By Mike McAllister, PGATOUR.COM
IRVING, Texas – A few odds and ends on the eve of Thursday’s opening round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship …
WEATHER: No precipitation is expected this week. And the temperatures will be manageable (topping out in the high 80s). Now for the most important part – what’s the wind going to do?
Shouldn’t be much of a factor on Thursday or Sunday, with winds maxing out at 10-15 mph. But in the middle two rounds, the winds are forecast at 10-20 mph with higher gusts. And that’s what will determine just how difficult the TPC Four Seasons Resort course will play this week.
“The wind is the big thing that can protect this golf course,” 2008 HP Byron Nelson champ Adam Scott said. “If it’s not windy, it’s in perfect condition … There will be a bunch of guys who have their week this week and shoot their numbers – unless the wind gets up.”
WHO NEEDS A JUMPSTART?: Jason Day won here in 2010 and finished fifth last year. Perhaps returning to this event will get his 2012 season untracked.
Through his first seven starts this year, Day has just one top-10 finish and ranks 109th in FedExCup points. Coming in here a year ago, he had five top-10s and ranked 28th in points.
Another past HP Byron Nelson champ, Rory Sabbatini, could also use a boost. The 2009 champ has just one top-10 in his first 13 starts and ranks 105th in FedExCup points.
Day and Sabbatini, incidentally, will be in the same group for the first two rounds. They’ll play with defending champ Keegan Bradley.
DALLAS DEBUTS: Three-time major winner Padraig Harrington is making his first start at the HP Byron Nelson; it’s also the first time he has played a TOUR event in the North Dallas area (he has never played at Colonial).
Louis Oosthuizen, who won the 2010 British Open and lost in a playoff to Bubba Watson at the Masters, is also making his first start at TPC Four Seasons Resort this week. Might be wise to watch out for Oosthuizen this week – he shot a 7-under 63 in Wednesday’s pro-am.
TIM’S TIME: Phil Mickelson has yet to hit a shot this week in competition, but it’s already been a successful week for his family. Brother Tim, the head golf coach at Arizona State, took medalist honors at the U.S. Open local qualifier at Phoenix Country Club, shooting 66.
TOTAL DRIVING: If you’re looking for potential winners this week, keep an eye on total driving – a combination of accuracy and distance. Last year, Keegan Bradley ranked third in the field in total driving on his way to victory.
Of the players in the top 10 in total driving this year, six are in the field – No. 1 John Rollins, No. 2 Boo Weekley, No. 5 Louis Oosthuizen, No. 9 Roberto Castro and No. 10 Keegan Bradley. (Click for total driving stat)
“It’s a course that’s demanding off the tee,” Bradley said.
DISTANCE DUO: One of the intriguing threesomes in the first two rounds includes bombers Robert Garrigus and Gary Woodland. They were two of the top five in driving distance last year; Garrigus ranks third this year, and Woodland is 14th.
Third member of that group? Brian Gay. He ranks 172nd in distance.
The threesome tee off at 1:40 p.m. ET on Thursday off the 10th tee.
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