Golf was a very different sport when Byron Nelson was in his pomp. The hall of fame-honoured player was only an active touring professional between 1935 and 1946 but was still able to amass five major championships before retiring to become a rancher. Later in life he returned to professional golf as a commentator and the host of the AT&T Byron Nelson.
This was the first tournament to be named after a professional golfer, showing the reverence with which the PGA Tour and the wider golfing world hold Nelson. He was also well respected for the amount of money he raised for charity and while the AT&T Byron Nelson isn’t the strongest event on the PGA Tour schedule, it continues to do a great deal for charitable organisations while providing less heralded players with the chance to earn a life-changing win.
2023: Jason Day
The 2023 edition saw 2015 PGA Championship winner Jason Day complete his journey back from the brink, as the 35-year-old Australian pro landed the 13th PGA Tour success of his career. It had been a long time between drinks for Day, with his most recent victory coming at the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship.
Blighted by back problems, Day has been forced to tweak his swing, but the signs had been there that all of his hard work was beginning to pay off. Heading into the event with seven top 10s to his name in 2023, Sunday saw everything come together as he shot a bogey-free nine-under to come home a shot clear of the field on 23 under par.
Day was rock solid throughout the tournament, opening with an impressive 64 to sit just one shot behind joint leaders Adam Scott and Zecheng “Marty” Dou. By the midpoint, Scottie Scheffler had moved ominously to the head of affairs, with back-to-back scores of 64 pushing him five shots clear of Day. A score of 66 on Saturday saw Day cut the gap to the leaders to two shots, with Dou, Palmer, and rookie Austin Eckroat now sitting in a three-way tie at the head of the leaderboard.
As the field teed off for the final round, no fewer than 20 players were in with a realistic chance of claiming the title. Day did his chances no harm when birdieing three of the first five holes, but was bettered by Dou who went four under through seven to go two shots clear. However, that lead was to prove short-lived, with Dou’s double bogey at eight immediately bringing him back to the pack.
As Day arrived at the 12th hole, nine players sat within one shot of the lead, but the Australian found a hot streak just when he needed it to birdie three of the next four holes – seeing him grab top spot at the 15th. Steady through the 16th and 17th, a beautiful approach at the 18th left Day with just a three-foot putt for birdie, which he promptly despatched to take a two-shot lead into the Clubhouse. A surging Si Woo Kim and Austin Ekcoart needed an eagle at the last to force a playoff, but when neither could hole from off the green, the title was secured for Day.
Day pocketed $1.71m for his four days of work and moved back inside the top 20 of the Official Golf Rankings. Si Woo Kim and the impressive Eckroat finished one back in a tie for second place.
2022: Lee Kyoung-hoon
Judging by the reaction to the 2022 AT&T Byron Nelson, TPC Craig Ranch is not to the taste of every golf fan. The layout may have its detractors but KH Lee is certainly not one of them. TPC Craig Ranch was the scene of Lee’s first PGA Tour win and, one year later, it was also the scene of his second. The 30 year old overcame a stacked leaderboard, reaching a score of -26 which was just out of reach of Jordan Spieth, Sebastian Muñoz and Hideki Matsuyama.
Scoring was low throughout the week but the tournament began to feel a little ridiculous during Sunday’s final round. Xander Schauffele went round in 61 to set the clubhouse lead on -23 and yet was a 100/1 shot in play such was the market’s conviction that his score would be usurped. Schauffele himself said that he had no chance of winning in his post-round press duties and he was proven correct as his winning score was soon beaten.
While those in contention had little trouble grabbing a share of the lead they did have some trouble staying there. Spieth made costly errors to the disappointment of the Dallas fans who were desperate for one of their own to win while Muñoz and Justin Thomas just couldn’t take enough chances. Given his incoming form, Lee’s win was as much of a surprise as it was the year before and he’ll be hoping that TPC Craig Ranch stays on the schedule for many more years to come so he can earn more wins against the odds.
2021: Lee Kyoung-hoon
The AT&T Byron Nelson moved to a new venue for 2021. Part of the reason for the switch away from Trinity Forest was that it was too easy for PGA Tour professionals to go seriously low. In that regard, Lee Kyoung-hoon’s winning score of -25 wasn’t a great look for the event but it was of tiny significance compared to the good news story of Lee’s win.
