8 Players to Watch at the 2015 Byron Nelson


Anyone who has ever attended a golf tournament knows the drill: the biggest names get the biggest crowds, and if you want to see somebody like Jordan Spieth or Phil Mickelson you have to either be really tall or you have to pick a spot two or three holes ahead and wait for the players you want to see to come through. One of the things I really like to do when I attend a golf tournament is to go against the grain and follow some of the unsung players.

When I was a teenager I was a standard bearer for several years at the Western Open. Obviously I always hoped to have the best players in my groups, and it was definitely a thrill to get to walk with guys like Tom Lehman, Peter Jacobson and Tiger Woods. That being said, some of my fondest memories are of following around unheralded guys like Franklin Langham and Harrison Frazar.

When you follow players with smaller galleries you can get a really unique perspective on how they interact with their caddy, the other players, the gallery and any friends or family they may have with them. You can see how they shake off a poor tee shot or how their confidence grows after a couple of birdies in a row. I’m not suggesting you avoid the big names or big crowds, but there is certainly something to be said for following some unheralded groups for at least a few holes.

Of course, everyone wants to follow a winner, and the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Four Seasons Resort in Irving, Texas is a great place to look for lesser-known players who can get a win. Four of the last four Byron Nelson champions were first-time winners, including Brendon Todd in 2014 and Sangmoon Bae in 2013.

When Brendon Todd won last year he also led the field in scrambling. The ability to make par or better after missing the fairway is always a nice skill to have, but it seems to be particularly important at the Byron Nelson. Graham DeLaet and Boo Weekley tied for second in scrambling last season and finished seventh and fifth respectively. When Sangmoon Bae won in 2013, he finished 17th in scrambling. Justin Bolli led the field in Scrambling and finished fourth.

There is a pretty good chance we get another first-time PGA Tour victor at the Byron Nelson, and there is a good chance that player is able to make good things happen out of the rough. With that in mind, I have listed my top 8 players most likely to get their first PGA Tour win this week at the Byron Nelson Championship. If you are looking for obscure players to follow who could have huge weeks, here are your best bets.

1. Kevin Kisner

It is almost certainly a matter of when—not if—Kisner wins his first tournament. Kisner has lost in two playoffs in the last seven weeks and had another top-five at the Crowne Plaza Invitational. He tied for 16th at the Byron Nelson Championship last year and was 23rd in Scrambling coming into last week.

2. Justin Thomas

Thomas is in the midst of a breakout season, with five top-10s in 19 events including a T7 his last time out at the Wells Fargo Championship. At just 22 years old he has a bright future ahead of him.

3. Morgan Hoffman

Hoffman has come close to winning the Byron Nelson before, finishing 16th last year and fifth in 2013. This could easily be the year he breaks through.

4. Graham DeLaet

DeLaet has had a couple of close calls at the Byron Nelson as well, finishing T7 last year and T10 in 2013.

5. Billy Hurley III

Hurley finished T16 last year and was ninth in scrambling going into the Crowne Plaza Invitational.

6. Colt Knost

Knost tied for 10th at the Crowne Plaza Invitational and tied for 21st at the Byron Nelson in 2013. He is having his best season as a pro at age 29.

7. Zac Blair

I liked him better before he shot a 74 on Sunday to finish +1 for the tournament, but there are still some reasons for encouragement. Blair entered the Crowne Plaza Invitational eighth on the PGA Tour in Scrambling.

8. Cameron Smith

Cameron Smith is certainly the dark horse of this group, having played mostly in Australia and Asia. Smith has two top-15 finishes in seven PGA Tour events this season, and it would not be shocking if he breaks through this week.



Houston Rockets 2015 Western Conference Finals Ticket Trends


The NBA Western Conference Finals are making their way to Houston for the first time in almost two decades. The last time that Houston hosted a Western Conference Finals game, was in 1997, when the Rockets roster included names like Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, and Hakeem Olajuwon. The 2015 Houston Rockets team looks significantly different from those 1997 Rockets, and come back to Houston in a pretty large hole, after dropping the series’ first two games to the Golden State Warriors. Despite being down 2 games to 0, demand for Houston Rockets Western Conference Playoff Tickets has increased drastically over the first two rounds of the Western Conference playoffs, with the median ticket prices for the Rockets first two home games, more than doubling the first two home games from the previous two series.

