PGA Tour best bets: AT&T Byron Nelson

May 11, 2022 09:12 AM
USATSI_18023460

Max Homa earned his fourth career PGA Tour victory in difficult weather and course conditions at the Wells Fargo Championship on Sunday. Homa, priced as high as 40-1 early last week, won by two strokes over Keegan Bradley, Cameron Young and Matt Fitzpatrick — the latter two runners-up were tipped in this column. Homa led the field for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. Young, who was second in the field Off-The-Tee, led the field for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green but lost more than 5.5 strokes with the putter over the first 36 holes. Young now has three runner-up finishes this season. Bradley was ranked 151st on tour for Strokes Gained: Putting but ranked No. 1 in the field last week. His typically solid iron play disappointed, though, and prevented him from earning his first PGA Tour victory since 2018. 

This week, a stronger field than usual comes to Dallas for the AT&T Byron Nelson. With the PGA Championship about 250 miles away next week in Tulsa, Oklahoma, the Nelson will have its best field in years. Seven of the top 13 in the OWGR (Official World Golf Rankings) will be teeing it up at TPC Craig Ranch this week. World No. 1 and Dallas resident Scottie Scheffler (10-1) heads the market and will be playing his first individual tournament (he played the team event in New Orleans) since his triumph at the Masters. 

Justin Thomas (12-1) will make his first appearance in the Byron Nelson since 2013. Jordan Spieth (22-1) was born and raised in Dallas and will tee it up in his hometown after winning the Heritage four weeks ago in his last event. Xander Schauffele (18-1) also won his last time out, partnering with Patrick Cantlay to win the Zurich Classic. 

Will Zalatoris (22-1), who resides in nearby Plano, has finished no worse than sixth in his last three events. Sam Burns (20-1) shot 62 here in last year's second round before settling for a runner-up finish. Burns also was the medalist by five strokes on this course in 2017 at the Korn Ferry Tour Qualifying School. 

Dustin Johnson (22-1) will make his first start as a married man as he and Paulina Gretzky tied the knot two weeks ago. Hideki Matsuyama and Brooks Koepka, who lost in a playoff in this event in 2016 at TPC Las Colinas, are both priced at 33-1. Defending champion K.H. Lee is 100-1. 

The Event

The AT&T Byron Nelson is named after its first winner. Nelson won this tournament in 1944 when it was known as the Texas Victory Open. He lent his name to this event in 1968 and served as host until his passing in 2016. 

Many legends of the game have won this tournament, including Tom Watson (1975, 1978, 1979, and 1980), Sam Snead (1945, 1957, and 1958), Jack Nicklaus (1970, 1971), Sergio Garcia (2004, 2016), Nelson (1944), Ben Hogan (1946), Phil Mickelson (1996) and Tiger Woods (1997). 

The tournament was moved to TPC Craig Ranch, located in McKinney (32 miles northeast of downtown Dallas), last year. 

The Course

TPC Craig Ranch plays host for the second year. The layout was designed by Tom Weiskopf in 2004. Weiskopf also designed TPC Scottsdale (Phoenix Open) and the Torrey Pines North Course (Farmers). The course is set in a rolling valley and features tree-lined fairways and Rowlett Creek, which criss-crosses the course 14 times. The track plays as a par-72 of 7,468 yards. The course was set up to play 7,252 yards last year, but we can expect it to play closer to the tips this year as the field took it apart in 2021.

The front nine looks to be the more scoreable nine. Nos. 1, 3 and 6 are all par-4s of 430 yards or shorter. Add in two par-5s and there are birdies to be made on these Bentgrass greens, which are large (6,800 square feet) and medium speed (11.5 stimpmeter). The back nine, which is located in a residential setting, has the drivable par-4 14th (330 yards), the short par-3 17th (147 yards) and a couple of easy par-5s (12th, 547 yards; 18th, 552 yards).

There are 83 bunkers on the layout and the wind can blow, but the fairways are wide and generous (fifth-widest on tour). The wind is the only real defense for Craig Ranch, though the winning score was 25-under par last year. The average 18-hole score was -2.43 in 2021, which was the second-easiest on tour. Nevertheless, the course was soft and should play firmer this time.

Craig Ranch is a completely different layout than Trinity Forest, where this event was played in 2018 and 2019, but both courses feature Zoysiagrass from tee to green. TPC Southwind (St. Jude Invitational) and East Lake (Tour Championship) also feature Zoysiagrass. 

Some potential correlated courses include Vidanta Vallarta, TPC Scottsdale, Detroit Golf Club, TPC Twin Cities, TPC Deere Run, CC of Jackson and the Plantation Course at Kapalua. 

