Koepka back at Nelson after 3 major wins, before a defense

Mike McKenzie, of Dallas, struggles with his umbrella while attempting to cross the 18th fairway as the wind gusts after the Pro-Am for the Byron Nelson golf tournament was cancelled in Dallas, Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (Ryan Michalesko/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Jordan Spieth speaks to members of the media during a press conference for the Byron Nelson golf tournament in Dallas, Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (Ryan Michalesko/The Dallas Morning News via AP)
Jordan Spieth speaks to members of the media during a press conference for the Byron Nelson golf tournament in Dallas, Wednesday, May 8, 2019. (Ryan Michalesko/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

DALLAS — Brooks Koepka has won three majors since he last played at the Byron Nelson two years ago, before the tournament moved to a new links-style course south of downtown Dallas.

A week before defending his title at the now-earlier PGA Championship, the third-ranked Koepka and No. 19 Patrick Reed are the only top-20 players in the field. They are among 14 of the top 50 in the world ranking at soggy Trinity Forest this week.

"I usually play the week before a major. I think Augusta is the only one I don't do it," Koepka said. "The rest of them I like to play the week before. You don't need to play that great. I try to get some rhythm."

Except for the two-man team event at the Zurich Classic, Koepka hasn't played since tying for second behind Tiger Woods at the Masters last month.

The PGA Championship, which Koepka won last August, has been moved to a May date and is now sandwiched between the two Dallas-Fort Worth events on the PGA Tour that had traditionally been played on back-to-back weeks. The Colonial will follow the PGA Championship at Bethpage in New York.

Koepka was the Nelson runner-up in a playoff against Sergio Garcia in 2016, and tied for 50th when the event was last played at Four Seasons in 2017. But Koepka has won both U.S. Open tournaments played since then.

Aaron Wise's only PGA Tour win came at Trinity Forest last year, when at age 21 he had a Nelson-tournament record score of 23-under par.

But Wise followed that victory by missing the cut in his next five tournaments. He has missed four cuts already this year, but backed up his 17th-place finish at the Masters with a tie for 18th at the Wells Fargo Championship last week.

"The game is good, you know. It's feeling great," Wise said. "It hasn't been maybe the most stellar year for me to this point but feel like I'm really trending well, feel like I had a great finish at the Masters, really got things going that weekend, jumped up the leaderboard a bunch and then continued that into last week and played really strong."

Trinity Forest member Jordan Spieth, also like Koepka a three-time major champion, hasn't won since the 2017 British Open. He was the highest-ranked player in the Nelson field last year when he was then third, but is now 39th without a top-20 finish in his 12 starts this season. He finished 21st at Trinity Forest last year.

Another Trinity Forest member playing this week is Tony Romo, the CBS NFL analyst and former Dallas Cowboys quarterback who is in the 156-player field on a sponsor's exemption.

This will be Romo's third PGA Tour start. He played in the last two tournaments played in the Dominican Republic, shooting 15 over and missing the cut both times.

"Obviously, I understand where I'm at comparatively to the guys in this field. These are the best of the best," Romo said. "How you improve is being around them, watching them and thinking about it and practicing. For me, putting it on display is the enjoyable part."

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