The 29 year old South Korean showed that the pressure of a maiden PGA Tour win was not overwhelming him as he made five birdies on the front nine alone as he rode a wave of confidence in the heat of competition. Those figurative waves almost became literal ones, however, such was the ferocity of the rain which forced a pause in play.
Plenty of players have found it difficult to maintain a title charge after lengthy delays but Lee was raring to go after the two-hour pause and he kept his foot down, ending all sense of suspense with a strong finish that included birdies on the final two holes which took his winning margin to three shots over Sam Burns.
If 28 birdies, an eye-catching game from tee to green and excellent mental fortitude weren’t enough to win over golf fans, Lee then endeared himself further with his post-round interview. The combination of Lee’s personality and golfing ability means we could be looking at the birth of a real star of the game.
The 2020 tournament was cancelled.
2019: Sung Kang
The decision to move the AT&T Byron Nelson to Trinity Forest Golf Club was taken to try and give the tournament a shot in the arm. Fields had steadily weakened as players decided they didn’t want to play at TPC Four Seasons but the move to Trinity Forest didn’t quite have the positive effect that was hoped for. For the second year in a row, the winner of the Byron Nelson shot -23 as the par-71 links-style course provided continued birdie opportunities.
Complaints about the course were heard from fans and pundits but most decidedly not from Sung Kang who took full advantage as he took the course apart. He tied with the tournament record set by Aaron Wise the year before. Also like Wise, this was the first PGA Tour win of Kang’s career while it was the second time that the Byron Nelson has been won by a South Korean after Sangmoon Bae’s victory in 2013.
Sung Kang was right to be delighted with his performance in Dallas which included equalling the course record of 61. He did enough to keep an eclectic and strong chasing pack firmly in the rearview mirror with Matt Every, Scott Piercy and Brooks Koepka filling the places in behind him.
2018: Aaron Wise
The road to winning on the PGA Tour is a long one, taking in a whole host of junior, amateur and mini-tour events along the way. Aaron Wise knows exactly how tough it is to keep fighting to get to the top. Prior to making it onto the PGA Tour, he secured wins on the Web.com and Mackenzie Tours and all of that hard work returned handsomely in the moment that every professional golfer dreams of: walking up the final fairway, saluting the crowd with victory assured.
Victory was anything but assured for Wise when he began his final round, though. Although he started Sunday seven shots clear of Branden Grace in third place, he had company at the top of the leaderboard in the shape of the experienced winner of multiple events around the world, Marc Leishman. It was Wise who looked like the experienced pro though, steadily pulling clear of Leishman after a weather delay to win his first PGA Tour title.
As impressive as the 21 year old rookie’s win was, the 2018 edition of the AT&T Byron Nelson was not universally revered by golf fans. The return to Dallas had historical significance on the tournament’s 50th anniversary but Trinity Forest proved to be a pushover in damp conditions that allowed Wise to break the tournament record with a winning score of -23.
2017: Billy Horschel
The tournament organisers for the AT&T Byron Nelson were hoping the 2018 edition would provide a fitting finale to the hosting duties of TPC Four Seasons and so it proved with Billy Horschel and Jason Day locked together at -12 after the 72 regulation holes. The pair played against each other in the final grouping alongside James Hahn (who missed out on the playoff by a matter of inches when his approach on the 72nd hole narrowly missed for eagle) but their extra time together in the playoff was as short as could be with a three-putt from Day handing the victory to Horschel courtesy of a par.
That the two men could not be separated over 72 holes was not a surprise given the quality of their golf at TPC Four Seasons. That they were capable of such good golf certainly was a surprise though. Horschel’s incoming form was horrible with four straight missed cuts while Day suffered the ignominy of failing to break 80 in his most recent round at the Players Championship.
With Hahn’s chances of winning receding after a weather break in the final round, it was left to Horschel and Day to trade blows. When Horschel holed the longest putt of his career on the 14th hole Day responded by chipping in for birdie on the 15th. They matched each other to the green on the first playoff hole but Day’s usually reliable putter let him down, gifting his opponent a fourth PGA Tour title.