2014 HP Byron Nelson Championship | Local Knowledge

2014 HP Byron Nelson Championship
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After extensive changes by D.A. Weibring in 2008, TPC Four Seasons has become a much tougher course for the PGA Tour's best.
By T.J. Auclair, Senior Interactive Producer
PGA.com
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Series: Local Knowledge

This week, the PGA Tour is in Irving, Texas, for a tournament that bears the name of one of the game's all-time greats -- Byron Nelson.

The HP Byron Nelson Championship is played at TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas -- a course that once was a birdie-fest, but after extensive changes has toughened up significantly.

Before the start of the tournament, we had the opportunity to chat with PGA Director of Golf at TPC Four Seasons, Paul Earnest, who himself has participated in the event a handful of times.

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Earnest spoke about the tournament, the field, the course and more in this week's edition of Local Knowledge.

PGA.com: Tell us about the atmosphere at the HP Byron Nelson Championship. It's not exactly your grandfather's type of crowd.

Earnest: The tournament does an exceptional job of appealing to a wide range of patrons. The Las Colinas area is primarily a corporate based community, so corporate hospitality and entertaining is strong throughout the event. Thursday and especially Friday is an after-work crowd that is more in tune to the social scene and the Pavilion has a strong following and is considered the place to be and be seen. The weekend tends to be more family and golf-spectator driven with venues like the Kid Zone. There's a chance for everyone to have a court-side seat here. Above all, there is great golf with the best in the world up close and very personal.

PGA.com: Tell us a little about this year's field.

Earnest: Over the years we have been blessed with a great group of Champions that support the tournament annually, players like Vijay Singh, Scott Verplank, Rory Sabbatini, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, and last year's Champion Sang Moon Bae. Dallas is also home for many of the PGA Tour's top players so we have a good foundation with players like Jordan Spieth, Justin Leonard, John Rollins. We have 15 of the world's top-50 ranked players and a nice international field, with stars like Martin Kaymer and Padraig Harrington.

PGA.com: Your golf course is routinely one of the more difficult on Tour. You might have the odd year where birdies are flying everywhere, but that's not the norm. What makes the course so tough?

Earnest: When D.A. Weibring updated the course for the 2008 tournament, we added more length, better defined the driving corridors, and made the greens a bit more demanding from a shot value standpoint. Ultimately, when the wind blows there will be bogeys. To me, you see the same number of birdies at other venues, however the top players of the week don't seem to make many bogeys at all. Here, the course just keeps coming and any off target shot is much more difficult to recover from.

PGA.com: What's your favorite stretch of holes on the course and why?

Earnest: With the prevailing winds from the South-Southwest, the course is awesome when you turn the corner and walk to the 14th hole to come to the finish. The 14th is a short but treacherous hole with a tight drive and small target with water in play. Fifteen is a big, bold, par 4 that stretches to 500 yards with a left-to-right crosswind. Sixteen is (for most of them) an uphill, but reachable par 5 that will yield plenty of birdies and the occasional eagle. The 17th and 18th are the two signature holes that both have just massive galleries. So I always thought that I had to have my round in shape putting out on 13 and then work hard and grind to the finish to get it in the clubhouse.

PGA.com: Do you have a favorite memory from the tournament that you can share with us?

Earnest: Very personally speaking, the second year I played (1999) I was in the last group on Friday afternoon and posted a very good round of 68 on TPC in heavy winds and just missed the cut. The membership (and gallery) was in full support and that was a blast and one of the best rounds that I had ever played.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.

 

T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.