Pre-Tournament Analysis - Byron Nelson Championship

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Need to know something about the Byron Nelson Championship? Well our news team have the lowdown...

Byron Nelson Championship, part of the PGA Tour, is getting underway in Dallas, Texas with some of the world's best golfers preparing to tackle the 7,166 yard par 70 course. It is characterised by large greens so tends to favour the best putters on the tour. 

The tournament is named after one of the greatest names in golf. Nelson, who died in 2006, won 52 PGA Tour events including 18 in just one year, 1945. That included a sequence of 11 victories in a row. 

The tournament which bears his name, was first called the Texas Victory Open and was won by Nelson himself in 1944 and became the Byron Nelson Golf Classic in 1968. Winning scores in recent years have varied, explained partly by strong winds which were especially troublesome when Keegan Bradley won in 2011. 

He won with a score of just three under par, which contrasts with the 13 under par score achieved by Sang-moon Bae last year and the 19 under par score from Rory Sabbatini in 2009.

Martin Kaymer arrives in Dallas, fresh from his win at Sawgrass, and is aiming to win a second tournament in a row. 

The Players Championship saw an impressive performance from the German who became the first European player to win on the PGA tour this year. He led from the opening round, a score of 63 giving him the perfect start.

On his final round he held a three-shot lead on the 14th before a storm halted play for over an hour at Sawgrass. When play resumed, Kaymer seemed to lose some of his focus and he double bogeyed the 15th. 

However, he came back well on the final two holes, sinking a 29-foot putt for par on the 17th and achieving another par on the 18th. That gave him a one under par 71 round and left him 13 under for the Championship, a shot ahead of Jim Furyk and two clear of Sergio Garcia. 

The win was Kaymer's first since 2012 and he hopes it will propel him back into Ryder Cup contention. It was his putt which ensured that Europe retained the trophy the last time it was held in 2012 and he hopes to make the European side for Gleneagles in September. 

Kaymer rose from 61 to 28 in the rankings as a result of his win at Sawgrass and the German will hope to get even higher by the end of the Byron Nelson Championship. After winning his only major, the PGA Championship in 2010, he made number one in the world a few months later upon reaching the WGC World Match Play final.

He subsequently dropped down the rankings but, even before his win at Sawgrass there were signs he was returning to something like his old form. He was 31st in Augusta, his best ever Masters performance and was 23rd at Hilton Head and 18th at Wells Fargo. 

He also arrives back in Texas after a successful Byron Nelson tournament last year, the first time he played the event. Consistent rounds of 68-67-69-68 gave him a fifth placed finish. 

The winner last year was Sang-Moon Bae, the South Korean golfer in what was his first victory on the PGA Tour. Keegan Bradley was the leader going into the final round but Bae moved four ahead of his American rival when he produced birdies in four of his first seven holes. 

He threatened to blow the lead when he found the water at the ninth, resulting in a double-bogey and dropped shots at both the 10th and 15th moved him back to a share of the lead. However, a birdie on the 16th together with a Bradley bogey on the following hole, gave the South Korean the victory. 

Keegan Bradley himself won the tournament in 2011 and is among the favourites again this year. It was his first PGA win but he followed it up with his first major, the PGA Championship in the same year, and so became part of an elite group of golfers who have won a major at the first attempt. 

Both of those wins, the Byron Nelson and the PGA, were won after a play-off. Bradley won his third PGA event the following year, when he won the WGC Bridgestone International. Keegan's second place in this event last year was marked by a sensational opening round of 60, 10 below par and though he could not capitalise in later rounds, he says it is a course that he likes. 

His recent form has seen him miss the cut at the Masters in Augusta and at Sawgrass, though he was eighth in the New Orleans tournament in between. 

Jordan Spieth is expected to be a contender, especially as he was born in Dallas and has played the event before. Still only 20, he first played the Byron Nelson as a 16-year-old back in 2010, finishing a creditable 16th though he was in seventh place going into the final round. 

He lived up to his promise last year, winning his first PGA Tour event, the John Deere Classic in July, which he won after a play-off from David Hearn and Zach Johnson.

His good form has continued this year, finishing tied for second at the Masters behind the winner Bubba Watson, to become the youngest runner up in the tournament's history. He had a share of the lead with Watson going into the last round and, at one point was ahead by two shots. Watson retook the lead and held on but Spieth's performance propelled him into the world's top ten and a fourth place at Sawgrass continued his rapid development. 

Matt Kuchar is another player in good form on the PGA Tour. He has had seven PGA wins in his career, but never a major, a third placed finish in the 2012 Masters being his best tournament. His most recent tour win was April 2014 when he won the RBC Heritage event, an 11 under par score beating Luke Donald by one shot. 

He has been consistent in the Byron Nelson in the past; making the cut each time on the six occasions he has played it, though he has only made the top 10 once.

Jimmy Walker has been in a rich vein of form in the past few months, getting his first three victories on the PGA Tour between October 2013 and February 2014. The wins came at the Open in Arizona, the Sony in Hawaii and the Pebble Beach National in California. 

Born in Texas, he has not fared particularly well at the Byron Nelson in the past, making the cut six times out of seven, but not yet making the top 20. He will want to put that right this year.

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