Saturday, April 21, 2007

Most Stars Skipping the Nelson

As I predicted last year following the death of Byron Nelson, many of golf's biggest names are skipping the Byron Nelson Classic now that its namesake is no longer around. I was just off a little in the timing, writing, "I don't expect Woods, Els, Singh and other top players to start skipping the event immediately. They'll want to show up in 2007 to honor Byron Nelson."

But as the Dallas Morning News reports, Tiger Woods, Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Adam Scott, Retief Goosen and Geoff Ogilvy are among the big names dropping the Nelson from their schedules.

And DMN columnist Bill Nichols is in high dudgeon about it:

In the first Nelson tournament without its namesake, Woods is a no-show. So are some other big names.

Players have known for months about the tributes planned for next week's tournament. The Salesmanship Club and EDS were determined to make this a special event in honor of a special person. And it will be.

But a show of support from today's top players would have been a fitting tribute to the game's greatest ambassador. Instead, the text-messaging generation turned its back on a legend who penned handwritten notes to them.

The absence of world-ranked players like Woods, No. 2 Jim Furyk, No. 3 Adam Scott, No. 5 Ernie Els, No. 8 Retief Goosen and No. 9 Geoff Ogilvy is sad. And disrespectful.

...

Most players were overseas when Nelson died last September and were unable to attend the funeral. You might expect them to play this week out of respect.

Instead, Woods, who has played all of five tournaments in four months, canceled his hotel reservation. Furyk, who accompanied Tom Lehman to Nelson's Roanoke Ranch for dinner last year, called to say he had a scheduling conflict. At least he called.

When Goosen arrived for his first appearance in 2005, Nelson showed his appreciation by going with wife Peggy and a driver to the airport. Nobody needs to pick up Goosen next week.

Adam Scott, a crowd favorite, tied for third in his only appearance last year. He's not playing. Neither is last year's runner-up, Trevor Immelman, No. 13 in the world rankings. Most players return to places they play well.

Last year's poor course condition has something to do with it. Those who aren't here will find a way to fit the next two events – the Wachovia Championship and The Players Championship – into their schedules.

But play three golf tournaments in a row? Goodness, somebody could get a blister.

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