By the Blouin News Sports staff

Byron Nelson Championship preview

by in Golf.

American Jason Dufner hoists the HP Byron Nelson Championship trophy in 2012 (Darren Carroll/Getty Images)

American Jason Dufner hoists the HP Byron Nelson Championship trophy in 2012 (Darren Carroll/Getty Images)

With the purse reaching its highest mark to date, the HP Byron Nelson Championship will be a competitive tournament. Beginning on Thursday, May 16th and running through the weekend, a field of over 150 golfers will be competing for $1.17 million first place earnings and 500 FedEx Cup points.

The total purse has been raised $200,000 from $6.5 million to $6.7 million, which is equal to the Wells Fargo Championship held earlier this month. And having to be the tournament that immediately follows the Players’ Championship, it’s always difficult attracting the best golfers in the game. So, with big names like Tiger Woods, Sergio Garcia, Adam Scott and Phil Mickelson out of the event, it will be interesting to see who comes away victorious.

Here are five players to watch:

Jason Dufner is an obvious candidate to keep your eye on, if for no other reason than the fact that he won the event in 2012. Dufner had an incredible start to the 2012 season, leading the way into his improbable win last May in Texas at the Nelson. However, 2013 has been the complete opposite so far for the 36-year-old. Without any top-10 finishes yet and a meager $477,029 earnings so far, expectations for him to come away with the big prize are low. Although Dufner has made nine out of eleven cuts on the season, including the Masters in Augusta in April where he finished 20th and brought in his biggest earnings of the year with $89,920. Unfortunately, Dufner’s most memorable moment of the 2013 year is creating the internet meme that has become known as Dufnering — when he was sitting in a room full of children for a charity event and was captured in a photo dozing off into a near sleep.

Matt Kuchar is ranked fifth in earnings in 2013 with $2,493,387.30 so far — along with 1,089 Cup points, also good for fifth. The 34-year-old American is off to a great start, highlighted by an eighth-place finish at the Masters and a win in February at the World Golf Championship: Accenture Match. Kuchar has yet to miss a cut in any of his 11 tournaments this year and has enjoyed moderate levels of success at the Nelson in years past. He has never won the tournament, but he is a surefire bet to be in it till the fourth and final round.

Jason Day, a 25-year-old Australian, might have the odds in his favor to come away with some big-time earnings this weekend. So far in the 2013 season, Day has made the cut in all ten of his attempted tournaments, and has four top-10 finishes. He is 11th overall in earnings with $1,802,797.40 and 16th overall in Cup points with 764. A third-place finish at both the Masters and the WGC: Accenture Match were impressive feats, but no more than his 2010 win at the Nelson. Three years removed from winning the event at age 22, Day figures to be more in control of his emotions than he admitted was back then.

D.A. Points has had an inconsistent 2013 season so far, but a second-place finish at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans in April and a first-place finish at the Shell Houston Open in March have earned him major money on the year — and a rep as a player capable of catching fire. The year had a rough start for the 36-year-old: he missed the cut on seven of his first nine tournaments and in the two he made he finished in 63rd and 68th. After missing the cut at the end of March for the Arnold Palmer Invitational, he has qualified for six straight events and earned $1,995,654 of his $2,019,702 earned on the year in just seven weeks. He is ranked seventh in Cup points and eighth in overall earnings on the year. Though he’s as likely to tank as to win, here, there’s no denying he’s on the better end of an uneven season.

Charles Howell III trails only Brandt Snedeker in top-10 finishes in 2013, but he has yet to finish first in any of his 14 events. His $1,561,987.90 earnings on the year are good for 15th-best and his 812 cup points good for 12th, but since three top-10 finishes in January — two in the top three — his two highest finishes have been 10th place at the Wells Fargo Championship and the Shell Houston Open. He is coming off a 66th-place finish at the Players’ Championship after struggling in the third and fourth rounds, so there isn’t much reason to believe he will turn things around this weekend. A Howell win is unlikely but he is an easy choice to finish in or near the top 10.

Professional Golf Association

May 16-19, 2013
TPC Four Seasons Resort – Irving, TX | Par 70 7,166 Yards
2012 Champion: Jason Dufner