Statistical Analysis

Birdie Or Better Gained (Last 36 Rounds)     

Over the last five years, the PGA Tour average for Birdie or Better% is 20.3%. Last year at Craig Ranch, the number was 25.3%. 

1. Scottie Scheffler, 46.6

2. Justin Thomas, 33.5  

3. Maverick McNealy, 25.4

4. Joaquin Niemann, 25.1

5. Dustin Johnson, 23.6

6. Jhonattan Vegas, 21.5

7. Sebastian Munoz, 21.5

8. Hideki Matsuyama, 20.7

9. Will Zalatoris, 19.3

10. Sam Burns, 19.1

11. Mackenzie Hughes, 18.9

12. Hudson Swafford, 18.2

13. Davis Riley, 16.8

14. JJ Spaun, 16.1

15. Lanto Griffin, 15.1

Birdie Or Better Gained (Last 24 Rounds)

1. Scottie Scheffler, 35.8

2. Kurt Kitayama, 22

3. Joaquin Niemann, 21.8

4. Hideki Matsuyama, 21.2

5. Adam Hadwin, 19

6. Jhonattan Vegas, 18.5

7. Davis Riley, 17.3

8. Will Zalatoris, 16.7

9. Justin Thomas, 15.5

10. Sepp Straka, 15.5

11. Maverick McNealy, 15.2

12. Sebastian Munoz, 12.9

13. Dustin Johnson, 12.6

14. JJ Spaun, 11.6

15. Tommy Fleetwood, 11.6

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 36 Rounds)

K.H. Lee ranked second in the field for Strokes Gained: Approach during his victory last year. The top eight players in the field for Strokes Gained: Approach all finished 17th or better. 

1. Justin Thomas, 34.7

2. Will Zalatoris, 29.9

3. Luke Donald, 29.1

4. Tom Hoge, 27.3

5. Luke List, 27.1

6. Adam Hadwin, 25.3

7. Sam Burns, 24.5

8. Hideki Matsuyama, 23.1

9. Aaron Wise, 21.8

10. Lanto Griffin, 21.5

11. Patton Kizzire, 20.3

12. Talor Gooch, 20.3

13. Cameron Percy, 19.5

14. Adam Scott, 19.3

15. Jhonattan Vegas, 18.6

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 24 Rounds)

1. Will Zalatoris, 27.5

2. Justin Thomas, 23.4

3. Kurt Kitayama, 21.6

4. Adam Hadwin, 20

5. Hideki Matsuyama, 19.9

6. Jhonattan Vegas, 19.1

7. Luke Donald, 18.2

8. Austin Smotherman, 17.7

9. Jordan Spieth, 17.3

10. Luke List, 16.7

11. Alex Noren, 16

12. Matthew NeSmith, 15.9

13. Aaron Wise, 15.9

14. C.T. Pan, 15.1

15. Joaquin Niemann, 14.3

Proximity Gained: 200+ Yards (Last 36 Rounds)

Per @PGASplits101 on Twitter, 38% of the total approach shots last year at Craig Ranch came from 200+ yards, which is 11.5% higher than the tour average.

1. Will Zalatoris, 24.3 (feet per shot)

2. Hideki Matsuyama, 22.8

3. Austin Smotherman, 21.7

4. Sebastian Munoz, 20.4

5. Aaron Rai, 19.3

6. Adam Scott, 17.4

7. Ryan Palmer, 16.1

8. Matthew Wolff, 15.6

9. Adam Hadwin, 15

10. Keith Mitchell, 14.3

11. Kurt Kitayama, 14.1

12. Cameron Champ, 13.7

13. Justin Thomas, 13.5

14. Jared Wolfe, 12.8 (27 Rounds)

15. Kelly Kraft, 12.3

Proximity Gained: 200+ Yards (Last 24 Rounds)

1. Austin Smotherman, 29.5 (feet per shot)

2. Will Zalatoris, 28.8

3. Kurt Kitayama, 26.6

4. Hideki Matsuyama, 24

5. Aaron Rai, 22.4

6. Keith Mitchell, 19.7

7. Jordan Spieth, 17.8

8. Jason Dufner, 16.7

9. Tyler Duncan, 16.5

10. C.T. Pan, 16.3

11. Sebastian Munoz, 15.7

12. Aaron Wise, 14.3 

13. Taylor Moore, 13.7

14. Seth Reeves, 13.5

15. Jared Wolfe, 13.2

Driving Distance Gained (Last 36 Rounds)

With the course expected to play firmer this week, the ball should have more roll out on tee shots.

