We've gotten some funky winners at the GTE-turned-Verizon-now-EDS Byron Nelson Classic/Championship in recent years. Robert Damron. Shigeki Maruyama. Ted Purdy. It's rare to see the PGA Tour's middle class thriving amid such strong fields, and this week's gathering, despite the absence of Tiger Woods, is no exception. Six of the world's top 10 are expected in Dallas.
Although the TPC at Las Colinas hardly gets mentioned as one of the tour's better venues (everyone also must play a round across the street at quirky Cottonwood Valley), the host course is a decent test when the wind blows, which is often. Las Colinas is a par 70, which might explain why a number of short hitters (John Cook, Loren Roberts) have won here.
Nick Price comes in with a streak of five consecutive top-10s at the Nelson, including a T-3 in 2001 and a solo second in 2003. In 24 rounds on the two courses since 2000, Price hasn't shot higher than 71. His scoring average over that period is a spiffy 67.7. It's enough to help me overlook the 81 Price shot in the first round of the Wachovia Championship and his four missed cuts in six starts in 2006.
Price is 49, and his best days obviously are long behind him, but he still can contend and win at this venue. The harder the wind blows, the more I like a guy who remains one of the game's better shotmakers, particularly with his irons.
John Hawkins is a senior writer for Golf World magazine.