BYRON NELSON INSIDE TRACK
Our Harry Emanuel brings you his pre-tournament analysis of the Byron Nelson Championship.
The EDS Bryon Nelson Championship in Irving, Texas, has a new look this year.
The TPC Four Seasons Resort Course has undergone a major redesign by DA Weibring and his partner Steve Walford, in association with PGA Tour players JJ Henry and Harrison Frazar.
The tournament will also have a different format as the Cottonwood Valley Golf Course has been removed from the rotation and the entire tournament will be played at the TPC Four Seasons Resort.
The par-70 course now plays 7,166 yards, an increase of 144, and local resident Anthony Kim believes “it’s a lot tougher than last year”.
Every hole has been re-laid with new turf and irrigation from tee to green. More than 65 bunkers have been added and 160 trees have been removed.
Changes have been made to the moulding around the greens and they have been re-laid with Bentgrass.
Weibring actually contacted more than 100 professional players, including Tiger Woods, for their views on the old course. Most felt modern technology had made the original design obsolete in many places and the golf course did not provide the stiff test of its original design by Jay Moorish in 1986.
The first two holes which have been lengthened by 65 and 35 yards respectively.
The third hole has now plays 480 yards and as Weibring said: “It’s designed to get driver back in their hands.”
On the fourth the fairway has been moved closer to the water bringing the hazard into play.
The 11th has now become a risk-reward, drivable par four. In previous years the design did not allow players to ‘have a go’ at the green but this 323-yard par four should give some players a decent look at eagle.
The finishing holes have been tweaked “to create a little more drama” according to Henry.
The mouldings on the greens at 16 and 17 have been altered to allow good shots to feed down towards Sunday pin placements, giving the players an honest chance at eagle and birdie. In the past these pins were relatively inaccessible.
The corporate boxes are positioned on the 17th and new spectator viewing areas have been added. For the first time alcohol will be served on the course and one can only hope that it doesn’t turn into the 16th at the FBR Open in Scottsdale.
The 18th has seen the tee box moved left, the green tweaked, a waterfall and four lakes added to replace the old lake. It has brought the water closer to the green and will put a little more pressure on any player trying to close out the tournament.
Before you throw the form book out of the window it is worth pointing out most holes have not been dramatically altered.
As Ted Purdy pointed out: “The holes that were good on this golf course he didn’t change, he didn’t mess with.”
Most of the work has involved alterations to the sight lines off the tees and cleaning up the areas around the greens. It may have a slightly different look but essentially it is very much the same golf course.
The one constant at this championship is the wind. When it blows the conditions can become very tough. The forecast is for strong winds on Thursday and at 15-25mph and steady winds of 10-20mph on Friday and Sunday.
The greens are firm and set to run at 10-10.5 on the Stimpmeter. New greens always take a few years to ‘bed in’ and in the early years they are generally firm, making it difficult to stop the ball with mid- to long-irons.
The rough will not be as high as previous years as the new grass needs time to mature and with the firm greens high rough would be too testing for the players in the eyes of the PGA Tour.
A mixture of firm greens and some strong winds will keep scoring down and one can expect the more experienced professionals to come to the fore.
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