1. Cameron Champ, 22.3 (yards per drive)

2. Matthew Wolff, 20.6 

3. Wyndham Clark, 19.4

4. Jhonattan Vegas, 18

5. Joseph Bramlett, 17.8

6. Brandon Hagy, 17.8

7. Ryan Brehm, 17.5

8. Trey Mullinax, 17.4

9. Callum Tarren, 15.2

10. Luke List, 14.3

11. Peter Uihlein, 14

12. Justin Thomas, 13.5

13. Curtis Thompson, 12.8

14. Kurt Kitayama, 12.4

15. Patrick Rodgers, 11.5

Driving Distance Gained (Last 24 Rounds)

1. Cameron Champ, 22.6

2. Wyndham Clark, 21.7

3. Matthew Wolff, 21.3

4. Ryan Brehm, 19.4

5. Trey Mullinax, 17.9

6. Brandon Hagy, 17

7. Joseph Bramlett, 16.6

8. Curtis Thompson, 15.7

9. Jhonattan Vegas, 15.6

10. Peter Uihlein, 14.5

11. Kurt Kitayama, 14.4

12. Justin Thomas, 14.2

13. Callum Tarren, 13.7

14. Will Zalatoris, 12.5

15. Jared Wolfe, 11.9

Strokes Gained: Putting Bentgrass Greens (Last 36 Rounds)

With wide fairways and firm conditions, tournaments such as these can often come down to putting contests. 

1. Jason Kokrak, 35.6

2. Brendon Todd, 29.9

3. Alex Noren, 27.8

4. Beau Hossler, 27.1

5. Ian Poulter, 27.1

6. Brandt Snedeker, 26.1

7. Adam Scott, 23.1

8. Adam Schenk, 22.6

9. Charles Howell III, 21.4

10. Mackenzie Hughes, 20.5

11. Seamus Power, 19.2

12. Xander Schauffele, 18.6

13. Mark Hubbard, 18.2

14. Pat Perez, 16.8

15. Dustin Johnson, 14.8

Strokes Gained: Putting Bentgrass Greens (Last 24 Rounds)

1. Jason Kokrak, 22.5

2. Brandt Snedeker, 21.6

3. Alex Noren, 20.4

4. Beau Hossler, 19.8

5. Dustin Johnson, 19.3

6. Seamus Power, 17.8

7. Adam Schenk, 17.4

8. Mackenzie Hughes, 16.1

9. Adam Scott, 16

10. Keith Mitchell, 15.4

11. Hank Lebioda, 15.1

12. Ian Poulter, 13.7

13. Scott Stallings, 12.5

14. Pat Perez, 11.3

15. Brendon Todd, 11.1

Strokes Gained Total: Easy Scoring Conditions (Last 36 Rounds)

Even with a firmer course and the possibility of some wind gusts, Craig Ranch should play relatively easy. 

1. Dustin Johnson, 63.3

2. Sam Burns, 56.4

3. Justin Thomas, 55.4

4. Seamus Power, 55

5. Talor Gooch, 42.4

6. Lanto Griffin, 41.2

7. Jhonattan Vegas, 38.8

8. Joaquin Niemann, 35.9

9. Aaron Wise, 33.5

10. Marc Leishman, 33

11. Michael Thompson, 32.4

12. Scottie Scheffler, 31.8

13. Xander Schauffele, 31.1

14. Jordan Spieth, 28.8

15. Charles Howell III, 27.6

Strokes Gained Total: Easy Scoring Conditions (Last 24 Rounds)

1. Talor Gooch, 38.2

2. Sam Burns, 38.2

3. Aaron Wise, 37.3

4. Seamus Power, 36.4

5. Justin Thomas, 31.4

6. Lanto Griffin, 30.6

7. Dustin Johnson, 29.8

8. Bubba Watson, 25.6

9. Lee Westwood, 23.8

10. Matthew Wolff, 21.8

11. Jhonattan Vegas, 20.5

12. Greyson Sigg, 19.5

13. Michael Thompson, 19.4

14. Adam Schenk, 18.9

15. Marc Leishman, 18.4

Selections

Will Zalatoris (23-1 Circa Sports)

Zalatoris is one of a trio of players who live in or around Dallas — Spieth and Scheffler the others — who are playing a home game before next week's PGA Championship. However, Zalatoris is still seeking his first PGA Tour victory and may be more engaged than the other two. He has been playing at Craig Ranch since he was a 12-year-old junior golfer. Although he only finished 17th last year, he was still trying to earn full PGA Tour member exemption status. This time, he does not have that pressure. Zalatoris has four top-six finishes in seven events this year and is at or near the top of the models this week for Strokes Gained: Approach and Proximity Gained: 200+ Yards. 

