The list includes Dustin Johnson, the No. 19 player in the world rankings who withdrew before Friday’s second round at The Players Championship in Ponte Vedra Beach, Fla. because of a lower back injury. Johnson, a significant gate attraction and one of the tour’s longest hitters, posted Friday on his Twitter account that he is “hoping to rebound” at the Nelson and still plans to compete in Irving.
Only four players in next week’s field at the Four Seasons Resort rank higher than Johnson in the world rankings: Louis Oosthuizen (No. 7), Matt Kuchar (No. 11), Keegan Bradley (No. 14) and Charl Schwartzel (No. 16). The list of top-25 competitors also includes the past three Nelson winners: defending champ Jason Dufner (No. 20); 2010 champ Jason Day (No. 25), a former Fort Worth resident, and Bradley, the 2011 champ.
Among Friday’s notable additions to the Nelson field were John Daly, Ryo Ishikawa, Stuart Appleby, Camilo Villegas, Chris DiMarco and Ted Purdy, the 2005 Nelson champ. Dropping off the list was Bo Van Pelt, the No. 26 player in the world rankings, as well as Carl Pettersson, Johnson Wagner and Derek Ernst, last week’s winner at the Wells Fargo Championship in Charlotte, N.C.
In addition, the 2013 Nelson will feature two notable teenagers: Guan Tianlang, the 14-year-old from China who finished as low amateur at the 2013 Masters, and Dallas native Jordan Spieth, 19, who will compete for the first time as a professional in his hometown tour stop. Spieth made his PGA Tour debut at the 2010 Nelson and finished in a tie for 16th while playing as a 16-year-old during his junior year at Jesuit High School.
Notable international players in the Nelson field will be past major champions Trevor Immelman (South Africa), Martin Kaymer (Germany), Padraig Harrington (Ireland) and Angel Cabrera (Argentina).
But the big news is that Johnson, who also withdrew from the 2013 Masters because of his back ailment, still plans to compete in Irving despite withdrawing from The Players after posting a 74 in Thursday’s opening round. In explaining his decision on his Twitter account (@DJohnsonPGA), he wrote: “Felt good working out this morning but something didn’t feel right on the range b4 the round. Hoping to rebound @ the @hpbnc!!”
_ Jimmy Burch