Bill Nichols

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Nationwide Winner Paul Haley Takes Aim at Nelson

IRVING _ Paul Haley was among the nation’s top prospects his senior year at Dallas' Highland Park High School. He was the first player in school history to play on four consecutive state championship teams.

Soon after arriving at Georgia Tech, Haley shot 73 on a difficult course with his new teammates. But that score he thought would be among the best was actually ninth out of 10. Instead of immediately contributing, he redshirted and hardly played his first two seasons.

That shot of humility may have been a blessing. Haley has been rolling like a well-struck ball on a hardpan fairway ever since.

After closing his career at Georgia Tech with two individual victories, including the ACC Championship, Haley won his third event on the Nationwide Tour two months ago, finished second three weeks later and is playing this week’s HP Byron Nelson Championship on a sponsor’s exemption.

``He chose a tougher road in college and I think he’s seeing the benefit of that,’’ said his father, Paul. ``He had to take a different approach in almost every aspect of his life because he was out of his element, out of his comfort zone.’’

Haley may have been a late bloomer in college, but he has wasted no time establishing himself on the Nationwide Tour.

In the second round of the Chile Classic, he broke the course record with an 8-under 64 in the second round and then matched that score in the third round en route to a three-stroke victory. He pocketed $108,000 for his first pro win.

At the TPC Stonebrae Championship, Haley shot a final-round 68 but missed a 20-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole that would have forced a playoff with Alex Aragon.

Through events, Haley ranks third in earnings with $162,334. The top 25 automatically earn PGA Tour cards for next season.

``The win definitely helped my confidence,’’ he said Wednesday after a short chipping session with Royal Oaks instructor Randy Smith, who taught him to play as a kid.

``I used to beat myself up a lot. It was always something. I treated golf like it was life or death.’’
Competitiveness has never been an issue for Haley, whose father played baseball at Oral Roberts.

The younger Haley’s sixth grade baseball team featured Clayton Kershaw, current Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher, and Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford.

``They’re doing pretty well,’’ Haley said, laughing.

On a loaded team at Highland Park, Haley made first team all-state in 2004, 2005 and 2006. He also won the 2006 Texas State Amateur. He had offers from the best collegiate programs, including Texas and Oklahoma State.

After his disappointing finish in the team qualifier at Georgia Tech, Haley redshirted. He began to think he’d actually have to use the management degree he was working on.

Asked if he envisioned himself playing professionally, Haley said, ``In high school, yes; at the beginning of college, no.

``I was like, `Oh, this is going to be tougher than I thought. Going into college, I probably would have been better off my first two years going in with the attitude that I was one of the best players.’’

Haley said he has received good advice from PGA Tour players and fellow Royal Oaks members Justin Leonard and Harrison Frazar, in addition to Smith.

On Tuesday he looked like he belonged playing a practice round with Leonard at the TPC. He has set no goals for this week.

``I play my best when I’m trying to almost not care,’’ Haley said. ``I had to make a conscious effort to go out and just play. You have to learn that you’re not going to have it every week.’’

Notes: Bradley Reflects on Nelson Win; Lopez Honored; Kuchar Talks Cowboys

Dallas Morning News

    IRVING _ Keegan Bradley drove down MacArthur Boulevard, past the Hampton Inn where he stayed last May, and was reminded of how much his golf career and life have changed.

     And that it all started here, with his victory in the HP Byron Nelson Championship at the TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas.

       “This tournament might have set up my whole career, to be honest with you,” Bradley said Tuesday.

       Before last May 29, when he overcame a four-stroke final-round deficit and defeated Ryan Palmer on the first playoff hole, Bradley was a little-known PGA Tour rookie who had been given 200-to-1 odds of winning the Nelson.

        The victory gave Bradley a two-year PGA Tour exemption, which he says was a huge pressure relief, one that may have liberated him just enough to win the PGA Championship in August and easily claim Tour Rookie of the Year.

         And to think, Bradley planned to skip last year’s Nelson until his caddie, Steve “Pepsi” Hale, intervened.

         “It was done, I had made my decision,” Bradley said. Hale had never advised him about his schedule, but told Bradley that he thought the TPC Four Seasons suited his game.

         A player with 25-year-old Bradley’s talent probably would have broken through at some point, but the Nelson certainly put his career on fast-track.

         “Sometimes I will be sitting around and I will realize that I won the PGA and start laughing, by myself, like I can’t believe it,” he said. “It seriously happens all the time.

          “I keep the trophy on my mantle in front of my TV in my room, and I’ll just be watching TV and I’ll look over at it and start laughing _ because it seems so bizarre that’s the trophy. It’s in my room!”

Nancy Lopez honored:  

        Hall of Famer Nancy Lopez came to the Four Seasons on Tuesday to accept the 2012 Byron Nelson Prize.

         The award, underwritten by T. Boone Pickens, recognizes a person in golf who embodies the same philanthropic spirit for which Nelson was known. The Salesmanship Club makes a $100,000 contribution to the charity of the Nelson Prize recipient’s choice.

         Lopez chose Dayton, Ohio-based AIM for the Handicapped. She has hosted a golf tournament to support that charity for 25 years.

