If you’re a golf lover, chances are you log some TV time watching the pros compete. You know Amen Corner, The Bear Trap, The Green Mile—and the perils of the more classic courses on the PGA TOUR. But, now that the AT&T Byron Nelson has moved from the well-manicured, tree-lined Four Seasons Resort and Club in Las Colinas to the links-style, 7,380-yard Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, what can you expect when you tune in this week?
Here’s a quick rundown for your viewing pleasure.
If you’re used to the lush, green, photo op courses so prevalent on the PGA, Trinity Forest may jar your senses at first glance. Built on a landfill, this Bill Coore-Ben Crenshaw design is an Americanized version of a links-style course with native grass, a bounty of bunkers and a very natural look. Take away the tee markers and flagsticks and, at least to this non-camper, it looks more like a hiking trail than a place to walk 18.
What you won’t see: water or trees on the course. Although a lush border of trees line the no-man’s-land on the sloping fairways, the course is shade free, without a water hazard in sight. You also won’t see a venue that’s a classic, straight shot-A-to-B-to-C- course, where the ball is best played almost exclusively in the air. Trinity Forest is designed to play firm and fast, which means there’s not really a “right” way to play it. So, players will use the ground, the slopes, and good-old-fashioned gravity, incorporating a variety of shot shapes and trajectories.
Because of the course design, it doesn’t favor long hitters or short hitters, or one specific playing style. So, things could get interesting.
Being the first year at Trinity Forest Golf Club and the week after The Players, it’s not surprising that the field is running a little short on TOUR star power, despite the $7.7 million total purse. Although hometown hero and Trinity Forest member Jordan Spieth is the current favorite, the fact that it’s a new course, with a broader field, opens up the possibilities for a dark horse victory.
Of course, don’t rule out defending champ Billy Horschel. He believes that defending at a new course isn’t as big of a disadvantage as one might think.
“We would always like to go back to the course where we played well,” Horschel said. “But, I’ve been saying it may be a touch easier to defend at a new course because, except for maybe a handful, two handfuls, of players that play this course a little bit, everyone is on an even, level playing ground. We’re all trying to figure it out, how to play it, where to hit it and everything. If we can dissect it a little bit quicker and better than anybody else, it gives us a good chance as compared to Las Colinas.”
The winner may well end up being the player with the most creativity and imagination, which will likely make this year’s AT&T Byron Nelson a lot of fun to watch. At this moment, it’s anyone’s game.
“The guys who get it quick are going to really do well around the greens and going to be able to get the ball very close from positions that look quite difficult,” said 2008 Nelson Champion Adam Scott. “The guys who don’t use their imagination are going to struggle a bit, hit good shots and not get good results. The challenge this week is really all around the greens and using that imagination from a couple hundred yards out, and using some slopes to bring it in instead of fly it in.”
In the past, the Nelson was synonymous with rain, often torrential downpours—and heroic efforts to prep the saturated course. This week, no rain, but record heat is predicted, with tournament days well into the mid-90s to close to 100 degrees—high temps that even Dallas doesn’t normally see until mid-July.
“The heat this week could be a factor. There are no trees to find shade under and there’s no escaping the heat,” Scott said. “I’m expecting pretty slow rounds out there. The greens are so big, guys are going to have hundred-foot putts regularly with seven different breaks in them. So, we’re going to be playing five-and-a-half hours out in 100 degrees. Going to have to be wary of fluids and that kind of stuff this week.”
So, does that mean the earlier the tee time, the lower the day-one score? Or is a hot putter more important than heat tolerance and hydration? It won’t be long until we find out.
The 50th AT&T Byron Nelson tees up Thursday, May 17th and runs through Sunday, May 20th. Look for more updates from Purpose2Play.com as the action unfolds.