TPC Four Seasons-Las Colinas not only hosts the HP Byron Nelson Championship, but it reintroduces a pair of layout characteristics absent on the PGA TOUR for several weeks. For one, it's the first par 70 since PGA National hosted The Honda Classic. While all 156 golfers in Irving, Texas, are playing the same track, all that matters is making fewer strokes than the next guy, but with only two par 5s on which to capitalize, opportunities to separate are limited.
Las Colinas is also the first hybrid design since the Match Play the week before the Honda; that is, approaches from Bermudagrass fairways will be targeted at bentgrass greens (that average 6,000 square feet). These guys are good, but they can also adapt. Still, this significant wrinkle will help pry open the door for a handful of surprises on the final leaderboard. Three of the last four champions were first-time winners -- Jason Day (2010), Keegan Bradley (2011), Sang-moon Bae (2013).
At plus-0.413 strokes to par, Las Colinas checked in as the fourth-most challenging par 70 in a non-major for the second consecutive season. Yet, it was the easiest the course scored since 2009 (-0.315) during its only stint under par after it was redesigned prior to the 2008 edition. While it always boasts some of the hardest fairways to find off the tee, it's largely irrelevant since the course peaks at 7,166 yards and usually plays host to a putting contest.
Defending champion Sang-moon Bae ranked T39 in driving accuracy, but finished T9 in greens in regulation and 17th in scrambling. Like many before him, most notably Rory Sabbatini (2009) and Jason Day (2010), the South Korean found paydirt time and again with his putter. He placed second in both strokes gained-putting and average distance of putts made. He co-led the field with 12 conversions outside 10 feet.
Midweek rain is expected to shift east by the opening round if not sooner. Dry conditions are anticipated throughout the tournament, but the ubiquitous moderate-to-gusty winds will remind the field that it's in Texas. High temperatures a couple of clicks on either side of 80 degrees are forecast.
Power Rankings: HP Byron Nelson Championship
1 Keegan Bradley 2 Jordan Spieth 3 Charl Schwartzel 4 Martin Kaymer 5 Jimmy Walker 6 Marc Leishman 7 Gary Woodland 8 Matt Kuchar 9 Dustin Johnson 10 Ryo Ishikawa 11 Ryan Palmer 12 Rory Sabbatini 13 Jason Dufner 14 Brian Stuard 15 Morgan Hoffmann