Nelson event ends an era, LPGA Tour has battle for No. 1
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Ben Crenshaw won the Byron Nelson Golf Classic in 1983 the first year it moved from Preston Trail to what is now the TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas. This will be the 35th and final year before the tournament moves to a new golf course designed by Crenshaw and his longtime architecture partner, Bill Coore.
That was enough time to create plenty of lasting moments at Las Colinas.
For all the winners — a list that includes eight Masters champions, most recently Sergio Garcia — perhaps the biggest moment involved someone who didn't even make it to the weekend. That would be Tiger Woods, whose cut streak ended at 142 tournaments in 2005 at the Nelson.
Speaking of streaks, the LPGA Tour goes to one of its stronger tournaments at the Kingsmill Championship, which might best be remembered for a playoff. It wasn't that Jiyai Shin defeated Paula Creamer in 2010, but the fact they played the same hole (No. 18) eight straight times in the playoff before it ended the next day.
The focus this year is on the battle for No. 1 among Lydia Ko, So Yeon Ryu and Ariya Jutanugarn, and the hope it can be decided by 72 holes, not 81.
The only major on the schedule is on the PGA Tour Champions, where the 50-and-older set is playing the Regions Tradition. Bernhard Langer is the defending champion. John Daly gets back to work after his champagne shower in Houston from his first PGA Tour Champions victory.
Europe is in Sicily, Italy, for a new tournament.
The AT&T Byron Nelson, held a week after The Players Championship, no longer is struggling to get stars. It has hometown star Jordan Spieth, who grew up in Dallas and has a corporate endorsement with AT&T. Dustin Johnson loves playing the Nelson, and now he happens to be the best player in the world. A late entry was Jason Day, who picked up his first PGA Tour victory seven years ago in Dallas.
Johnson is coming off his best finish in The Players Championship, a tie for 12th, though it ended his streak of five consecutive top 3s (three of them victories). Day is coming off an 81 in the final round at the TPC Sawgrass, which is no cause for alarm. He left town with an 81 two years earlier, and then won the next year.
The mystery at the Nelson is Spieth. He was a 16-year-old high school kid when he featured on the weekend in 2010 and tied for 16th. Yes, that was a good performance. But it remains his BEST finish even after winning the Masters, U.S. Open and reaching No. 1 in the world.
The defending champion is Sergio Garcia , who is trying to join Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Sam Snead as the only repeat winners of a tournament that dates to 1944. Garcia has won twice at the Nelson, both times in a playoff.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 4-7 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); 3-6 p.m. (CBS Sports).
The simple way to keep track of the race for No. 1 at the Kingsmill Championship is this: If any of the top three players win, they are No. 1.
Beyond that, it gets a little more complicated.
The short version is that Ryu, who won the first major of the year at the ANA Inspiration, has a mathematical chance of getting to No. 1 for the first time by finishing as low as 12th place. She hasn't finished out of the top 10 in seven months.
Jutanugarn, the defending champion at the Kingsmill Championship, could finish as low as seventh and still get to No. 1. As for Ko? She has gone 10 months without winning, but odds are she will stay at No. 1 by doing better than the other two.
Not to be overlooked in the math is Cristie Kerr, who picked up her 19th victory in Hawaii last month and already is a three-time winner at Kingsmill.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 9-11 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 5-7 p .m. (Golf Channel).
PGA TOUR CHAMPIONS
Compared with the men and women (any age division), the PGA Tour Champions is the last circuit to play a major, and it will be the first to be done with them.
The Regions Tradition begins a hectic stretch in which five majors will be held in a span of 73 days (barring any nine-hole playoffs), and five of the next seven tournaments on the schedule are majors — including one next week (Senior PGA Championship).
This major started in the Arizona desert, took a seven-year detour through Oregon and wound up in Alabama.
Langer will be going for his eighth career major. Another player to consider is Kevin Sutherland, who is going for his first PGA Tour Champions. He is worth noting because Sutherland has had nine consecutive top 10s, and has finished in the top 10 in just under half of his senior events.
And going back to the start — the Byron Nelson — it was Sutherland who played the opening two rounds with Woods when he missed the cut in 2005.
Television: Thursday-Friday, 12:30-3:30 p.m. (Golf Channel); Saturday-Sunday, 3-5 p.m. (Golf Channel).