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EDS Byron Nelson

As Reported in

Contributing Writer, GOLFONLINE
Here are the key reasons why Brett Wetterich won by one stroke over Trevor Immelman at the EDS Byron Nelson Championship, contested May 11-14 at the TPC at Las Colinas (7,052 yards, par 70) in Irving, Texas:

Wetterich did a number of things right in his victory. By hitting 54 of 72 greens in regulation he ranked T3rd for the week. In the 79 events that Wetterich has stats for on the PGA Tour, he has only bettered this week's greens hit stat once -- when he led in greens hit at the 2002 Honda, where he finished T8th. Wetterich also finished T9th in fairway accuracy, and it's only the third time on the PGA Tour that he has finished in the top 10 in this stat. Of course, he hits it long, but this week Wetterich was the ninth-longest hitter. That is his highest rank in this stat since he was 10th in this stat at last year's Byron Nelson.

Another key to Wetterich's win was the fact that on Sunday he led the field in driving distance (328.8) and was also first in driving accuracy (12 of 14 fairways hit). It also helped that Wetterich hit 14 of 18 greens. All this helped him shoot a 32 on the back nine while Immelman was shooting 36 and Adam Scott was shooting 34.

Wetterich showed that he liked the Nelson event last year when he co-led the tournament after the second round. The big difference was that last year Wetterich played the final 36 holes in 2 over par and this year he played them in 2 under.

Wetterich also had a few things happen to him that helped give him some inspiration on Sunday. Late on Saturday evening after his finished working on his putting, a bagpiper from the Four Seasons hotel next to the course started a song and Wetterich found this inspirational. On Sunday morning he happened to be sitting in a cart on the driving range and was looking at the bag of defending champion Ted Purdy. On the side it said: "2005 Champion" and the thought of having that bag with his name on it gave him a lift.
Brett Wetterich's stats (with rank in parentheses):

Fairways hit: 36 of 56 (T8th)
Driving average: 305.6 (9th)
Greens hit: 54 of 72 (T3rd)
Putts: 117 (29.25 a rd) (T53rd)
Putting breakdown:
0-putt greens: 2
1-putt greens: 25
2-putt greens: 43
3-putt greens: 2
Eagles: 0
Birdies: 20 (1st)
Scrambling: 12 of 18 (66.7%) (T25th)
Scrambling measures how many times a player gets up and down for par or better on the holes where he missed the green in regulation.

What This Win Means

The 32-year-old Wetterich, a bachelor who now lives in Jupiter, Florida, has struggled in professional golf since turning pro in 1994. He won twice on the Nationwide Tour, with career earnings on that tour $446,588, but the $1.116 million check he earned for winning the Byron Nelson is the largest of his career and just $143,723 less than he had earned in his first 80 events on the PGA Tour.

Wetterich is from Cincinnati, Ohio and his father started him in golf at the age of two. He went to a small community college in Alabama called Wallace State, then turned pro. Wetterich was on the PGA Tour last year and just missed getting into the top 125, finishing 132nd on the money list. He did go back to Q-School to help his status for the 2006 season, and he got his card on the number with tough pars on the final two holes. We mention this because if by chance he didn't get those pars there would have been a very good chance that he would not have played in Houston, where he finished T6th to earn $172,150, or New Orleans, where he finished T4th and earned $248,000, or even the EDS Byron Nelson. But Wetterich did find his way to the Byron Nelson and played like an old pro on the final day to win the title.

Wetterich is the seventh player to get his first PGA Tour victory at the Byron Nelson and the second consecutive with Ted Purdy being a first-time winner at this event last year.
Wetterich is the fifth first-time winner on the PGA Tour in 2006, joining J.B. Holmes (FBR Open), Arron Oberholser (AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am), Aaron Baddeley (Verizon Heritage) and Chris Couch (Zurich Classic of New Orleans).

Wetterich shot 70 in the third round, and he is only the second Nelson champion since 1993 not to shoot four rounds in the 60s. The last one to do it was Sergio Garcia, who shot 71 in the final round in 2004.

Wetterich's victory means that every 2006 PGA Tour winner, except for Kirk Triplett at the Chrysler Classic of Tucson, has played in the final group on Sunday. However, Wetterich is just the third 2006 winner who didn't enter the final round with at least a share of the lead. The others were Tiger Woods at the Buick Invitational and Triplett.

