Exodus From Byron Nelson Classic
The legend of Byron Nelson can be expressed in Biblical proportions. One of the greats among the greatest, he accomplished feats unheard of in the professional ranks. The list is endless, but includes a string of eleven consecutive wins, and a record number of tournament victories in the year of 1945. The man for whom the famous swing machine is named, in tribute to his smooth perfection, was born in 1912, and died in 2006. He only played a relatively few years of golf in that span, achieved legendary status, then retired at the age of 34 to become a rancher. He wasn’t the sort to take his own fame seriously.
This week, the ATT&T Byron Nelson Classic begins in Irving, Texas at the TPC Four Seasons Resort. Such a tournament should also be described in Biblical proportions, just based on the name, if nothing else. If I were an aspiring professional golfer, I wouldn’t want to miss it. And yet, twelve of the names on the invitation list will do just that, withdrawing for a variety of reasons. I dare not liken it to Biblical proportions like Exodus, or making off in an ark, but it’s troubling, raises some questions, and affirms the presence of real tour fatigue, a condition that the average weekender wouldn’t really comprehend.
Jason Day is a former champion of this tournament, and he was game to go for it again. However, before the beginning of regulation play, he experienced dizziness on the course, and was advised against continuing – withdraw. Ian Poulter was all set as well, but cites what he termed as “a strain in the gym,” removing himself from the list before Thursday – withdraw. Kevin Kisner has finished in the top five in three of his last five starts, and the Byron Nelson was looking like an excellent breakthrough opportunity. His official reason for removing himself from the field is not reported, but there goes another one – withdraw. Likewise, one of Europe’s better players, Louis Oosthuizen is gone – withdraw. Jason Kobrack, Scott Gardiner, Chris Stroud, Alex Cejka, George McNeill, Neal Lancaster, Frederick Jacobsen, and Will Zalatoris round out the list – making a total of 12 counts of “withdraw.”
When Nelson won a lot of those tournaments in the 40s, in Biblical fashion, some of his best competitors were away at war. Although that factually does change things a bit, his record stands as 100% valid. So many that chose to withdraw have opened the doors for players that sat on the alternate list, and didn’t really expect to be here for the week, much less the weekend. As of mid-day Thursday, the leaderboard is already shaping up with a top five or six largely unfamiliar to the golf public, with the possible exception of Ryan Palmer. Anyone who wins this week will also enjoy a 100% valid victory. They prepared, they showed up, they played against everyone else who showed up, and they won.
Withdrawing is a common thing now. The tour is grueling. McIlroy’s decision to play for five weeks in a row raised some eyebrows. It may not look like it sitting on the couch with the chips and beer, but the schedule is mentally and physically tough, not to mention maintaining a swing through more playing than practicing. I’m just sorry that it hit critical mass at the Byron Nelson, one of the greatest of the great Texans, whose state has endured recent rains, floods, and tornadoes of Biblical proportions as well.
Still, my first thought upon seeing the list was, “Three or four more withdrawals, and I’ll bet I can get in.” That, however, would be a travesty considering the great name on the tournament title.