Bill Nichols

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Phil Mickelson will return to Byron Nelson but not Colonial

HUMBLE, Texas _ Phil Mickelson is returning to the HP Byron Nelson Championship after a five-year absence. But he's all but waving goodbye to the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial.

Mickelson told me that he plans to play the Nelson, which runs May 17-20 at the TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas. He won the event in 1996, tied for second in 2000 and tied for third in 2007, his last appearance.

``I’m looking forward to go going back to Dallas,’’ Mickelson said. ``It’s been a while since I’ve been there. I haven’t played it since the redesign.’’

But Mickelson, a two-time Colonial champion, said course changes made after his last victory reduce his distance advantage at the Fort Worth course. In 2008, he hit driver into the left trees and wedge from 141 yards for the winning birdie.
Designer Keith Foster was brought in to renovate and move fairway bunkers that had grown obsolete. He changed the pitch of some landing areas to keep pros from hitting downslopes that were never supposed to be reached from the tee.

``With the redesign, I’m afraid I won’t be playing it anymore,’’ Mickelson said. ``It doesn’t give me a power advantage. I know all the shotmakers will be there every year. But I don’t see any of the long hitters playing there anymore. There’s no decision making now; it’s all irons, irons, irons.’’

Mickelson ranks third in career earnings at Colonial with $2.4 million. Starting in 1999, he made the cut eight straight times including wins in 2000 and 2008, and second in 2001. He was unable to defend his title in 2009 because of wife Amy’s cancer treatments. In his first start since the changes, he missed the cut in 2010 and then did not play last year.

Colleyville’s Hunter Mahan, a Colonial loyalist, said he will skip the Nelson for the second straight year. He said last year that the TPC Four Seasons did not suit his game.

``Things can always change but right now I don’t plan to play,’’ he said.

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