IRVING, Tex. -- Under sunny skies with a solid drive in the fairway off the first tee Tuesday morning, course architect D.A. Weibring christened the redesigned TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas course. It was a symbolic strike for a $10 million project that was close to Weibring's heart and dogged by persistent rains once the renovation began May 10 of last year.
"There were a lot of people who didn't think we'd be standing here," said Weibring, on hand for a preview of the layout that will host the EDS Byron Nelson Championship in late April. "We're real happy to be at the finish line. I'm not sure we'd want to start over."
The travails of the re-do, which Weibring completed with his partner at Golf Resources Group, Steve Wolfard, seemed a bit of a distant memory on this clear morning. Although the last portion of the course wasn't sodded until mid-October, a heavy overseeding of winter rye has the course looking good.
The new greens are smooth, a sharp contrast to the mediocre putting surfaces that caused so much consternation during the 2007 Nelson. As to amplify that point, TPC director of golf Paul Earnest casually holed a 60-foot putt using a driver on the 18th green. "That's a good omen right there," said Weibring, who admitted during some of the more trying days of his job to pausing by the 9 1/2-foot statue of Nelson near the first tee and asking for a little divine intervention. "I'd say, 'I know you're close to 'the man,' we need a little help here.' "
While utilizing the old routing, Weibring and Wolfard produced a cleaner design by improving sight lines, softening mounds, relocating 165 trees and trying to provide players with more options, particularly around the greens. "We tried to do it naturally so it fit the eye and made it fair," said Weibring, who heard plenty of comments from PGA Tour players that they didn't like the number of "awkward" tee shots. Dallas-area residents and tour pros J.J. Henry and Harrison Frazar were consultants to Weibring.
The result is more visually appealing layout that Weibring and tournament officials hope will eventually lure more top players back to the tournament that was so closely linked to Nelson, one of golf's great gentlemen and a fixture at the tournament for decades until his death in 2006. Weibring said his motivation was "to pay respect to Byron. That started at the top and went all the way down to the guys that are still out there on the course working."
The Nelson has a tough spot on the schedule this year, two weeks after the Masters and before the Wachovia Championship and the Players. "It's a very challenging date," Weibring said. "I've been on the record about that. I don't think that's the way you show respect for Byron and the tournament raising the most [charity] money on tour."
First things first. If Henry's peers who do come and compete next month like the new look as much as he did when he played the layout Monday, things will be looking up. "I was blown away," Henry said before heading off to New Orleans for this week's tournament. For now, it was simply time to take a bow.