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Byron Nelson Championship Preview: Q&A With SB Nation Golf

Emily Kay of SB Nation's golf hub swings by to help us preview the 2012 Byron Nelson Championship.

IRVING, TX - MAY 23: Jordan Spieth lines up a putt on the 17th hole during the fourth round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship at TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas on May 23, 2010 in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
IRVING, TX - MAY 23: Jordan Spieth lines up a putt on the 17th hole during the fourth round of the HP Byron Nelson Championship at TPC Four Seasons Resort Las Colinas on May 23, 2010 in Irving, Texas. (Photo by Darren Carroll/Getty Images)
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The 2012 Byron Nelson Championship gets underway from the Four Seasons Resort and Club Dallas, in Irving Texas on Thursday, and we've brought in Emily Kay of SB Nation's golf hub to help us preview the event.

Golf fans might be experiencing a bit of a let down this weekend, since the Byron Nelson Championship is certainly no PLAYERS Championship at Sawgrass. What storylines do you think are worth following closely this weekend?

Matt Kuchar rolls into Texas on a high after the biggest win of his career last week at the Players. It was also his fifth top-10 finish in his last seven starts. Can he sustain the momentum or did sinking that clutch birdie putt on 16, just seconds after Rickie Fowler canned a two on the infamous island green, take too much out of him? It's tough to win back-to-back events out there, but expect Kuchar to smile his way through the week, no matter what happens.

Keegan Bradley -- he's the defending champ and reigning PGA Championship titleholder, but he's struggled in his last four outings, following a T27 at the Masters with two missed cuts and a T35 at the Players. TPC Four Seasons should set up well for him, especially since he's one of the best drivers of the ball on tour (he ranks 10th in total driving and has improved both his distance and accuracy off the tee) and he says he favors "tight" courses over those with wide-open fairways. He believes his game's in good shape and could be ready to capture his third tour win.

Phil Mickelson -- Which Lefty will show up -- the one who crushed Tiger Woods at Pebble Beach and lost that heartbreaker (along with Bradley) to Bill Haas, or the guy who makes you scratch your head when he tries to hit that unplayable shot from the jungle on the fourth hole of the Masters on Sunday? Overall, Mickelson has played consistent golf so far this season, with four top-10 finishes.

Ernie Els -- Will he ever conquer the yips that keep costing him big finishes? Probably not this week.

Phil Mickelson is probably the biggest name in the tournament, since Tiger Woods isn't playing this weekend. He's struggled since the Masters -- any reason for his struggles, or is that just how golf goes?

I'm going with, that's just how golf goes. At Pebble Beach, Mickelson looked like he was ready to take every title within reach and he had that hard-luck runner-up finish in the Northern Trust Open playoff the following week. He was T4 at the Houston Open and shared third place at the Masters -- even after all those triples (seriously -- what was he thinking, trying to hit that shot right-handed instead of going back to the tee?). He may have had a post-World Golf Hall of Fame induction hangover last week at The Players, which you can certainly understand.

Last year, Keegan Bradley won with a -3, the worst score to win the tournament since 1981. Was there any particular reason for this, and will we likely see a similar winning score this year?

Could happen especially when the wind blows, as it did last year, with gusts reaching 35 mph. It looks as if the breezes will be fairly mild on Thursday and could become more blustery through the weekend.

And then there's the 7,166-yard course itself, which last year averaged 72.354 strokes and ranked as the third-most challenging par-70 in non-majors, according to All in all a winning score like last year's is not out of the question.

If I were only going to tune each day to watch one of the 18 holes, which would be the most entertaining to watch, and why?

The 528-yard par-4 third hole is extremely challenging, with a lake running the full length of the fairway down the right. The 323-yard 11th is a drivable par-4 and it's always entertaining to watch the big hitters go for the green. The 198-yard par-3 17th is a signature hole with a lake fronting the green, and the 429-yard par-4 8th, with four new lakes and mini-waterfalls that run from the landing area to the green, will make for fun viewing on Sunday.

Who do you think will win this year's Byron Nelson Championship and why?

Best to ask someone else for a prediction. Picking winners of golf tourneys is like herding cats.

Be sure to follow Emily Kay on Twitter for more golf news and insight. Also be sure to check SB Nation Dallas' StoryStream throughout the weekend for updates on the Byron Nelson Championship.

Photographs by jamesbrandon, jdtornow, phlezk, flygraphix, mcdlttx, tomasland, and literalbarrage used in background montage under Creative Commons. Thank you.