There is one week left until the second major of the year but before the stars of golf head to Kiawah Island, the PGA Tour takes in a new stop for the AT&T Byron Nelson in Texas on a week where plenty of players will look to hone their game to take into next week.
This tournament was cancelled last year due to the pandemic which means that Sung Kang finally gets the chance to defend the title he won the other side of Dallas two years ago. He’ll defend against a decent field.
2019 – Sung Kang
2018 – Aaron Wise
2017 – Billy Horschel
2016 – Sergio Garcia
2015 – Steven Bowditch
2014 – Brendon Todd
2013 – Sang-moon Bae
2012 – Jason Dufner
2011 – Keegan Bradley
2010 – Jason Day
TPC Craig Ranch is the new venue for this tournament. This has staged events on the Korn Ferry Tour but this will be the first time the PGA Tour has stopped off here. The course itself is a par 72 which measures 7,468 yards and one thing to always bear in mind whenever a tournament is in Texas is the winds that often blow. For that reason the greens will run quite slow this week so that the impact of the wind on the surfaces is marginalised.
Generally in Texas the premium is on hitting the greens. The run off areas and trouble around the greens can make scrambling quite difficult but inevitably players will be required to scramble at times so good iron players should come to the fore. This probably isn’t a week to be put off by poor putters because few will have knowledge of these greens so the ball strikers should elevate themselves in your thinking here.
The world number one Dustin Johnson was scheduled to tee it up this week but he pulled out earlier in it citing an injury which leaves Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau as the leading lights who will be teeing it up here. Brooks Koepka is another huge name who is teeing it up hoping to find some form and confidence for a tilt at the USPGA Championship next week. The other leading light is the home star Jordan Spieth who will go in search of successive Texas successes having landed the Texas Open just prior to The Masters.
The overseas challenge will be headed by The Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama and English ace Matthew Fitzpatrick while the likes of Marc Leishman, Si Woo Kim and Texas homed Sergio Garcia will be looking to go to Kiawah Island next week off the back of a win. Others who will fancy their chances this week include Daniel Berger, Scottie Scheffler, Ryan Palmer and Jason Day. Sam Burns will look for back to back wins after coming out on top at the Valspar Championship a couple of weeks ago.
We have joint favourites to win the tournament this week in the shape of Bryson DeChambeau and Jon Rahm. They are both 8/1 shots to land the title. The first question that needs to be answered is whether they are here to win or to find something on the golf course to take to next week. Rahm missed the cut at the Wells Fargo last week so getting back on track is likely to be his priority. DeChambeau will be playing here for the first time and I’m not convinced the track will necessarily suit him so I’ll pass both over.
Jordan Spieth will be popular this week even at 12/1. He is a Texas native so will know the conditions really well even if he isn’t as up to speed with the course itself. Spieth won the Texas Open last month and generally plays well in home surroundings. If there is a question mark over him at a relatively short price then it would be that he hasn’t played since The Masters but his third placed finish there was his sixth top 10 in his last eight starts. If there are no cobwebs to blow off then he should go close but that is enough of a question mark to sway me getting involved.
Daniel Berger and Scottie Scheffler are next in the market at 18/1. Scheffler looks to be a winner in waiting and you sense that when it comes it will be in Texas where he went to college. He is a good player in the wind and has all the tools in terms of the shots but he hasn’t got over the line yet and that is enough to put me off at a tight price. I like Berger a lot but he just looks to have come off his very top form which is a concern. His time will come again but his price doesn’t jump out as value to me.
Will Zalatoris was one of my main bets last week and he missed the cut in a surprisingly ordinary performance. I’m willing to let him have that though as perhaps it was too soon to expect someone to pitch up at Quail Hollow and swing at everything without having seen the place before. He is one in the field here who has seen this place before and that could be a huge advantage. This is a home game for the Texan educated youngster who said in his press conference earlier in the week that he has played this course hundreds of times along with Scottie Scheffler. Scheffler was on my shortlist but Zalatoris, arguably expected to be much better than Scheffler long term, is half the price again. Zalatoris’ strength is usually the aggressiveness of his iron play and on a course where he will know the misses and when to go for that bit more I expect him to make up for the missed cut last week with a huge week in home comforts here.
Sam Burns didn’t surprise anyone when he won the Valspar Championship a couple of weeks ago but the way he won from the front was something of a surprise having been in a similar position earlier in the season at the Genesis Invitational only to fluff his lines. He said after winning that he learns from negative situations and you can’t help but want a golfer onside for whom that is the case, especially when his all-round game should suit this place nicely. He is another who has tasted this course in the past having come through Q-School to earn his playing rights here in the past. He will be full of confidence and doesn’t strike me as one of those players who will stop on one win. I’ll ride the player in form here.
Doug Ghim is another local player who looks to have a fair chance this week. He lives in Texas and he went to college there so he will have played this course a few times I’m sure. We know he played it in 2018 as he came fourth in Q-School here that year and he has kicked on nicely since then. He was fifth at the American Express earlier in the season and got himself late Sunday tee times at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and The Players Championship before making a complete mess of the final rounds. His putting is the reason he hasn’t kicked on like he was expected to after his American Express run but with others less familiar with the greens this week than him if his putting is going to be less of a disadvantage it will be here. We know he has flushed it from tee to green all season so if he can just get that putter to even semi cooperate this could be his week.
Jhonattan Vegas was a bet of mine last week and I’m not ready to desert him now he is back in Texas where he tends to go well. Vegas finished way down the field after making the cut last week but once again he led the field in strokes gained off the tee and was right up there from tee to green. He just flopped on the greens, which could be an issue here but again nobody is going to have a huge advantage on the greens this week. We know Vegas’ long game is in good order and we know that he can handle the wind so he gets another chance for me here.
My final bet will come in the form of James Hahn who has a decent record on Weiskopf courses in the main. His record at TPC Scottsdale is pretty good for someone who isn’t a prolific winner and he was second here in the Korn Ferry Tour event in 2012. That was a while ago but golfers are creatures of habit and so I think it is significant. His recent form hasn’t been fantastic but you only have to go back a couple of months for a top 15 at Riviera and top 10 in Phoenix so good golf is there even if it is few and far between. He was third in this tournament in 2017 and generally hits lots of good iron shots. That might see him past a fair few this week.
Back W.Zalatoris to win AT&T Byron Nelson (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 29.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
PLACED – Back S.Burns to win AT&T Byron Nelson (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back D.Ghim to win AT&T Byron Nelson (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 67.00 with Betway (1/5 1-7)
Back J.Vegas to win AT&T Byron Nelson (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 101.00 with 888sport (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back J.Hahn to win AT&T Byron Nelson (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 151.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)