Now that the Players Championship is history, the Europeans have headed back across the Atlantic for the Open De Espana this weekend, and the all-important BMW European PGA Championship next week from Virginia Waters. The BMW has major Ryder Cup impact, and everyone who has hopes to make Team Europe in September will be on hand.
That leaves 156 players to take the field in the HP Byron Nelson Championship at TPC Four Seasons Resort, in Las Colinas, Texas on Thursday. Sang Moon Bae is the defending Champion, taking a wire-to-wire win away from Keegan Bradley in a fine display of putting on Sunday afternoon last year.
This is an opportunity for American players to make up some ground on the FedEx Cup points standings, and put some much-needed dollars in their pockets. The summer Texas Swing is always a great place to play golf, and an excellent opportunity for another first-time winner on the PGA Tour.
The current FedEx Cup leader won three tournaments since the wrap-around season began back in October. In fact, he won the first event of the year at The Frys.com up in Northern California. He won the Sony Open during the Hawaii loop, and the most prestigious of the West Coast swing at Pebble Beach. Walker hasn’t played poorly since the tour left California, but he hasn’t gotten in the winners circle either. I expect him to get a win East of Eden(California) and The HP Byron Nelson would be a nice win for the 35 year-old Baylor grad.
With the return to a par 70 venue(the first since the Honda Classic), Walker stands a great chance to get number four this week. He tied the low round at Sawgrass on Sunday with a 65, and finished in a tie for sixth place. He leads the tour in Strokes Gained Putting.
Keegan Bradley always plays good at Las Colinas. The 2011 Champ opened last year with a course record 60, and just got out-played on Sunday by Bae. He second in all-time earnings at Four Seasons Resort, and should be a factor again this seek. He could use a win, and THe HP Byron Nelson would be a great place to pick up some confidence before everyone goes to Pinehurst.
Marc Leishman is one of the better wind players on the tour, and it will probably come in handy this week in North Texas. I think he has put his Masters collapse behind him, and is looking to move forward. He finished T 23 last week at The Players, and has made all four cuts here, finishing in the top 15 in all appearances.
I would be remiss not to include the Players champ here. His game looks very solid, even with the stumble at the 15th and 16th holes on Sunday. Since giving up on the swing changes, his confidence continues to climb. The only question that comes up, is he mentally ready to charge to the front again so soon after his Sunday victory. Winning does begat winning. He tied 5th here last year in his debut at Four Seasons.
After two heart-breaking losses at the Masters, and Sunday at TPC Sawgrass, is Jordan Spieth ready to comet again so soon? This is his home course, and the place where he made the first noise back in 2010. He finished T 16 as a teenager who was skipping classes in high school to play golf with the big boys. This is his fourth appearance, and maybe a win in familiar setting would get the ball rolling for the 2013 Rookie of the Year.
Charl Schwartzel, who is in the field this week at The Byron Nelson Championship discusses using the club fitting vans available to the Pros every week on the PGA Tour. This “Talking Shop” segment is provided by SI and Golf.com.