Sports

What Fans Should Expect at This Week’s AT&T Byron Nelson

Organizers of the annual PGA TOUR event at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney promise to “bring the party back.”

Last year, leaders from ClubCorp, the Salesmanship Club, Craig Ranch, the City of McKinney, and other business and civic leaders aggressively went after—and won—the right to host the AT&T Byron Nelson, which had moved to Trinity Forest Golf Club in southern Dallas after a long run at the TPC Four Seasons in Las Colinas.

David Craig, who developed the sprawling Craig Ranch community, aimed for its golf course to host a major PGA TOUR event from the start. And finally, his efforts have been rewarded. At an event announcing a five-year deal to host the tournament at TPC Craig Ranch last spring, Craig made one thing very clear: “We are going to bring the party back,” he said.

After a 2020 hiatus, the tournament returns to North Texas this week, May 13-16.

“It has been more than 725 days since we gave away our last trophy,” tournament director Jon Drago told D CEO. “It’s refreshing to be out here and opening up the doors and doing what we do. We’re excited to host the fans and hear the cheers from the crowd again.”

The sold-out event will have a limited fan capacity of 12,500 per day—about one-fourth of what it will be able to accommodate in future years. Even with those limitations, fans will have a great time, Drago promises.

“We think they will feel that energy, the way the tournament is designed and the way the course sets up,” he said. “The back nine, when things kind of get exciting, are all set up very well for the fan experience.”

Attendees are guaranteed some great golf, with 15 of the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings on board. Some of the big names include Dustin Johnson [update: DJ withdrew from the tournament because of a dodgy knee], currently ranked No. 1, defending champion Sung Kang, hometown hero Jordan Spieth, plus Brooks Koepka, Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Jason Day, and Hideki Matsuyama—fresh off his recent Masters Tournament win.

Along with Spieth, local favorites in the lineup include Scottie Scheffler, Will Zalatoris, Kelly Kraft, and Bryson DeChambeau.

The experience will be night-and-day from what players and fans experienced at Trinity Forest. For one thing, there will be more amenities, a party pavilion, and plenty of shade. ClubCorp, which bought TPC Craig Ranch in 2019, had already been improving the course when it secured the AT&T Byron Nelson. (See image gallery below.)

Some of the local players have come out to give the course a trial run, Drago said. “We had a setback with the freeze back in February, but things are in great shape now, and the early feedback has been really positive.”

The Salesmanship Club of Dallas has hosted the AT&T Byron Nelson since 1968. It benefits Momentous Institute, which was named the 2019 PGA Tour’s Charity of the Year. So far, the tournament has raised $167 million for the institute.

According to AccuWeather, the outlook during the tournament is mostly sunny and “delightful” on Saturday, with a 30-percent chance of showers on Sunday. Due to COVID-19 protocols, fans will be required to wear masks unless actively eating and drinking. Masks must be worn at all times when watching golf along the rope-line.

New viewing venues have been created around holes 16, 17, and 18, designed to build excitement as players head into the final stretch. A stadium-style setup at hole 17 will give fans a unique view of the par-3 hole. In time, the goal is to create an atmosphere similar to the iconic hole 16 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open at the TPC Scottsdale, where a horseshoe-shaped stadium seats about 20,000 fans. It’s known in the golf world as “the greatest show on grass.”

“Even with the reduced capacity, 12,500 people a day will still feel like quite a bit,” Drago said. “The field couldn’t be any better. Fans will see some great golf. We’re all ready to get out there.”

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