AT&T Byron Nelson Championship: Picks, Takes, and Breakdown

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From one of the best stops on the PGA Tour to, well, not one of the best. To put it nicely.

Yep, we’re back in Texas this week for the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship. I don’t know who Byron pissed off among the PGA’s tournament schedulers, but a legend of the game should get a little more respect than having his name attached to arguably the worst field all year. I’ll get to that in a minute.

The intriguing aspect for this week is the golf course. A new track in the PGA Tour rotation, Trinity Forest Golf Club will, if nothing else, bring some much needed attention to the week.

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Measuring 7380 yards and playing to a par-71, Trinity Forest is touted as a links style course atop a sand-capped landfill. If Trinity Forest were a person, it would be a young whippersnapper who refers to himself as an “old soul.”

I say this to say, we aren’t entirely sure what to expect from Trinity Forest, but it ought to be interesting. Open as of just October 2016, this relatively fresh course differs from just about every other course pros are accustomed to teeing it up on these days. Making things more risky, is the contrast of where the tourney is departing from. Previously held at TPC Four Seasons, a comfortable spot that had seen this event raise the most charitable donations of any event on tour, the change is being seen as puzzling to some.

What sets this course apart? I mentioned the links aspect, which, in Texas, is strange enough. Taking that a step further though, players will be forced to actually play a different style of game. Bump-and-run approach shots, low trajectory, playing along the ground as opposed to the air,  elaborate waste areas, massive double-greens, fescue, putting instead of chipping, runoff areas, the colour brown!

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There are bound to be some high scores and some upset pros. And I love it. Apparently the guys on tour don’t like playing links style golf when they’re not in the UK? Too bad.

Trinity is going for something bigger and better. Those familiar with tournament organizers are adamant that the course wants a major. If this week goes as they hope, it just might be a possibility. Especially once the PGA Championship moves to May, (beginning next year) when courses on the East Coast that may traditionally have been chosen, wont be ready due to climate.

By Sunday evening, it will hopefully be determined whether Trinity will be remembered more in the vein of Chambers Bay, or if this week propels it to major championship status in the way we’ve seen Whistling Straits grab a spot among the PGA’s favourite venues. And one last thing. Despite being named Trinity Forest, there isn’t a single tree on site.

Cool…

In terms of trying to handicap the course and what key stats will correlate, this is the best I could come up with:

Accuracy off the tee is at a premium, distance shouldn’t be a huge factor, getting up-and-down will be huge, the par-3’s will make an impact, and second to putting the ball in the right spot off the tee, will be approach shots into the proper quadrants of greens. This is how I broke that down statistically:

20%– Strokes Gained: Off-the-tee, SG: Tee-to-green, SG: Approach

15% – Good Drives, Scrambling

10% – Strokes Gained: Par-3’s

Field

Buckle up, this isn’t going to be pretty.

There are actually some good players in the field, but its very, very thin. Just five of the top 25 players in the world golf ranking are present in Dallas’ southwest quadrant. Those would be: Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Sergio Garcia, Marc Leishman, and Matt Kuchar. Other notables include Chilean teen Joaquin Niemann and Maverick McNealy. Niemann is set for his third professional start. The last time he teed it up in Texas, he was sixth at the Valero Texas Open. And Maverick McNealy, also a former world No. 1 amateur, takes his first sponsor exemption since the West Coast Swing. He’s coming off a third-place finish on the Web.Com Tour. Texans present at Trinity Forest can also see the likes of Adam Scott, Charles Howell III, Jimmy Walker, Brandt Snedeker, Beau Hossler, and a whole host of middle-of-the-pack grinders.

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Among the 150+ players scheduled to tee it up on Thursday, I really only like (on paper) 11 of them. Here’s their data:

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My top five for the week:

  1. Jordan Spieth
  2. Jimmy Walker
  3. Charles Howell III
  4. Matt Kuchar
  5. Rory Sabbatini

I’m going to basically hold off on betting winners this week since there are so many unknowns with the course. I’ll take Spieth because his top-ten value is brutal. Top-tens for the rest.

Jordan Spieth to win at +450

Jimmy Walker top-ten at +150

Charles Howell III top-ten at +350

Matt Kuchar top-ten at +135

Rory Sabbatini top-ten at +500

Okay, that is it for this week! Thanks as always for reading. Feel free to direct any feedback, positive or negative, to @RJMcCullough on Twitter.

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