The PGA Tour heads to Texas this week for the AT&T Byron Nelson Classic.
And to think I was a whisker away from backing Rory last week. I chose present form over historical relevance and was waylaid. Rory barely hit a fairway on Sunday but was unbelievably clutch with the putter. If only weekend-Bryson had been there from the start last week. I would have had a likely winner on my hands. As it stands, Rory looks in great nick ahead of the PGA Championship next week (it doesn’t hurt that he also won the PGA Championship at Kiawah by a record 8 shots). This week sees the players heading to the Lone Star State for one final tune-up before the year’s 2nd Major.
Originally known as the Dallas Open, the first edition of this event was won in 1944 by the very man whose name it now bears. This was once an extremely prestigious event, with the likes of Nicklaus, Watson and Woods all tasting success in its various incarnations. But the event started to lose some of its appeal when it was hosted at TPC Four Seasons (a course notoriously unpopular with many pros). After a few years at Trinity Forest the event has now moved to TPC Craig Ranch, just north of Dallas. The fact that it leads into this year’s PGA Championship had me convinced that we would see a hugely understrength field. I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality of this week’s field and it will be interesting to see how the players adapt to this relatively new course.
Designed by legendary figure Tom Weiskopf and opened in 2004, TPC Craig Ranch has actually featured on the Korn Ferry Tour on occasion. It is a tree-lined parkland event with very generous zoysiagrass fairways. The bentgrass greens will be relatively slow at around 11.5 on the stimpmeter. Perhaps the most striking feature of the course is Rowlett Creek. The water-hazard will snake its way through 14 of the 18 holes this week. Players will need to be mindful of that as they tee it up. All in all, there’s very little to go on in regards of course consideration. It is perhaps best to stick with players entering this event in decent form.
As I mentioned earlier, Bryson DeChambeau played really well last weekend. This after he mistakenly left Quail Hollow on Friday night after misjudging the cutline. No worries, he just got his private jet to take him back. Oh, the travails of a modern-day golfer. Jon Rahm missed the cut last week to break an extremely consistent sequence of events. He will be gearing up for a huge Major push next week. Masters Champ Hideki Matsuyama returns to action after a protracted post-Augusta sojourn. Spieth will be rearing to go in his home state while Brooks Koepka will determine how ready his knee is ahead of Kiawah. Further down the field, don’t discount the likes of Keith Mitchell and Luke List following their excellent performances last week.
2020: no event
2019: Sung-Hoon Kang (-23)
2018: Aaron Wise (-23)
2017: Billy Horschel (-12) *playoff
2016: Sergio Garcia (-15) *playoff
2015: Steven Bowditch (-18)
To Win Outright:
Bryson DeChambeau 8/1 | Jon Rahm 8/1 | Jordan Spieth 9/1 | Daniel Berger 14/1 | Hideki Matsuyama 20/1
Mark Leishman: To Win 33/1 | To Place 7/1
Leishman just has to sneak in this week. Firstly, he actually has knowledge of the course, finishing 8th here in a Korn Ferry event in 2008. He also has previous Byron Nelson finishes of 2-3-3. He also arrives in Texas off the back of a win alongside fellow Aussie Cameron Smith in the Zurich Classic. That followed an excellent 5th at Augusta. He hits bullet iron shots that are able to pierce heavy breezes (which should come in handy at some point this week). Furthermore, he was 3rd behind Koepka at TPC Southwind in 2019: TPC Southwind utilizes the same zoysiagrass fairways as TPC Craig Ranch.
Ryan Palmer: To Win 40/1 | To Place 17/2
The big-hitting Texan is certainly on my radar this week. Many of the top guys in the field will be using this as a glorified practice session ahead of next week’s PGA Championship. A victory here for Palmer will see him return to the winner’s circle in a stroke-play event for the first time in ten years. In Texas. That’s big. Also, Palmer has been in deceptively good form this year. He has eight top 25 finishes in 15 starts. That includes a runner-up finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. He is currently 14th on Tour for Birdie Average and I think he’s a great dark-horse pick.
The Man to Beat: Will Zalatoris- To Win 28/1 | To Place 6/1
There’s definitely a slight Texas theme to my picks this week. I’m willing to forgive Zalatoris a missed cut last week (the likes of Rahm and Cantlay fared no better around a challenging Quail Hollow). He has finished T10 or better in six of his last 16 events. That includes a runner-up finish at the Masters and a T6 at the US Open. Over his past 50 rounds, he ranks 1st in this field in strokes gained approach. He will no doubt get a boisterous reception from the limited fans available.