Tour stars not overly ea­ger to test the new By­ron Nel­son venue

Dal­las tour­na­ment’s 50th an­niver­sary fea­tures ‘Amer­i­can’-style links setup

Edmonton Journal - - SPORTS - SCHUYLER DIXON

Jor­dan Spi­eth didn’t try to sell his peers on join­ing him at a new links-style course for the 50th an­niver­sary of his home­town AT&T By­ron Nel­son tour­na­ment.

The three-time ma­jor win­ner says he was hon­est when asked over the past year about the un­du­lat­ing lay­out, with no trees or wa­ter haz­ards, on what used to be a land­fill a few miles south of down­town Dal­las.

The fields weren’t great the past decade at the TPC Four Sea­sons re­sort in sub­ur­ban Irv­ing, the tour­na­ment’s home for 35 years. The re­turn to Dal­las at Trin­ity For­est Golf Club, named for the 6,000 acres of thick trees sur­round­ing the course, didn’t do much to change that, at least for now.

“The most com­mon ques­tion is, ‘ What’s it like?’” Spi­eth said. “Pretty vague ques­tion, but, you know, I say it’s very different. Th­ese are my words: It’s re­ally fun as a mem­ber, as a change-of-pace kind of golf club.”

Spi­eth (No. 3) and ninth-ranked Hideki Mat­suyama, mak­ing his Nel­son de­but Thurs­day, are the only play­ers from the world top 10 in the field. Ser­gio Gar­cia, the Nel­son win­ner two years ago and 2017 Mas­ters champ, is next at 14th.

Whether it’s sched­ul­ing, los­ing the ameni­ties of a re­sort or fac­ing an un­fa­mil­iar brand of PGA Tour golf, most of the big names are stay­ing away. Billy Horschel ad­mit­ted he prob­a­bly wouldn’t be at the course co-de­signed by Ben Cren­shaw if he weren’t the de­fend­ing cham­pion.

“Look, most peo­ple just don’t like different, do they?” said Adam Scott, the 2008 Nel­son champ play­ing the event for the first time in six years. “This is just different than what we nor­mally roll out and play.”

Wind will de­ter­mine the dif­fi­culty on the par-71 lay­out. Thurs­day is sup­posed to be calm with winds ex­pected to pick up Fri­day and Satur­day into the 30 km/h range — a num­ber Ge­off Ogilvy used as a thresh­old for things get­ting “in­ter­est­ing.

“You have to ask Jor­dan or the mem­bers who play out here into crazy winds be­cause I haven’t seen it yet,” Ogilvy said. “Noth­ing to stop the wind. Pretty ex­posed place.”

Spi­eth is talk­ing up the par-3 No. 17 be­cause of a green with a large mound through the mid­dle that Cren­shaw says was a nat­u­ral part of the land­scape. A dou­ble green for the third and 11th holes is billed as the largest on an 18-hole course in North Amer­ica.

The short par-4 fifth will be one to watch be­cause it’s eas­ily reach­able off the tee — es­pe­cially with a pre­vail­ing south wind — and eas­ily could be a big source of trou­ble. The fin­ish­ing hole on each nine is a par 4 of more than 500 yards.

“Like ev­ery­thing here in the U.S., the greens are big­ger, the fair­ways are big­ger, but it’s the clos­est thing you can get to a links course,” said Gar­cia, who is from Spain. “It’s an Amer­i­can links course.”

A day after Horschel won the last Nel­son at the Four Sea­sons, his wife went pub­lic on so­cial me­dia with her strug­gles with al­co­holism. Horschel had made a vague ref­er­ence to per­sonal is­sues after win­ning.

A year later, he raves about the re­sponse he and his wife re­ceived. He is com­ing off a win last month in New Or­leans and is deal­ing with not hav­ing the data he would pre­fer to cre­ate a game plan for Trin­ity For­est.

“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,” Horschel said. “We’re all try­ing to fig­ure it out.”

Look, most peo­ple just don’t like different, do they? This is just different than what we nor­mally roll out and play.

ADAM SCOTT, 2008 By­ron Nel­son cham­pion

Spi­eth’s first splash in pro golf came as a 16-year-old am­a­teur at the Nel­son in 2010, when he tied for 16th. That re­mains his best fin­ish, which is an­other rea­son he’s ex­cited about the venue change. He be­lieves his peers will come around.

Ogilvy, who showed an in­ter­est in the project from its ear­li­est stages, agrees.

“I think this course will stand the test of time,” he said. “Peo­ple will en­joy it ev­ery year they play it more and more. Get­ting guys out of their com­fort zone, I think, is a good thing.”

If Spi­eth ever de­cides to make a sales pitch, he might have a part­ner.

VER­NON BRYANT/THE DAL­LAS MORN­ING NEWS/THE AS­SO­CI­ATED PRESS

Jor­dan Spi­eth (No. 3) and ninth-ranked Hideki Mat­suyama are the only play­ers in the world top 10 in the field at the AT&T By­ron Nel­son tour­na­ment, which be­gins Thurs­day in the Dal­las area.

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