Here is a look at the median ticket prices for Houston Rockets home playoff games this postseason.

Ticket Predictions

It may go without saying, but ticket prices are expected to continue to rise if the Rockets are able to pull out a win in Game 3 and go even higher if they can also win Game 4. In their Western Conference Semi-Final series against the Los Angeles Clippers, median ticket prices shot up from $190 in the Rockets 2nd home game to more than than $460 for their 3rd game at the Toyota Center. If the Rockets are able to erase this 0-2 series deficit and come back to Houston for a game 6, ticket prices will likely be the highest for the Rockets in over a decade.

Series Predictions

While the Rockets find themselves in a difficult spot down by 2 games, the series has been nothing but thrilling so far. Game 2 ended in heartbreak for Houston as the Rockets erased a 7 point 4th quarter deficit, only to fall just 1 point short. The fact that the Rockets have played well doesn’t make the road ahead any easier for Houston. The Warriors have been the dominant team in the Western Conference from the start of the 2014-15 NBA Season, and the Rockets have shown no indication of finding an answer to Steph Curry. But Rockets fans may remember being in a similar situation in both the 1994 and 1995 Western Conference Semi-Finals, and both times the team was able to come back and win the series. If any team in the playoffs is equipped to come back from a 2 game deficit, it is the Rockets, for no other reason than they have already done it. The Rockets looked to be on the ropes against the Clippers, down 1-3. But Houston roared back, winning 3 in a row to head to the Western Conference Finals. Given the way that the Warriors have played in the Bay Area, the Rockets will have to treat each of these next two home games as must wins, a sense of urgency that will likely push demand and prices for Rockets Playoff tickets higher and higher.



3 Reason to Root for American Pharaoh to win the Triple Crown.

Zayat Stables' American Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinoza win the Grade I $300,000 FrontRunner Stakes Saturday, September 27, 2014 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, CA. ©Benoit Photo
Zayat Stables’ American Pharoah and jockey Victor Espinoza win the Grade I $300,000 FrontRunner Stakes Saturday, September 27, 2014 at Santa Anita Park, Arcadia, CA.
©Benoit Photo

1. History

Horse Racing’s triple crown might be the most elusive achievement in any sport. The first horse to ever win the triple crown was Sir Barton in 1919. In the almost 100 year since then, only 10 other horses of succeeded in taking home horse racing’s most elusive title. The last horse to win the Triple Crown was Affirmed in 1978. If American Pharoah wins the Belmont Stakes, it would be 37 years in between Triple Crown winners, the longest drought in the history of the sport.

2. Near Misses

Horse racing has been desperate for another Triple Crown winner for almost 40 years. The 2000’s have been especially heart breaking, with 6 horses winning the Kentucky Derby and Preakness in the same season, before falling in the Belmont Stakes. Last year California Chrome finished 4th in the Belmont Stakes, after winning the first two. 2004 might be the most heartbreaking of the last twenty years, with Birdstone using the last stretch at the Belmont to overcome a 4 length deficit to edge Smarty Jones Triple Crown attempt by a length. Throw in other near misses from I’ll have Another, Big Brown, Funny Cide, and War Emblem, and the 2000’s have been a bit rough on the Triple Crown hopeful.

3. Because he can win it

One of the reasons that the Triple Crown so difficult, is the differences in lengths between the three races. The Kentucky Derby is 2 km, the Preakness Stakes is 1.9 km, and the Belmont Stakes is 2.4 km, a half a km longer than the Preakness. Following American Pharaoh’s slim victory at the Kentucky Derby, the expectations at the Preakness were lulled. But the 3 year old Colt destroyed the field in the rain, winning by something like 7 lengths. He led front the start, but came alive in the home stretch, pulling away from everyone. With that kind of performance, it has fans across the world believing that he has the ability to keep that going over the extra half a kilometer, and pull in the triple crown we have all been waiting for.