Scotty Scheffler, five other Top 20 players, title early 2022 AT&T commitments Byron Nelson

This year’s AT&T Byron Nelson will have no shortage of star power. For the second time since Tiger Woods’ last appearance for Nelson in 2005, he will be the No. 1 player in the world at Nelson Stadium.

This man topping the official world golf rankings is, of course, the newly minted Masters Champion Scotty Scheffler. The Highland Park producer has comfortably jumped to the top of those rankings thanks to four wins over the past eight weeks, most recently this past weekend at the Augusta National. Scheffler will be joined by other familiar local names Jordan Spieth (Dallas) and Will Zalatores (Plano) when the 2022 Nelson Grand Prix begins on May 12.

Scheffler, Spieth, and Zalatores have been Nelson’s mainstays for their entire career. Being a Metroplex helps, but Nelson also gave the three of them their first taste of professional golf with sponsor exemptions in their teenage years. Spieth and Schaeffler both played and made cuts as a high school student (Speth finished 16th in 2010, Schaeffler finished 22nd and got a hole-in-one in 2014). Zalatoris was given a spot on the field when he was 18, but had to back out of the championship week due to an emergency appendectomy. He earned his Nelson debut the following year instead, also as a sponsor exemption.

“They’ve been a big supporter of Nelson for quite some time,” said tournament director John Drago. “It gives local golf enthusiasts a ‘hometown sports team’ to cheer on.”

It’s not just DFW residents who make up this year’s field. Some of the biggest names in golf, including Dustin Johnson and Brooks Koepka, are also early commitments.

Both Johnson and Koepka played at Nelson last year, a first in the new championship home at TPC Craig Ranch. The fact that they’re back this spring is a testament to the new venue, as well as where the event is on the golf calendar, according to Drago.

“It’s a great validation for us,” he said. “They came last year, enjoyed it and loved playing the week before the PGA Championship.”

Other early commitments revealed on Wednesday included two top 20 golfers at Sam Burns (No. 10) and Louis Oosthuizen (No. 14). With Schaeffler (No. 1), Johnson (No. 9), Koepka (No. 16) and Spieth (No. 20) also committed, giving Nelson three of the top 10 players and six of the world’s top 20 players already pledged to be part of next month’s field.

Former lead champs Bubba Watson and Francesco Molinari, as well as European Tour star Tommy Fleetwood, are also committed and will make their Nelson debut.

Defending champion KH Lee, who was a tournament record 25 under-performer last year when he claimed his first professional victory, will return to defend his title. Players played in “lift, clean and place” conditions for several rounds last May due to rainy weather.

“We couldn’t be happier now with the progress,” said Drago, noting that they expect more names to emerge during the post-Masters period, when the tournament usually gets a lot of its commitment. “We have a lot of momentum from last year and hope to build on that success.”

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