DALLAS >> Jordan Spieth didn’t try to sell his peers on joining him at a new links-style course for the 50th anniversary of his hometown AT&T Byron Nelson tournament.
The three-time major winner says he was honest when asked over the past year about the undulating layout, with no trees or water hazards, on what used to be a landfill a few miles south of downtown Dallas.
The fields weren’t great the past decade at the TPC Four Seasons resort in suburban Irving, the tournament’s home for 35 years. The return to Dallas at Trinity Forest Golf Club, named for the 6,000 acres of thick trees surrounding the course, didn’t do much to change that, at least for now.
“The most common question is, ‘What’s it like?’” Spieth said. “Pretty vague question but, you know, I say it’s very different. These are my words: It’s really fun as a member, as a change-of-pace kind of golf club.”
Spieth (No. 3) and ninth-ranked Hideki Matsuyama, making his Nelson debut Thursday, are the only players from the world top 10 in the field. Sergio Garcia, the Nelson winner two years ago and 2017 Masters champ, is next at 14th.
Whether it’s scheduling, losing the amenities of a resort or facing an unfamiliar brand of PGA Tour golf, most of the big names are staying away. Billy Horschel admitted he probably wouldn’t be at the course co-designed by Ben Crenshaw if he weren’t the defending champion.
“Look, most people just don’t like different, do they?” asked Adam Scott, the 2008 Nelson champ playing the event for the first time in six years. “This is just different than what we normally roll out and play.”
Wind will determine the difficulty on the par-71 layout. Thursday is supposed to be calm, with winds expected to pick up Friday and Saturday into the 20 mph range — a number Geoff Ogilvy used a threshold for things getting “interesting.”
“You have to ask Jordan or the members who play out here into crazy winds because I haven’t seen it yet,” Ogilvy said. “Nothing to stop the wind. Pretty exposed place.”
Spieth is talking up the par-3 No. 17 because of a green with a large mound through the middle that Crenshaw says was the natural part of the landscape. A double green for the third and 11th holes is billed as the largest on an 18-hole course in North America.
The short par-4 fifth will be one to watch because it’s easily reachable off the tee — especially with a prevailing south wind — and easily could be a big source of trouble. The finishing hole on each nine is a par-4 of more than 500 yards.
“Like everything here in the U.S., the greens are bigger, the fairways are bigger, but it’s the closest thing you can get to a links course,” said Garcia, who is from Spain. “It’s an American links course.”
A day after Horschel won the last Nelson at the Four Seasons, his wife went public on social media with her struggles with alcoholism. Horschel had made a vague reference to personal issues after winning.
A year later, he raves about the response he and his wife received. He is coming off a win last month in New Orleans and is dealing with not having the data he would prefer to create a game plan for Trinity Forest.
“I’ve been saying it may be a touch easier to defend at a new course because except for maybe a handful, two handfuls of players that play this course a little bit, everyone is on an even level playing ground,” Horschel said. “We’re all trying to figure it out.”
Spieth’s first splash in pro golf came as a 16-year-old amateur at the Nelson in 2010, when he tied for 16th. That remains his best finish, which is another reason he’s excited about the venue change. He believes his peers will come around.
Ogilvy, who showed an interest in the project from its earliest stages, agrees.
“I think this course will stand the test of time,” he said. “People will enjoy it every year they play it more and more. Getting guys out of their comfort zone I think is a good thing.”
If Spieth ever decides to make a sales pitch, he might have a partner.