Golf preview: Byron Nelson & Rocco Forte Open

The PGA Tour is in Texas for the famed Bryon Nelson Championship whilst in Europe they make a return to Sicily.

Named after Byron Nelson, the first winner of the tournament in 1944, he continued to be associated with the event throughout his life. It is one of only two tournaments on the PGA Tour named after a player, along with the Arnold Palmer Invitational.

Masters champion Sergio Garcia is defending the title, which he also won back in 2004 and if he can win again he would join an illustrious group of Tom Watson and Sam Snead in winning this title three times or more.

Garcia will have his work cut out in Dallas but he is looking forward to the task.

“I did some really good things last week, but I also did some things that weren’t that great. I need to make sure I clean that up and have a solid, solid stretch here in Texas.”

The Byron Nelson moves to the new purpose built links at Trinity Forest next year, and Garcia is sad to be leaving the Four Seasons Resort and added: “It’s always going to have something extra special in me, this golf course.”

Garcia will also have some more than tough opposition with world number one Dustin Johnson, Jason Day and home-state favourite Jordan Spieth in contention.

Texan Spieth has never finished in the top-ten at the Byron Nelson but it is a competition he wants to do well in and he would like his name on the trophy before the big move next season.

“It’s a very special place for our family and friends,” Spieth said.

“It’s very bittersweet. Obviously fantastic memories and looking forward to creating new ones this week and hopefully the best ones yet.”

Spieth admits that being at home in Texas does help him and said: “It’s still a really fun week that I’ve learned to enjoy more than put that pressure on myself and even when I’ve been in contention.

“I’ve learned to enjoy having that with everybody around and it’s helped me just have a better time this week.”

Are @jordanspieth’s shoes Dallas enough?

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Over in Europe and the Sicilian Open, now the Rocco Forte Open, is being played for only the third tie and for the first time in five years.

Young Englishman Jordan Smith and James Morrison are favourites for then event in what looks like a wide open field.

There is also a strong home interest with Ryder Cup star Edoardo Molinari and Matteo Manaserro amongst the favourites, and both are delighted to be in their homeland.

“It’s great to be back on home soil playing a tour event,” said Molinari.

“It’s fantastic to be here, it’s actually my first time in Sicily and the golf course is very good, especially if it’s windy, it can be quite tricky. It’s obviously very exposed being right by the sea and I’m sure it will look fantastic on TV because the scenery is second to none.

“There are a lot of guys coming from Italy and I’ve seen a lot of guys here who are friends of mine and I haven’t seen much of lately. Hopefully they can step up and win it and get a card that way.”

Manassero added: “I am glad to be back. It’s a great place here, everyone can see that. It’s particularly great that we can all come back to the South of Italy to just be here and play golf – everything seems to taste better, the air is fresher. It’s just wonderful.

“I hope there will be as many people as possible watching and get some crowds to cheers us on. It’s always nice to play in front of the Italian fans.”

The pro’s point of view…

Our resident golf expert is Cliff Jackson. Cliff is a leading youth coach and PGA professional at the famed Seaton Carew Links – one of the oldest courses in the world.

Jordan Smith has to be my pick in Italy, he has been playing well all season and he is due.

Dustin Johnson will be

The Bookie says…

We caught up with Ladbrokes’ senior golf trader Peter D’Arcy ahead of the weekend’s action to gauge the markets and ask him about our fancies.

The punters still aren’t being put off by the price on Dustin Johnson and we’ve had to shorten him due to continued interest.

As for Sergio Garcia, he’s been one of the least popular of the short priced players. Maybe punters think he’s not going to have as much drive now he’s got the Major monkey off his back.

For me I fancy Charley Hoffman to go well. If he can get back to the heights of his Masters performance then then the course form is there.

In Italy – Jordan Smith has seen some steady interest, however it’s the young Belgian Thomas Detry who has really caught the interest of the punters.

If I was to back any of the home players I’d be looking at Renato Paratore, but I thinkTom Lewis could be worth a speculative punt on the links course.

We say…’s Graeme Bailey brings you his golfing opinion

I think an Italian will feature in Sicily – Manasero and Molinari look good each-way bets.

At The Byron Nelson – I think they could have a hometown hero in the shape of Jordan Spieth. Sergio Garca loves the course too and can’t be ruled out.

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