Top women players eligible to enter The Open

For the first time entry conditions for The Open include a qualification route into the Championship for women. The entry form for the 135th Open Championship, to be played at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake in July next year, will be published on this website.

R&A Chief Executive, Peter Dawson, said: "Our Championship Committee pledged to review entry conditions and to assess how women golfers might compete on equal terms with men for a place in The Open. As a result, I am delighted that a qualification route has now been established for the best women players to gain access to the Championship, competing alongside men on the same courses and from the same tees."

Male professional golfers and male amateurs (whose playing handicaps do not exceed scratch) may now be joined at Regional Qualifying by the top five women and ties from each of the four major championships in the womens game. In addition, any women meeting the entry requirements for International Final Qualifying, Local Final Qualifying and The Open itself can enter at these stages directly.

The new eligibility rules conform to two guiding principles set down by the Championship Committee - that entry to The Open should be based on playing ability irrespective of gender and that the strength and quality of the Championship and qualifying fields should be maintained at the highest level.

Female golfers eligible to compete in Regional Qualifying for the 2006 Open Championship at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, Hoylake (20-23 July 2006) are the top five and ties from the 2005 Weetabix Womens British Open Championship, the 2006 Kraft Nabisco Championship, the 2006 McDonalds LPGA Championship and the 2006 US Womens Open Championship.

The Weetabix Womens British Open Championship is staged after The Open and therefore the 2005 top five and ties eligible to enter Regional Qualifying for the 2006 Open Championship are: 1st - Jeong Jang (Korea); 2nd - Sophie Gustafson (Sweden); tied 3rd - Young Kim (Korea) and Michelle Wie (USA); tied 5th - Cristie Kerr (USA), Liselotte Neumann (Sweden) and Annika Sorenstam (Sweden).

Exemptions from Regional, Local Final and International Final Qualifying have been expanded to include the leading player who finishes in the first 10 and those tied for 10th place, not exempt, from the 2006 Open de France and the 2006 Buick Championship. As before, exemption is also given to the leading player, not exempt, in the 2006 Smurfit European Open, the 2006 Barclays Scottish Open, the 2006 Western Open and the 2006 John Deere Classic where the "first 10 and ties" requirement also applies.

Closing dates for entries are: International Final Qualifying (IFQ) Africa - January 5, 2006; Australasia - January 19, 2006; Asia - March 23, 2006; and all other entries - June 1, 2006. The Open Championship entry fee is unchanged at 110.

Ollie's no fluke

It's a funny thing about Jose Maria Olazabal. He's won the Masters Tournament twice. Yet you never see his name listed among the pre-tournament favorites. He never gets any hype. Maybe it's because he keeps a low profile. Maybe it's because his driver is his kryptonite -- he tends to hit it crooked and short -- and the Augusta National Golf Club is supposedly for big-hitters only, a myth he keeps disproving.

What golf observers tend to forget is that Olazabal has one of the best short games in modern history. Spain's Seve Ballesteros carved a swashbuckling career by hitting long drives, winning a British Open from out of the parking lot and looking dashing while doing it. Olazabal, also from Spain, has the same scrambling ability but never quite played longball like Seve and certainly did it with less flair. Perhaps if Olazabal wins a third Masters Tournament this week, we'll start paying attention.

The record book suggests his Masters victories were no fluke. In addition to the wins in 1994 and 1999, he has also finished second, fourth, seventh and eighth (twice). He has five other top-20 finishes among his 17 appearances. The man can play this course, no doubt about it.

"Something about this place gets him fired up," said Davis Love, who shot 67 in Friday's second round while paired with Olazabal, who shot 69 and finished at 140, four under par, two shots behind leader Justin Rose. "He knows he has a chance here as soon as he pulls through the gates. He's relentless. It doesn't matter what kind of shots he hits or where his ball is, he never gives up. He plays a lot like Seve in that he's never out of the hole. That is fun to watch. He plays with a lot of determination and I think that helped me get focused."

His skills have been showcased in six Ryder Cups -- he was the guy against whom Justin Leonard sank The Putt in Brookline, but an overlooked fact is that Leonard only halved that match, he didn't win it. "I don't know why they underrate [Olazabal]," Love said.