          “The (Nelson Prize) means a lot to me because as I look back at my golf career, you can win a lot of tournaments, but what do you want people to remember you for?” said Lopez, who won 48 tournaments and was LPGA Player of the Year four times. “I think it’s for what you give back.”

 Good vibes for Kuchar:

        Matt Kuchar is coming off a victory at last week’s Players Championship. He finished sixth at last year’s Nelson Championship. His instructor (Chris O’Connell) and caddie (Lance Bennett) are from the Dallas area.

         Plus, Kuchar and his family love staying at the Four Seasons.

         “My kids always want to put on their cowboy boots,” Kuchar said. “They know that cowboys live in Texas, so when they come here they want to be cowboys.”

Lancaster WDs:

      Neal Lancaster, winner of 1994’s rain-shortened 36-hole Nelson Championship, withdrew on Tuesday. Taking his place in the field is fourth alternate Chris Riley.


Monday, May 14, 2012

HP Byron Nelson Welcomes Shots From Young Guns

Decked in neon orange, 23-year-old Rickie Fowler on Sunday almost became the first golfer in 15 years to post his first two victories in consecutive weeks.

Rory McIlroy, the No. 1 player in the World Ranking, turned 23 a couple weeks ago. Hunter Mahan, the FedEx Cup leader, will celebrate his 30th birthday on Thursday.

John Huh, 21, came home with the trophy in his fifth career start on the PGA Tour, and 24-year-old Kyle Stanley got his first victory the week after losing in a playoff.
This week’s HP Byron Nelson Championship may be celebrating the 100th anniversary of Nelson’s birth year. But the royal and ancient game seems to be getting younger and younger.  

The Nelson has been known for crowning up-and-comers. The tournament helped identify some of the game’s top young players in the mid 1990s, and over the past few years.

Keegan Bradley was a rookie when he got his maiden victory at last year’s Nelson. He rode that momentum to a major championship win and Rookie-of-the-Year honors.

The year before, 22-year-old Jason Day got his name etched on the wall behind Nelson’s statue near the first tee.

And Adam Scott was 27 when he won the Nelson in 2008, sinking a 48-foot putt on the third playoff hole to beat fellow young gun Ryan Moore.

``We’ve had a great mix of recent winners,’’ Nelson tournament director Jon Drago said. ``To see them having success after winning here has given us an identity that we like a lot. Our fans are fairly young and HP likes that audience.

Back in the day, golf’s young stars showcased their acts on the Nelson stage.

Ernie Els was 25 when he won the first Nelson he played in 1995. He shot a course-record 61 at Cottonwood Valley en route to a record total of 17 under.

The next year 25-year-old Phil Mickelson won his third event of the season at Four Seasons. He went on to post another victory to finish second on the money list.

And in 1997, 21-year-old Tiger Woods matched Els’ 17-under score. Woods was playing his first event since his record-breaking performance at the Masters.
Els and Mickelson are back at the Nelson after extended absences.

The current era of young guns, honed on Woods videos, is giving golf what it needs in attracting a younger audience and growing the game. They are athletic, fashionable and fearless.

They are also winning. In 2011, 16 winners were in their 20s, including a record six rookies. Three of the four major winners were 26 or younger.

Already this season, 20-somethings have claimed seven of 21 tournament titles.

That Bradley, Day and Scott were not one-hit wonders plays well for the Nelson. In addition to Bradlety, who won the PGA Championship, Day and Scott contended in majors.

``It’s great to see a lot of guys coming out and having success early,’’ said U.S. Amateur champion Kelly Kraft of Dallas, who turned pro after the Masters. ``It shows you that it can be done.’’

Will the Nelson crown another future star on Sunday?

Stay tuned.

HP Byron Nelson Notes: Scott Verplank Withdraws

Dallas native Scott Verplank, winner of the 2007 Nelson, withdrew on Monday because of an injured wrist that required surgery last year. Verplank withdrew from last week’s Players Championship after 23 holes.

Verplank, the Nelson’s leading money, has played the event 25 times, including 18 straight with four top-5 finishes since 2001. ...

Other withdrawals on Monday: J.B. Holmes, Spencer Levin and Tom Pernice. They were replaced by Todd Hamilton, Duffy Waldorf and Shaun Micheel. ...

British Amateur champion Bryden Macpherson made the field as a sponsor’s exemption, replacing Rich Beem, who gained entry without an exemption because of the withdrawals. … 

Patrick Reed of Houston won the Nelson’s open qualifier, shooting 64 at Lantana Golf Club. Arlington’s Stuart Deane and Todd Demsey of Scottsdale, Ariz., finished three strokes back, and Tour veteran Robert Gamez won a four-way playoff for the final spot. 

