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Who Will Swing Supreme?
As the weather heats up, so does the competition on the PGA Tour. Here are some tournaments you won’t want to miss. -- Josh Sens

 

 

MASTERS TOURNAMENT

• April 10 to 13

• Augusta National Golf Club; Augusta, Georgia

• Purse: $7,000,000

• Defending champion: Zach Johnson

• Tune in: ESPN, CBS

Tiger Woods is taking aim at the Grand Slam, but he can’t win all four majors if he doesn’t win the first. At 7,445 yards, Augusta plays to Tiger’s long game. This year, though, the first tee has been extended forward, so the hole can actually play 10 yards shorter -- if tournament organizers are in a generous mood.

 

THE MEMORIAL TOURNAMENT

• May 29 to June 1

• Muirfield Village Golf Club; Dublin, Ohio

• Purse: $6,000,000

• Defending champion: K.J. Choi

• Tune in: The Golf Channel, CBS

In past years, tournament host Jack Nicklaus tweaked the layout, adding fresh defenses to defy the world’s top players. This year, he’s leaving his masterpiece alone. But with water in play on 11 holes, Muirfield already makes for a difficult setup. It does set up for a good story, though: Defending champion K.J. Choi of South Korea learned the game by reading Nicklaus’s book Golf My Way.

 

THE PLAYERS CHAMPIONSHIP

• May 8 to 11

• TPC Sawgrass; Ponte Vedra Beach, Florida

• Purse: $9,000,000

• Defending champion: Phil Mickelson

• Tune in: The Golf Channel, NBC

Known as the fifth major, the Players Championship features the island-green 17th, one of the game’s most famous holes. Last year, a record 94 balls went kerplunk at this 137-yard par three. Some players have dismissed the hole as a gimmick, but Mickelson loves it. And it’s no wonder: Lefty’s win last year netted him $1.7 million.

 

U.S. OPEN CHAMPIONSHIP

• June 12 to 15

• Torrey Pines Golf Course; San Diego, California

• Purse: $7,000,000

• Defending champion: Angel Cabrera

• Tune in: ESPN, NBC

The U.S. Open returns to Southern California for the first time in 60 years, and San Diego’s Torrey Pines South Course will be up for the test. At 7,643 yards, it’s the longest venue in U.S. Open history; its stout par-four fourth hole now plays tougher than ever (its fairway has been shifted closer to a cliff); and the par-five 13th has a new tee box that requires a monstrous drive just to reach the short grass.

 


Updating an Old Classic

 

EDS BYRON NELSON CHAMPIONSHIP

April 21 to 27

TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas;

Irving, Texas

Cottonwood Valley Golf Course;

Irving, Texas

Purse: $6,400,000

Defending champion: Scott Verplank

Tune in: The Golf Channel, CBS

Throughout his golf career, Byron Nelson was a model of consistency. His tournament, though, is introducing a few changes. The Byron, the annual event named in Lord Byron’s honor, is sporting a fresh look this year, with a renovated layout and new attractions that are sure to please players and spectators alike. PGA Tour veteran D.A. Weibring oversaw the upgrades to the course, which included lengthening holes, fine-tuning sand traps, and enhancing water hazards -- like the one to the lake on hole 18, which is now graced with a dramatic waterfall. And tour stars aren’t the only ones who will get to play: Among the great additions is the 12,000-squarefoot KidsZone, which includes a moonwalk, a miniature golf course, arts and crafts, and other family-friendly activities. The popular Food Court Pavilion, near the main entrance and which in past years closed at 5:30 p.m., will have extended hours, and live bands will perform on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Oh, and lest we forget -- for the first time, beer and wine will be on sale at concession stands around the course. Tickets: $45 per day, $90 for the week. www.edsbyronnelsonchampionship.org