The PGA Tour stays in Texas this week, where heavy rains are posing stiff challenges for the 2015 AT&T Byron Nelson and its organizers. Despite the potential setbacks, CBS Sports golf analyst David Feherty is as ready as anyone for this weekend’s links action. Feherty, a former PGA journeyman with over 20 years on the tour, talks about Jordan Spieth, who’s playing near his hometown this week, and what the players will face when they tee it up on a soggy TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas.
Despite a hiccup in club selection at last week’s Crowne Plaza Invitational, Jordan Spieth remains a threat every time he tees it up on all types of courses. What is he doing physically and mentally that others are not?
He’s putting extraordinarily well. He’s the best putter I’ve seen in a very long time. He’s dangerous every time he’s on a putting surface. One of his strengths is that he has no weaknesses. He drives the ball well, he hits it a very long way. He not a big guy, he’s wiry; hell, he’s 21-years-old. He holed out putts on 15 and 16 at the Masters that are the two finest I’ve ever seen in the 20 years I’ve been there because of the timing and occasion.
Who’s your choice to challenge Spieth this week?
Jason Day plays really well around here. I would certainly pick Jason Day.
Who’s your dark horse pick to surprise this week?
Jason Dufner has had a hard time in his personal life. He’s lost a lot of weight and got divorced. He’s such a good player, and he’s shown some signs recently of coming out of his slump. He played well last week, he just didn’t make some of the putts he should have made. I expect him to play better over the next couple of weeks.
Extreme weather has battered the TPC Course at Four Seasons Las Colinas. What have you heard about how tournament organizers are dealing with the challenge?
They get so many people here and we just finished nearby at Colonial which was a miracle. I can’t believe that they got that tournament finished. The TPC at Las Colinas doesn’t drain as well. And while I haven’t been on it yet, when we flew in from Tulsa and looked at the area, well, it’s just unbelievable. Only the high points didn’t have standing water. I don’t know what will happen, but it will be difficult for spectators for sure. With the amount of people they get here, boy, I’d bring rubber boots.
How would you characterize TPC Four Seasons and which holes pose the biggest challenges for players?
D.A. Weibring came in a number of years ago to renovate. I call what he did “The Miracle on MacArthur Boulevard” because the golf course used to be very ordinary. It goes through an industrial park, and there were two of them, one on either side of MacArthur Boulevard here in Irving, Texas. They used to play both, but now they just play the TPC. D.A. did an unbelievable job turning it into a first-class golf course. You can see by the scoring every year that the players have difficulty with it.
The Bermuda rough at this time of year is a nightmare. It’s almost like it used to be on tour when you had to read a lie to figure out whether the ball will come out fast or soft. That’s one of the main difficulties in the spring and summer seasons in Texas. Holes 14 and 17 on the way in are tough. The 17th is a par 3 with water on the right; you’re way up high on the tee, so the ball spends a lot of time in the air on its way down. It’ll be tough for a lot of golfers to get the distance right, to make it onto the green from the tee. Fourteen is a downhill-dogleg right, with water to the front and on the left that forces players to layup off the tee, leading to a challenging second shot.
Marc Leishman has had success at TPC Four Seasons with five top-12 finishes in six appearances. Why does his game fit the course so well?
Marc Leishman has got enough maturity now that he’s been on the tour for several years. The TPC at Four Seasons seems to suit a guy like him. [He’s] a guy who has enough strength and experience to look at those lies, where the ball sits down like it’s plugged and has that chewy texture to it. …When you’re playing a chip shot, shots… can almost be silent when the club head hits the ball because the ball doesn’t really make contact with the club face at all. And when you’re playing a full shot from that stuff, it could come out like a rocket, while the next one could come out like you’ve hit a cotton ball. Leishman has been able to figure out the lies at TPC Four Seasons. In order to score well, you have to be able to do that, because the fairways are relatively narrow, so you’re going to miss your share of them.
What are the chances of defending champion Brendon Todd repeating?
Not too many repeat here. I can’t think of anyone who has recently, and it’s a solid field. The strength of the field has improved a lot.
Ron Patey covered the golf industry for 21 years as a special sections editor with Sun Media. During the past five years, Patey has been a golf writer for Examiner.com.