HP Byron Nelson Championship
Open Qualifying Results

 Pos  Player Scoring To Par Total
Total Thru

1 expand United States Patrick Reed  Houston, TX -8 F 64

T2 expand Australia Stuart Deane  Arlington, TX -5 F 67

T2 expand United States Todd Demsey  Scottsdale, AZ -5 F * 67

T4 expand United States Robert Gamez  Orlando, FL -4 F 68

T4 expand United States Samuel Cyr  San Diego, CA -4 F 68

T4 expand United States Cole Moreland  Austin, TX -4 F * 68

T4 expand United States Chris Thompson  Lawrence, KS -4 F * 68

T8 expand United States Zack Fischer  Wake Village, TX -3 F 69

T8 expand United States Derek Smith  Rogers, AR -3 F 69

T8 expand United States Zach Rezentes  Mansfield, TX -3 F * 69

T8 expand United States Todd Fischer  Livermore, CA -3 F 69

T8 expand United States Neal Grusczynski  Plano, TX -3 F * 69

T8 expand United States Jeremy Alcorn  Brownwood, TX -3 F * 69

T14 expand United States Will Osborne  Fort Worth, TX -2 F * 70

T14 expand United States Jaxon Brigman  Abilene, TX -2 F 70

T14 expand United States Joseph Totah  San Antonio, TX -2 F * 70

T14 expand United States Jonathan Randolph  Brandon, MS -2 F * 70

T14 expand Korea, Republic Of Sumin Yu  Rockwall, TX -2 F * 70

T14 expand United States David Branshaw  Tampa, FL -2 F * 70

T14 expand United States Michael Whitehead  Houston, TX -2 F * 70

T14 expand Canada David Morland  Palm Coast, FL -2 F * 70

T14 expand United States Robby Ormand  Austin, TX -2 F 70

T14 expand United States Paul Stankowski  Flower Mound, TX -2 F 70

T14 expand United States Ryan Posey  Dallas, TX -2 F * 70

T14 expand United States Brian Prouty  Tucson, AZ -2 F * 70

T26 expand United States Chris Ward  McKinney, TX -1 F * 71

T26 expand United States Travis Woolf  Fort Worth, TX -1 F 71

T26 expand United States Justin Bates  Irving, TX -1 F * 71

T26 expand United States C.J. Clem (a)  Houston, TX -1 F 71

T26 expand United States Scott Roudebush  Dallas, TX -1 F * 71

T26 expand United States Craig McCoy  Plano, TX -1 F 71

T26 expand United States Franklin Corpening  Fort Worth, TX -1 F * 71

T26 expand United States Jeff Howard  Austin, TX -1 F * 71

T26 expand United States William Strickler  Gainesville, FL -1 F 71

T26 expand United States Parker LaBarge  San Antonio, TX -1 F 71

T26 expand United States Ted Purdy  Phoenix, AZ -1 F 71

T26 expand United States Hampton Ballard  Bradenton, FL -1 F * 71

T26 expand United States Jamie Elliott  Coppell, TX -1 F 71

T39 expand United States Bill Allcorn  Waco, TX E F 72

T39 expand United States Mark Walker  Hurst, TX E F * 72

T39 expand United States Gabe Reynolds  Kyle, TX E F 72

T39 expand United States Ben Fox  Studio City, CA E F * 72

T39 expand United States Thomas Byrum  Sugar Land, TX E F * 72

T39 expand United States Chris Smith  Peru, IN E F 72

T39 expand United States Frank Lickliter II  Ponte Verda Beach, FL E F * 72

T39 expand South Africa Wes Worster  Arlington, TX E F 72

T39 expand United States Joel Edwards  Irving, TX E F 72

T48 expand United States Brian Dwyer (a)  Southlake, TX +1 F 73

T48 expand United States Andrew Koonce  Burleson, TX +1 F 73

T48 expand United States Jordan Hoffmann  Haslet, TX +1 F * 73

T48 expand United States Liam Logan  Fort Worth, TX +1 F * 73

T48 expand United States Glen Day  Little Rock, AR +1 F 73

T53 expand United States Casey Devoll  Arlington, TX +2 F 74

T53 expand United States Garrett Merrell  Dallas, TX +2 F 74

T53 expand United States Jason Meece  Ardmore, OK +2 F * 74

T53 expand United States Curtis Martin Carlson  Fort Worth, TX +2 F 74

T53 expand United States Matthew Hadden  Benbrook, TX +2 F * 74

T53 expand United States Conrad Shindler  Westlake, TX +2 F 74

T53 expand United States Trent Whitekiller  Sallisaw, OK +2 F 74

T60 expand United States Nicklaus Benton (a)  Cabot, AR +3 F * 75

T60 expand United States Leif Olson  Golden, CO +3 F 75

T62 expand United States Bobby Hutcherson  Memphis, TX +4 F * 76

T62 expand United States Will Dodson  Dallas, TX +4 F * 76

T62 expand Australia Dean Larsson  Frisco, TX +4 F 76

T65 expand United States Dan Wagner (a)  Dallas, TX +6 F * 78

T65 expand United States Sean Murphy  Scottsdale, AZ +6 F 78

T65 expand United States Will Griffin  San Antonio, TX +6 F * 78

68 expand United States Blake Ladd  Lantana, TX +7 F 79

T69 expand United States Mike Carnes  New Braunfels, TX +8 F 80

T69 expand United States Joshua Husband  Baytown, TX +8 F 80

T69 expand United States Eric Easter  Wylie, TX +8 F 80

* denotes a 10th hole start