AT&T Byron Nelson Preview, Picks & Analysis
Sung Kang let the field back in the game in the final round of the 2019 AT&T Byron Nelson before ending their hopes on the back nine with a 67 and a 23-under total to win by two over Matt Every and Scott Piercy.
Kang entered the final round with a three-stroke lead over Every and at least five on everybody else in the field. But after a start that saw him even par through the first seven holes and the only player on the leaderboard not in red numbers on the day, what once seemed like an inevitability got a little cloudy.
But Kang shone down the stretch. He shot a 61 on Friday to take hold of the tournament and found that same game over the final holes during the last round.
Kang birdied the eighth, ninth and 10th holes and and ran off another three-hole stretch of birdies on the 14th, 15th and 16th to take a three-stroke lead to the final two holes to close it out. The spot where the tournament turned was probably the par-four 15th hole. Kang made a 23-footer for birdie while Every, who was tied with him at that point, made bogey from the middle of the fairway. A two-shot swing -- the same number of strokes Kang went on to win by.
The win was easily the biggest of Kang's career. Like Sungae Im, Kang is a golfer who likes to play lots of tournaments and has ground out at least 30 a year as a professional since 2011, but his only wins to this point had come on the Korean Tour back in 2013. There were close calls on the Web.com and PGA Tour -- Houston and South Korea in 2017, Quicken Loans in 2018 -- but Kang had never sealed the deal until now.
It was a master class in building a lead over the first three days and not having to do too much coming home. Kang was good but not great on Sunday, but good was all he needed to be with such clearance on the rest of the field. "I'm so happy right now," he said. After so many years and more150 events that was probably something of an understatement.
The tournament was one of the victims of the pandemic last year but finally Kang gets the chance to defend in front of a daily crowd of around 10,000 spectators.
It is worth taking a little time to reflect on Byron Nelson and his achievements.
In 1945 he finished with 18 victories, including 11 straight, and established a record for the lowest scoring average (68.33), which remained untouched for 55 years until Tiger Woods, the 1997 Byron Nelson champion, broke it in 2000. During 1945 Nelson played in 30 tournaments, never finishing outside of the top 10 and finishing second seven times. To this day Nelson’s incredible winning streak has not been challenged and will probably stand forever.
Today’s players dream of such achievements. Nelson achieved a level of consistency unmatched before or since.
Will Zalatoris is achieving so much in his first full year on the PGA Tour. In 16 starts ahead of the Wells Fargo, Zalatoris had missed just one cut all season. We all know about the impact he made in finishing second at The Masters, but it surprised nobody who has been following his progress. He has enjoyed six top-10 finishes and 11 top-25 finishes. By anybody’s standards, that is impressive.
The Byron Nelson Classic is being played at TPC Craig Ranch, a Tom Weiskopf layout that features plenty of bunkers and small greens. The par-72, 7,438-yard course features gently rolling hills and mature woods surrounding the limestone banks of Rowlett Creek, which crosses the course 14 times. It is a course that will reward accuracy and a strategic approach. In other words, it is a golf course that is made to measure for Matthew Fitzpatrick.
The tournament was won in 2015 by Steven Bowditch, in 2016 by Sergio Garcia, in 2017 by Aaron Wise, in 2018 by Billy Horschel and in 2019 by Kang.
Will Zalatoris. Quite simply, the most consistent player on Tour
Matt Fitzpatrick. Feeling more and more at home in America
Will Zalatoris. The next big thing
Matt Fitzpatrick. Course should be made for him
Jordan Spieth. In form and playing in his beloved Texas
Outsiders to Watch:
Aaron Wise. 2017 champion is finally showing some glimpses of form again
Scott Piercey. Has a decent record in this event
Lee Westwood. Will be fascinating to see if he can rediscover early-season form
Ryan Palmer. Right at home in Texas
Doug Ghim. Brilliant amateur record, looking to make big breakthrough
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