AT&T Byron Nelson Sets Table for The PGA Championship

By Brady Kannon  () 

For the second straight season, the AT&T Byron Nelson will be staged at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, Texas. This comes after 31 years of playing the event at TPC Las Colinas. The event has struggled to attract big-name players, especially after the passing of Byron Nelson in 2006, but the new venue, a Coore & Crenshaw design, has given the event a fresh start. Sitting on the schedule just one week prior to the season’s second major, The PGA Championship, has some of the big names skipping The Nelson once again but there is a solid presence of European Tour players that have made their way to the states to get ready for next week.

Defending PGA Champion Brooks Koepka is the favorite this week at 650. He is flanked at the top of the odds board by Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth, and last year’s Byron Nelson winner Aaron Wise, along with last year’s runner-up, Marc Leishman. Stenson is the low European/International player at 20-1, followed by Branden Grace, Rafa Cabrera-Bello, Alex Noren, Thomas Pieters, Thorbjorn Olesen and Lucas Bjerregaard.

The golf course is a very long Par 71 at over 7500 yards. The fairways are massive in width without any trees or water hazards to get in the way. The greens are Bermuda grass and are also quite big for Tour standards. Both the fairways and greens feature a rolling, undulated, contour that makes for what Coore & Crenshaw like to call an “American Links” style course. Texas native, Jordan Spieth has said the course reminds him a bit of Royal Birkdale, where Spieth won The Open Championship in 2017. Matsuyama, Stenson, Leishman, Koepka, CabreraBello, Alex Noren and Branden Grace -- all in this week’s field -- all finished inside the Top 15 that year at Birkdale.

What is both appealing about the golf course and what also needs to be considered in this week’s handicap, is that there is not just one way to skin this cat. It is not necessarily a cookie-cutter Tour golf course where one type of style must be played to be successful. Defending champion Aaron Wise got it done last year with his irons and approach shots, while Leishman succeeded by carrying a redhot putter. Other Top 5 finishers, Keith Mitchell was brilliant off of the tee and Branden Grace did it with Scrambling. A sign of a diverse links course is one that can be attacked with both low, piercing shots avoiding the wind, and bump & run strategies around the greens, and also one that can also be had from the air, way above ground with a high ball flight. Trinity Forest is just that. With such wide fairways and massive putting surfaces, Driving Accuracy and Greens in Regulation should not be difficult for most of the field. Rather, one will have to think their way around this golf course and attack with what fits their game best. My belief is that in the end, no matter one’s strategy, strokes will have to be gained on the field on approach, balls will have to be hit close to the hole, and with such large greens, putting from inside of 10 feet will be very important.

FULL TOURNAMENT HEAD TO HEAD MATCHUP Scott Piercy (-140) over Pat Perez

Piercy, the Las Vegas native, has been playing very well this season, having only missed two cuts since last October, while notching five Top 10 finishes, including a 3rd at the RBC Heritage three weeks ago. He is 74th on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach, 10th in Greens in Regulation, and 36th in Hole Proximity. He took 32nd here last year in his first time ever seeing the course. Perez came out of nowhere with an 8th place finish last week at the Wells Fargo but has missed four cuts in his last eight starts. He’s also never played Trinity Forest before. Perez ranks very admirably in the putting stats but not much else. I’ll go ahead and lay the big price here with the decided favorite.

A FEW LONG SHOTS TO WIN

I do think there is a chance Brooks Koepka could overpower this golf course and this field, but the last two stroke play events on Tour have seen HUGE long shots prevail. As noted above, I do like Scott Piercy, who is currently at 40-1 this week. Here are two more.

Ryan Moore (40-1)

Moore is not a Las Vegas native like Piercy, but he did play golf at UNLV and I believe playing in the southwest is a good start here this week, competing in Texas. This will be Moore’s first time playing Trinity Forest but I like his skill sets; 23rd in Strokes Gained: Approach, 30th in Strokes Gained: Putting, and 23rd in Hole Proximity. He took 20th at The Players Championship back in mid-March and finished 3rd in the Lone Star State just a month ago at the Valero Texas Open.

Adam Schenk (100-1)

One of the worst golf names ever as this is almost a “Shank” but we’ll forgive that and trust that he’ll be striking the ball cleanly this week in Dallas. Like Moore, Schenk also had a good week last month in San Antonio, taking 7th at The Valero. He is also coming off of a 13th last week at the Wells Fargo. He is 31st on Tour in Strokes Gained: Approach, 55th in Greens in Regulation, 49th Putting from Inside 10 feet, and 54th in Scrambling. He has too good of an all-around game for a 100-1 price in my opinion. 

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