The HP Byron Nelson Championship cranked up Thursday and was replete with some pretty big names: Phil Mickelson, Keegan Bradley, Adam Scott and last week’s Players Championship winner, Matt Kuchar.
There were also some great back stories. The best is Joey Snyder III who is coming back to the Tour after five years on a Major Medical Extension due to neck and shoulder issues dating back to 2006. He has 25 events to make $647,466 which would equal the No. 125 player’s winnings from 2006. He shot 3-over and is T120 going into Friday.
On the flip side, Andres Gonzales who graduated from UNLV with a degree in Journalism and still lives where he was born in Olympia, Washington, lost his card after an abysmal rookie year in 2011. Learning to play at the highest level is a tough process. He has been whiling away his time on the Nationwide Tour this year waiting for an opportunity to get into a PGA Tour event where he could make some money and earn his card back without going to Q-School. He was 5-under after eight holes and was leading the tournament. His back nine was a little more up-and-down, but he finished at 4-under and T4.
Everyone remembers that last year’s Byron Nelson was the breakout event for Rookie of the Year, Keegan Bradley. He won in a playoff and would go on to win the PGA Championship in August. But who remembers the guy he beat in the playoff? That would be Ryan Palmer who shot 6-under Thursday to lead the tournament.
Alex Cejka is another Major Medical Extension player. He has five tournaments to make $323,264. He shot 5-under and is T2. If he can finish there, that would sew up the continuation of his Extension.
Zack Miller is another player who lost his card last year and went down to the Nationwide. The Stanford grad shot 2-under and is T24.
Patrick Reid Monday qualified into his fourth PGA Tour event of the year — do you have any idea how hard that is? — and is 1-under and T44. Pretty soon he might just start believing that he can do this. Or maybe he already does.
The Sybase Match Play Championship began at Hamilton Farm Golf Club in Gladstone, New Jersey. And as so often happens in match play format, there were some pretty big upsets.
The biggest was last year’s tenacious champion, Suzann Pettersen, going down 3 & 1 to 62nd seed, Jodi Ewart who made four birdies over the last six holes of the match to take Pettersen out.
No. 56, Ryann O’Toole took out No. 9, Brittany Lincicome 2 & 1 and only needed two birdies to do it. A match by two great players playing very steady golf.
No. 57, Jennifer Johnson beat No. 8, Paula Creamer 2 & 1. Creamer was 3-down after five holes and fought back to even over the next three. They traded birdies to stay even and then Johnson ran the match out with six straight birdies while Creamer made two bogies.
It’s also noteworthy that No. 20, Michelle Wie continues her slump losing 3 & 2 to Mina Harigae and No. 4, Ai Miyazato lost 2 down to No. 61, Mariajo Uribe.
Such are the vagaries of match play. As a winning Natalie Gulbis said, “…it’s so much different when you’re playing at a professional level in match play because anybody really can beat anyone every day, and players can actually beat you. When you’re an amateur, you feel like when you lose matches, sometimes you beat yourself. But when you have the best players in the world, it’s whoever plays better on that particular day.
The Volvo World Match Play Championship got underway at Finca Cortesin, in Casares, Andalucía, Spain.
American Brandt Snedeker pulled off a pretty amazing 5 & 4 win over Thomas Björn.
He won the opening three holes with only 11 borrowed clubs as he waited for his own clubs to arrive. They had been delayed at the start of the week and didn’t arrive until Thursday. Snededeker was able to add three of them to take him up to the maximum 14 clubs. “I used John Senden’s back-up driver and it worked really well, so I think it’s mine now. The putter I got from the pro shop – they haven’t charged me yet!”
When his set finally arrived he added a three wood, fairway wood, and lob wedge. Pretty amazing, indeed.
Sergio Garcia beat long-driving, Alvaro Quiros, 2 & 1 and Rafael Cabrera-Bello beat Martin Kaymer 3 & 2.
However, due to the quirky nature of the tournament, all is not lost for the losers. The format has the 24 players in the field drawn in eight groups of three. Each player in each group plays the other in a round robin to determine the top two players. And it then conforms to a classic, 16-player match play bracket.
For those with short memories, the event was contested for years at Wentworth Club in Surrey, England, until it moved to Spain in 2009.
This is an unusual post for me because I normally focus on just one tournament and typically the PGA Tour. But there were so many interesting things happening in all three of these tournaments, I thought they were all worthy of comment.