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HP Byron Nelson Preview

   by Matt Fargo - 05/19/2010

The PGA Tour stays in Texas this week for the HP Byron Nelson Championship from the TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas in Irving, Texas. Irving has served as host city to the Nelson for more than 25 years and this event is the ninth longest running active tournament on the schedule. Despite this storied history, it does not attract the same field that it used to and that is a real shame. The highest ranked player in the field is Hunter Mahan, 17th in the OWGR.

It was just five years ago that the Nelson had all five of the top five players in the OWGR and now along with the Hope, it is the only other regular event not conflicting with a WGC event that doesn’t have a top-10 player in the field. Scheduling is the problem as it conflicts with the European Tour’s BMW PGA Championship which has five of the OWGR top ten players in the field. Overall, the Nelson has only 26 of the world’s top 100 players teeing it up this week.

This will be the third year the TPC will be the sole host as Cottonwood was removed from the rotation. The winning score that year was -7 by Adam Scott and the higher score can be attributed to the earlier date, late April, as opposed to the late May date last year when Rory Sabbatini broke the tournament record at -19. The weather forecast looks much better than it did at the Valero Texas Open so we should expect to see players going low for a second straight year.

There are only four players in the field this week that have made the cut at the Nelson in each of the last four years – Justin Leonard, Joe Ogilvie, Nathan Green and J.J. Henry. Of those four, Leonard (+3000) is the lone player to place in the top 30 in three of those four years so if you are looking at recent consistent history, Leonard is your guy. He has made the cut in 15 of 16 starts here and even though his best finish is a T6, his near perfect record on the weekend makes him a strong contender.

Defending champion Sabbatini (+3000) will look to become the first player to win consecutive Nelson titles since Tom Watson won three in a row from 1978 to 1980. Last year he shot 19 under for the week, setting a new tournament record. He also brings a T3 in 2007, the final year of the course rotations. It has been an up and down 2010 and he has made only seven cuts in 14 starts with just one top 10 and that was a runner up finish at the SBS Championship in the first week of the season.

As mentioned, Hunter Mahan (+2000), is the top-ranked competitor in the field and thus he is listed as the favorite. His record at the Nelson is average as his best finish over the last four years is T42 in 2008. He has played sparsely since the Masters but he has put together three straight top 17 finishes including a T17 at THE PLAYERS last time out. Mahan leads the tour in ball striking which is important since GIR is very important in a Par 70 event.

Ben Crane (+2500) took the week off following a T4 at THE PLAYERS which was his third top ten of the season. Included was a win at the Farmers back in January and with very light competition, he could make it two wins in 2010. He was the runner up at the Nelson in 2002 and since then his best finish is T25 in 2007 but he has made the weekend in four of the last five years. He ranks 10th in greens hit and second in birdies or better on par fours so his game this year suits the Four Seasons.

Scott Verplank (+3000) is in the midst of a late career comeback. The native Texan finished strong last year and comes in off a T13 at THE PLAYERS. He has made the cut at the Nelson only 12 times in 25 starts but if he makes the weekend, he usually plays very well. He has seven top 20 finishes and five top tens including a win in 2007 which was his last win on tour and his last strong year. He covets this tournament and with a limited field, he could be there again.

Bo Van Pelt (+3000) is starting to make a name for himself. He is coming off a T28 last week at the Valero which ended a stretch of three straight top five finishes. He missed the cut here last year but played the weekend in five straight years with a T13 being his best finish and those years were not nearly as good as things are going in 2010. He has the tools as he is second in ball striking and eighth in birdies or better on par fours. He has made seven cuts in his last eight starts.

Charlie Hoffman (+3000) was bothered with a wrist injury earlier this season but he looks to be healthy once again. We used him last week at the Valero and he finished T13 but a bogey on 16 and a double on 18 on Sunday is the reason it was not a better finish. He ended the week first in birdies but it was the 13 bogeys or worse that did him in. He finished T23 at the Nelson last year and prior to that he had finishes of T7 in 2008 and T8 in 2006. His putting rank of fifth last week will come in handy.

This week for a longshot, we will take a stab with Charlie Wi (+6000). Wi has never won on tour but he has been a runner up on three different occasions and with this field, he has a great shot in my opinion. He is coming off his second best finish of the year last week in San Antonio with a T17 and he has finished T27 or better in six of his last 10 starts. He has made the cut at the Nelson the last three years and has finishes of T7 and T23 the last two. He has shown in the past the ability to go real low.

Recommended Tournament Win Bets at the HP Byron Nelson Championship

Ben Crane (+2500)

Bo Van Pelt (+3000)

Charlie Hoffman (+3000)

Justin Leonard (+3000)

Charlie Wi (+6000)

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