. On the individual side of things, Oklahoma’s Brad Dalke leads by three shots over Stanford’s Maverick McNealy, while Collin Morikawa is the highest individual on a non-qualifying team at T5.
Storyline to watch: Maverick McNealy will look to win his 11th career title and take over the Stanford school record for most career wins which he currently shares with Tiger Woods and Patrick Rodgers. Leaderboard
West Lafayette Regional
The surprise of the regionals so far have been the New Mexico Lobos who lead by three over UNLV heading into the final round. Six shots behind second-place UNLV and holding down the final qualifying spots, are the trio of Florida, Purdue and Auburn at 3 over. On the individual front, Illinois State’s Trent Wallace holds the lead at 6-under. The Sophomore has won two straight MVC titles but very few expected him to contend at this high of a level.
Storyline to watch: Currently on the outside looking in Illinois who is in sixth place and six shots behind Florida, Purdue and Auburn. Illinois has been a dominant fixture in college golf, advancing to the NCAA’s match play portion the past four years, and will need a big comeback to have a chance at a fifth run to match play. Leaderboard
At Aldarra Golf Club outside Seattle, the top four teams are close to set with USC holding a narrow lead over Florida State, who is trailed by Kent State and Alabama. The race is on for the final spot which is currently held by Penn State – two shots ahead of Texas A&M, three shots in front of host Washington and four clear of San Diego State. On the individual side, USC’s Justin Suh and Sean Crocker lead the way while Michigan’s pair of Kyle Mueller and Nick Carlson stand as the top non-qualifying team individuals.
Storyline to watch: Justin Suh has been scorching hot and has ascended to be one of the country’s finest players, giving USC the strongest 1-2-3 punch in college golf (Suh, Crocker, Rico Hoey). If Jonah Texeira and Freshman Cheng Jin can play solid this team will be very tough to beat at Rich Harvest. Leaderboard
The European Tour’s Rocco Forte Open in Sicily is headlined by some hometown stars.
The Web Tour heads to South Carolina for their BMW Pro-Am. Check out the pairings and storylines here.
The PGA Tour’s Jonathan Wall dives into Trinity Forest, the home of the Byron Nelson starting next year.
McIlroy’s MRI shows no damage to his ribs/back.