Hideki Matsuyama (34-1 Boyd Sports)

Matsuyama has battled some injuries this year, including a neck injury that forced his withdrawal from the Texas Open the week before the Masters. He finished a respectable 14th at Augusta in his title defense and hasn’t played since, likely needing some rest. However, the number looks big here for a player that has won three times in his last 23 starts (2022 Sony Open, 2021 Zozo Championship, 2021 Masters). He ranks in the top five in three of the most important statistical categories this week (Strokes Gained: Approach, Birdie Or Better Gained and Proximity Gained: 200+ Yards). 

Tommy Fleetwood (50-1 Westgate SuperBook)

Fleetwood's last worldwide victory was in 2019 at the Nedbank Golf Challenge, but he’s showing signs of returning to form with four top 20s in his last six starts. His elite iron play is back and he’s already on my card for next week's PGA Championship. 

Jhonattan Vegas (55-1 DraftKings)

Vegas is typically near the top of the charts for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee but was 64th out of the 65 players who made the cut last week at the Wells Fargo. Nevertheless, he still managed a 15th by ranking second in the field for Strokes Gained: Approach. He was ninth here last year and has a run of good finishes with a fourth at the Corales Puntacana, 18th at the Texas Open and 15th last week. Vegas ranks high in this field for Driving Distance Gained, Strokes Gained: Approach and Birdie Or Better Gained.

Adam Hadwin (55-1 Circa Sports)

Hadwin is not too far removed from an excellent March when he finished ninth (The Players Championship), seventh (Valspar) and fourth (Texas Open). He also has previous success on this course, having finished third in the 2012 Korn Ferry Tour Championship. Hadwin ranks in the top five in a quality field for Birdie Or Better Gained and Strokes Gained: Approach.

Aaron Wise (55-1 Boyd Sports)

Wise finished sixth last time out at the Mexico Open but should have been in the mix for a victory. A Friday 75 put him too far back. He was second in that field for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green and third for Strokes Gained: Approach. Despite ending up 55th here last year, Wise opened with a 64 in the first round,

Keith Mitchell (80-1 BetMGM)

Mitchell missed the cut last week, which broke a streak of six made cuts in a row that included four finishes of 13th or better. He has three top 10s in 2022, and this is a course where he can let the driver rip. He ranks fourth on tour for Driving Distance. 

Dylan Frittelli (130-1 DraftKings)

Like Vegas and several others in this field, Frittelli played his college golf at the University of Texas (he still resides in Austin). Last time he played an event in Texas, he finished eighth at the Texas Open after holding the 54-hole lead. 

​Soudal Open

Thorbjorn Olesen, who had last won on the DP World Tour at the Italian Open in 2018, is back inside the OWGR top 200 after a dramatic victory at the Betfred British Masters. 

This week, the tour heads to Belgium for the Soudal Open. Bernd Wiesberger (18-1) seeks his first victory in almost a year after posting his best finish of 2022 last time out (eighth, Catalunya Championship). Sam Horsfield (20-1) finished 21st last week in his first stroke-play start in more than three months. Ryan Fox (22-1) has a win this year at Ras al Khaimah and comes in with back-to-back top-10 finishes. 

The two Belgian Thomases — Pieters (22-1) and Detry (28-1) — will try to win on their home soil. Meanwhile, two Adrians — Meronk (25-1) and Otaegui (27-1) — have both had near misses in pursuit of a DP World Tour victory in the last several weeks. Otaegui won on this course in 2018 when the event was played under the Belgian Knockout format. 

Justin Harding (25-1) has a pair of top fives this season and fellow South African Oliver Bekker (30-1) lost in a playoff two weeks ago at the Catalunya Championship. 

​Rinkven International Golf Club is the host course, as it was for the Belgian Knockout in 2018 and 2019. The Course at Rinkven is a parklands layout originally designed by Paul Rolin in 1985 and subsequently updated by Martin Hawtree. Some holes are tree-lined while others are exposed. 

Selections

— Victor Perez (30-1 DraftKings)

— Thriston Lawrence (45-1 Caesars Sportsbook)

— JC Ritchie (55-1 DraftKings)

— Connor Syme (60-1 Caesars Sportsbook)

— Lukas Nemecz (100-1 BetMGM)

— Ewen Ferguson (100-1 BetMGM)

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