A man who can chip and putt is always dangerous. In 16 Masters, Olazabal made the cut 15 times and has not ranked among the top 10 in putting only three times. Meanwhile, he has ranked among the top 10 in greens hit in regulation only once (sixth in 1995) and the top 20 in fairways hit only twice (20th in 1998 and sixth in 1989). In short, he gets by on guts, a few good iron shots and great putting that saves pars and turns even mediocre iron shots into birdies.

Olazabal, 38, was enjoying a fairly quiet second round Friday, even through 12 holes, until he eagled the 13th, then birdied the 14th and 15th. "That was my round," he said, laughing.

Don't laugh him off. When he won in 1999, he was struggling with his game during the opening round, when he went for the 13th green in two from the fairway with a 4-iron. He totally skanked the shot -- sorry, that's golfspeak for hitting an ugly shot. It actually landed short of Rae's Creek, and bounced -- incredibly -- across the water and onto the fringe of the green. He chipped in from there for an eagle, went on to shoot 70 and tie for the first-round lead and later win the tournament. A poor iron shot set him up for eagle.

Winners get the breaks. It happens, but it happens way too much at Augusta National for it to be a coincidence for Olazabal. It also played right into his hand on Sunday in '99, when the course played so firm, so fast and so difficult that hitting a green in regulation became problematic. The Masters had turned into a chipping and putting contest -- and it's no surprise who won that. Obviously, Ollie loves this course. Friday, he holed a 40-foot eagle putt at 13, dropped another nice putt at the 14th and hit it close with his third shot at the par-5 15th.

"It must be something with this place, I don't know," Olazabal said. "Parts of my game are pretty much like last week. The putting has not been all that great except for those two or three putts I made today. The driving has been average. I managed to hit more fairways than not but the quality of the tee shots is not what it should be for this course. I don't know if this course fits my game. The changes to this course have been huge since 1999 -- you really need to be a long hitter to do well around here. At the same time, it allows you to chip and putt around the greens. I think that's the only reason I've done so well."

The Masters is traditionally the cure for what ails him. He had a dismal year on the PGA Tour last year -- eight tournaments, no top-25 finishes. He did a little better in Europe, playing 19 tournaments, scoring four top-10s and finishing 52nd on the money list. For that matter, the Masters seems to be a cure for what ails European golf. There was buzz recently about the fact that no European players were among the top 10 in the world rankings. Then Padraig Harrington finished second at the Players Championship and inched back in. At the Masters, Euros were all over the leaderboard. There was an English Rose atop the standings for two rounds. Then Ollie, who was tied for second with Alex Cejka of Germany. Sergio Garcia of Spain and this year's Ryder Cup captain, Bernhard Langer of Germany, were at even par as a European renaissance appeared to be in mid-season form.

Another reason Olazabal often gets overlooked is that he has gone through long periods of mediocre play. His last tournament victories were two years ago -- the 2002 Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines in the U.S. and the 2002 Omega Hong Kong Open. He was left off the 2002 Ryder Cup team. He was a forgotten man in the mid 1990s when a foot ailment caused him to sit out of golf for more than 18 months. A German doctor gave him therapy treatments for his back, which finally relieved the foot problem in 1996 and allowed him to resume playing professional golf. He won the '97 Turespana Masters in his third tournament back and there was that great scene on the final green when he won the '99 Masters, his comeback complete, when he got a hug from another man who knows about comebacks, Greg Norman.

Olazabal's affinity for this course is much the same as most players' -- even though he's not a long hitter, he has dominated the par 5s. Coming into this Masters, he was 80 under par on the four par-5 holes and 54 over par on the other 14. He doesn't fit the Masters champion profile, yet he's won this thing twice and has put himself in prime position again to contend on the weekend even though he isn't feeling terribly confident in his game of late.

"It's going to take a longer spell than these two days [to be confident]," he said. "It's nice to have two solid rounds. It's nice to have a solid tournament. But I'm going to need a longer spell than a just a week."

Don't believe it. Ollie is poised, once again. How many times does he have to put on a green jacket before we're not surprised?

Future Tournament Dates

The final round of the Masters each year is scheduled the second Sunday in April. Tentative future dates for upcoming Tournaments are:
2006 April 3-9
2007 April 2 - 8
2008 April 7 - 13
2009 April 6 - 12
2010 April 5 - 11
2011 April 4 - 10

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