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Top fields for Byron Nelson and Colonial

Area golf fans have been watching from couches, their TVs showing Ernie Els winning in Hawaii, Tiger Woods winning the Match Play, Phil Mickelson wearing green at the Masters and Vijay Singh posting three victories.

It's time to see these players up close.

The Texas two-step draws near, beginning with next week's EDS Byron Nelson Championship, followed by the Bank of America Colonial.

The tournaments have attracted extremely strong fields, with seven of the top 10 players in the World Ranking expected over two weeks.

From all indications, the Nelson will feature the top six players in the World Ranking at the TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas. No. 1 on that list is Tiger Woods, who confirmed his intention to play on Wednesday. The Colonial, deep as usual, has commitments from four of the top 10.

The Nelson kicks things off with a bang. Getting the top six together is rare for a regular tour event.

Woods skipped last year's Nelson because he was defending his title at Deutsche Bank-SAP Open in Germany. That marked the only time he has missed the event since turning pro.

Deutsche Bank, which conflicts with Colonial this year, affected the Nelson field last year. And it took a little bite out of Colonial this time.

The German event, which pays appearance fees to top players, lured two-time champion Nick Price. Els, Retief Goosen, Adam Scott and Darren Clarke are among other international players in the Deutsche Bank field.

Els and Price have committed to the Nelson.

Price has missed the cut once in 17 starts at the Colonial. His 2002 win revived his career. He played last year, but was not overjoyed about being overshadowed by Annika Sorenstam during his title defense.

Instead of being on Colonial's commitment list, Price is pictured on the home page of Deutsche Bank's Web site. That seems strange considering the traditionalist's deep respect for the Fort Worth event, legend Ben Hogan and "Hogan's Alley."

"We'd love to have Nick here for the rest of his career, and we're sorry he won't be here," Colonial tournament chairman Dee Finley said. "But we understand the draw of Deutsche Bank."

Colonial is deep again with 26 of the top 50 and 12 of the top 25 in the World Ranking.

The biggest change for the Nelson is its unprecedented depth. It has commitments from 29 of the top 50 in the World Ranking, including 14 of the top 25.

In terms of the PGA Tour money list, the Nelson has 35 of the top 50. Colonial has 33.

Getting Els was a coup for the Salesmanship Club, which sent representatives to nine events, making a strong push for Europeans and top-50 players.

Singh will be defending his title at the Nelson but has not committed to Colonial. No. 4 Davis Love III, No. 5 Mickelson and No. 6 Mike Weir are in both. No. 10 Stuart Appleby is in Colonial, but not the Nelson.

"I think it's indicative with this great field that we announced a sellout last Thursday," Nelson chairman Steve Barley said. "That's incredible in this economy."

Strong fields help both tournaments' charities because they attract fans.

"The field is one of the factors we look at in evaluating the success of the tournament," Finley said. "We continue to reach for that plateau of being one of the best on Tour."

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