May 10, 2014

Nelson week puts PGA Tour front, center on DFW sports calendar

Plenty of top players will tee off in Irving, Fort Worth in next two weeks.

It is time for the Metroplex Majors to be front and center on the Dallas-Fort Worth sports calendar.

The PGA Tour begins its two-week trek through DFW, with stops at the HP Byron Nelson Championship in Irving (Monday-Sunday) and the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial, May 19-25 in Fort Worth.

Golfers begin competing for $6.9 million in prize money in Thursday’s opening round of the Nelson. The Colonial purse will be $6.4 million, with both winners in DFW guaranteed of checks in excess of $1.15 million.

Several high-profile competitors, including two players ranked among the top 10 in the world golf rankings (Matt Kuchar, Jordan Spieth), have committed to play in both events. This week’s action will unfold in Irving, where the list of Nelson headliners also includes Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Dustin Johnson, Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Charl Schwartzel and Sang-Moon Bae, the defending champ.

The tournament, named for the late golf legend from Roanoke, is unique among PGA Tour stops and has contributed more than $132 million to local charities since its inception. That figure is tops among tour events.

Below is a blitz of Nelson-related information to get you prepared for the first leg of the PGA Tour’s two-week journey through DFW:

Keegan Bradley, Nelson course record-holder:

Keegan Bradley, the No. 20 player in the world golf rankings, heads into this week’s HP Byron Nelson Championship with two enviable entries on his list of accomplishments at Irving’s annual PGA Tour stop.

 Bradley won the 2011 Nelson title in his first appearance at the Four Seasons Resort, a triumph that helped him earn 2011 Rookie of the Year honors from peers. Bradley also fired a 10-under-par 60 in last year’s opening round at the TPC layout, making him the course record-holder at the venue where golfers will convene for Thursday’s opening round of the $6.9 million event.

 Bradley, 27, has finished first (2011), 24th (2012) and second (2013) in three appearances at the Nelson, making him a likely contender this week in Irving. Bradley, nephew of LPGA Hall of Famer Pat Bradley, has three career victories at PGA Tour events and heads to Irving with three top-10 finishes this season. He ranks No. 21 in the FedEx Cup standings.

 Bradley began working in December with swing instructor Chuck Cook and said off-season tweaks incorporated into his game are starting to show meaningful results. Below is a look at Bradley in his own words:

On his work with Cook: “I feel very comfortable with Chuck and what we’re doing. It’s all just maintenance now. We’re doing a lot of short game, a lot of wedges. But we’re not making many more changes. My golf swing and putter and short game feel solid.”

On his competitive spirit: “It’s about being in contention. Personally, when I’m not in contention, it’s no fun. I love waking up and feeling that energy [in weekend rounds], getting to the first tee and seeing the bigger crowds.”

On the challenge of winning events on the 2014 PGA Tour: “It’s really hard. The players are so good, from the first guy in the field to the last guy. We all grew up watching Tiger [Woods] and you’re seeing his generation play now. And they’re not afraid to go win tournaments.”

On his relationship with Pat Bradley, his Hall of Fame aunt who won 31 LPGA titles: “She is a lot calmer on the golf course than she is watching me on TV. It’s just fun to talk to her. We can relate without saying that much and she can say something to me that’s right on. We talk a lot.”

On thoughts of tying the PGA Tour scoring record (59) during last year’s course-record 60 in Irving: “I finished eagle, birdie, birdie so it didn’t cross my mind very much. It did in the fairway, on the last hole. I hit a wedge, going right at it, and it crossed my mind for a second that it would be unbelievable if I buried this. I had a 3-footer to shoot 60 and I was very nervous and uncomfortable over it. Thank God I made it.”

On holding the Nelson course record: “Shooting a course record is pretty unbelievable at an event like this, considering the history and the players that have played here before me. It’s awesome. The course fits my eye really well and I feel comfortable out there. It’s a lot of drivers, which I like.”

On being a past Nelson champion: “I grew up idolizing Ben Hogan and Byron Nelson a lot. I know a lot of history about both of them. To win Mr. Nelson’s championship, his trophy, it’s an unbelievable feeling. It’s surreal.”

Byron Nelson numbers

Byron Nelson, the late golf legend from Roanoke who is the tournament’s namesake, always will be synonymous with this event. Nelson died in 2006, at age 94, but many of his achievements remain eye-opening. His two most incredible PGA Tour records (most single-season wins, longest winning streak at tour events), set in 1945, still stand. Below are some defining digits in regard to Nelson’s golf career and the tournament that bears his name:

1 Victory by the tournament namesake in his own event, called the Texas Victory Open when he won in 1944. The event was renamed to honor Nelson in 1968.

2 Seasons as the leading money winner on PGA Tour (1944, 1945).

6 Tournament victories by 10 strokes or more by Nelson in his professional career.

9 Nelson’s highest score on any hole in PGA Tour competition. And it required three penalty strokes.

11 Consecutive victories during the 1945 season (and 18 total, both PGA Tour records).

21 Age of Tiger Woods, the youngest Nelson tournament champion, when he won in 1997.

44 Age of Scott Verplank, the oldest Nelson tournament champion, when he won in 2007.

60 Course record for the Nelson tournament course (TPC Las Colinas), set in last year’s opening round by Keegan Bradley.

62 Nelson’s lowest score in any round during his record-setting 1945 season.

70 Consecutive Top 10 finishes at PGA Tour events (1942-46) by Nelson, a tour record.

113 Consecutive tournaments where Nelson made the cut and earned money during the height of his career.

132 Million dollars contributed to local charities during the history of the Nelson tournament, the top total among PGA Tour events.

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