By Dan Reardon
The AT&T Byron Nelson has a new home. Played at TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas in Irving, Texas since the mid-1980s, the tournament moves over to the Trinity Forest Golf Club in South Dallas.
The Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw-designed course will give players a very different experience than they’re used to at the Byron Nelson and elsewhere on the PGA TOUR. Opened in 2016, Trinity Forest has many of the hallmarks of links-style golf — wavy, open expanses, dunes, windy conditions. Perhaps all that’s missing is the smell of salt in the air.
Billy Horschel is the defending champion, though the change of venue neutralizes that advantage. He’ll be in the field once again, along with Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia, and others.
For more than a quarter-century, Peter Kostis has been providing on-course analysis for CBS Sports’ coverage of the PGA Tour. One of the nation’s elite golf instructors, Kostis offers unique swing breakdowns throughout tournament coverage.
This week he weighs in on the AT&T Byron Nelson and the much talked-about debut of Trinity Forest.
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Much has already been said, both positive and negative, about the new venue for the Nelson. Talk about Trinity Forest.
First of all, the irony is not lost on me that the name is ‘Trinity Forest’ and yet there is not a tree on the golf course, not a single tree anywhere on the golf course. The design is vastly different from what these guys face on a week-to-week basis on the Tour. And so, for a lot of them it is going to be culture shock when they see the layout.
Coore and Crenshaw have done a terrific job of building a golf course that was suited to the environment they had to build it on, which is an old landfill. The regulations prohibited them from planting trees. So they were limited in what they could do with it. They have made a very interesting golf course.
Having said that, PGA TOUR players are creatures of habit. It will be very interesting to me to watch, not so much this year, but in the subsequent years, whether the players embrace it or balk at it.
A course with no rough, no trees, no water is the polar opposite of what we saw a week ago. Aside from the Texas winds, how with the course challenge you?
If the wind blows, it will be an issue. But mostly it will be the strategy of learning the lines off the tee and being able to handle the greens. Normally players like to play one-and-a-half practice rounds at most, and that’s not enough to learn the golf course. So it will be interesting to see how they handle the angles and how they figure out the bounces and contours of the greens.
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You talk about the players learning the course, but you are seeing this course competitively for the first time. How have you gone about preparing for the week at Trinity Forest?
I already started my homework last year. During the Nelson a year ago, Gary McCord and I made a trip down to Trinity Forest and went around the golf course a couple of times to try and get an idea of what was going on. And it was kind of a shock. It was so different from anything you are going to see in Texas. It’s just vastly different from anything we have ever seen.
I’ll do more work this week, especially around the green complexes, because they are very undulating and very sophisticated. And you will have to find out in a hurry which way the ball is going to break and bounce.
An important name in the field is Jordan Spieth. You’ve seen Jordan play this year without a win. What seems to be the issue?
He was sick in the offseason. And that is when he and his coach, Cameron McCormack, like to get in what we will call “spring training.” They didn’t get a chance to [because] he couldn’t play for a while.
He spent less time working on his fundamentals, working on his technique and other improvements to his golf game. So, on the one hand, I wouldn’t change anything. I would just give him more time.
On the other hand, I do see some differences in his putting stroke that they’ll have to address to get him back to the level of his PGA TOUR career. He’s hitting up too much on his putts, and that wasn’t the case when I saw him putting his best.
How about one or two other names that you think might be a good fit on this golf course?
First of all, the two storylines for the week are going to be Jordan Spieth and the golf course. I sure hope Jordan makes the cut, so we can watch him, and his hometown crowd can watch him on the weekend. Home cooking is a good way to get out of a slump.
Jordan has played this golf course probably more than anybody else in this field. So he has a distinct advantage there. Having said that, I like Ryan Palmer, who lives in Fort Worth. He knows the Texas winds. He plays well. His ball flight is very good for this golf course.
After that, I would probably take some bombers. Some guys who can really move it out there, because there is a lot of room. Depending on how they rope off the course, the gallery could separate the fairway from the long grass. The big-hitters would have a distinct advantage.
What about a not so obvious choice for the week? Keegan Bradley played well week ago, and he has won the Nelson.
Past history for the Byron Nelson tournament is thrown out the window this week. It’s of no value whatsoever. Course record holder? Doesn’t make any difference. They have no history. No one has any history. So I would go with maybe Marc Leishman. And [since] I like Floridians when they are playing in Florida, [because] they are used to the grasses, I like Texans [here]. Jimmy Walker played well a week ago, and he lives in San Antonio, so I would go with Jimmy Walker as well.
Dan Reardon has covered golf for radio station KMOX in St. Louis for 33 years. In that time, he has covered more than 100 events, including majors and other PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour tournaments. During his broadcast career, Reardon conducted one-on-one interviews with three dozen members of the World Golf of Fame. He has contributed to many publications over the years and co-authored the book Golf’s Greatest Eighteen from Random House. Reardon served as Director of Media relations for LPGA events in both St. Louis and Chicago for 10 years.