By Tyler Duke
Each week, we will highlight our top 20 players on the PGA Tour in order of likeliness to win the tournament.
Factors coming into play on the rankings are (in no order):
- Recent form: How the player has performed in various aspects of his game in recent weeks.
- Course history: How the player has performed at the host course if he has played there in the past.
- Course fit: Used as a secondary or backup to course history, fit looks at certain skills that translate to success on the host course.
- Strokes gained: Strokes gained will come into play in all of the factors above. Unless otherwise noted, strokes gained stats are taken from the player’s last 50 rounds.
Using the guidelines above, value can be found in the betting market by highlighting players whose outlook for the tournament may be flying under the radar to the general public.
The weighted model this week is:
- 25% SG: Approach
- 25% Driving Distance
- 15% Birdies or Better Gained
- 15% Opportunities Gained
- 15% SG: Par 5
- 5% SG: Putting
This week: AT&T Byron Nelson
- Date: May 13-16, 2021
- Location: McKinney, Texas
- Course: TPC Craig Ranch
- How to watch: PGA Tour Live, GOLF Channel, CBS
- Purse: $8,100,000
- Defending champ: Sung Kang
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Course preview: TPC Craig Ranch
The PGA Tour heads back out to Texas one more time this season to play the AT&T Byron Nelson. The Byron Nelson has moved around quite a bit lately, and this year will be no different as they start a five-year run at TPC Craig Ranch just outside of Dallas in McKinney. It’s had a weaker field of late, but now as the warm-up event for a major at a new course, we’re seeing some top players this week.
The Wells Fargo Championship last week provided an extremely entertaining tournament with one of the loudest crowds we’ve seen since the restart. Fans were treated to Rory McIlroy finding form just before he tries to win again at Kiawah Island for the PGA Championship. McIlroy grabbed his third win at Quail Hollow and suddenly should be the most feared player at next week’s major if his putter is working again and the wedge distances are dialed in.
TPC Craig Ranch was designed by major champion Tom Weiskopf back in 2004 for the Tournament Players Club network operated by the PGA Tour. These courses always have a better look to host tournaments, although it took a bit longer for Craig Ranch. It did host the Korn Ferry Tour season-ending championship in 2008 and 2012. Now it’ll get the AT&T Byron Nelson after it left the unique Trinity Forest.
It’s never easy to analyze and create metrics on a course that has no data and no tape to show what you’re looking for, but we’ll make an attempt based on the information we can get. As a Par 72 at 7,438 yards, Craig Ranch looks fairly long, but all signs point to it being pretty short when it matters and easily attackable by the best players in the world. The Korn Ferry Tour players went low here, and it should be expected as well from PGA players with four reachable Par 5s and potentially a couple drivable Par 4s. The course looks quite open without overly thick rough, so we’re looking straight at Driving Distance heavily this week to see who can get it out there far and create easy opportunities.
Since the scores will be so low, we’ll mostly ignore short game this week outside of a little putting. Instead, I want to focus on SG: Approach along with Opportunities Gained and Birdies or Better Gained. All three of these will best look at the players hitting it close and creating ample birdie opportunities throughout the week. The greens here are quite large, so I don’t think you necessarily have to have a good week on and around the greens to create birdie opportunities and shoot low scores.
Finally, with four reachable Par 5s, I want to spend another week targeting players who are scoring extremely well on Par 5s as of late. We should expect plenty of eagles with the Par 5s all playing under 600 yards without long rough. Anything worse than 3 under on the Par 5s each round will probably be a disappointment and put players at a disadvantage to keep up with the leaders.
The field at the AT&T Byron Nelson is much better than it has been as of late, but it took a bit of a hit with the withdrawal of World No. 1 Dustin Johnson. Still, we’re getting Bryson DeChambeau, Jon Rahm, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and many more to interest fans this week. Sung Kang will be defending his maiden title as the No. 184 ranked player in the world.
Power Rankings: AT&T Byron Nelson
20. Doug Ghim: Quite frankly I’m worried about his ability to contend at birdie fests because of his complete inability to make putts. He’s gained in that category just once in his last 8 tournaments and none since Riviera. But his ball striking continues to be world class. Ranks 3rd in SG: APP.
19. Aaron Wise: Won this event in 2018 at a different course, but maybe he likes this area in Texas. Finished 9th last week at Wells Fargo, and he finished 2nd at Wells Fargo the week before he won in 2018. Clearly tends to ride hot form and he has it right now. Ranks 19th in SG: APP.
18. Jason Day: Now has a pair of missed cuts in a row, and I didn’t expect to see him rank decently in the model … but he still is doing everything decently well most weeks. A course like this could free him up, and there’s always the chance that his putter catches fire. Ranks 31st in Driving Distance.
17. Si Woo Kim: I usually like him at a trickier course that requires more finesse around the greens, but the ball striking continues to be fantastic this season and he’s on a nice stretch of consistency after struggling following his PGA West win. Ranks 11th in SG: APP.
16. Thomas Pieters: Excited to finally see him at a more conventional event in the US that isn’t a major or a minor coastal tournament. It’s also a nice fit for an extremely powerful player that can make birdies in a hurry. He quietly finished 15th and 13th at the Puerto Rico Open and Corales and has played well in Europe lately. Ranks 18th in BoB Gained.
15. Cameron Champ: He had been outrageously bad for quite a long time, but nice showings at Valero, the Masters and the Zurich have him finally trending in the right direction. Now he’ll play at a course that should favor distance and not penalize his inaccuracy or inconsistent short game as much. Ranks 1st in Driving Distance.
14. Luke List: Had one of his rare good putting weeks at Quail Hollow and it led him to a 6th place finish to break out of quite a slump. Known for his great driver and can really heat up with the irons at times. Could stay out of enough trouble here to not need his short game and contend. Ranks 4th in SG: Par 5.
13. Marc Leishman: Pretty hard player to predict, but despite the public perception, he’s actually at his best on easy courses with calm winds. The calm winds may not happen much in Texas, but he’s been really streaky with the irons lately. Ranks 13th in SG: Par 5.
12. Matthew Fitzpatrick: Very rarely plays poorly regardless of the course fit. This one probably isn’t at the top of his list since he’s better in tough conditions that bring out his fantastic scrambling ability. But he showed in Memphis last year it doesn’t matter where he plays. Ranks 2nd in SG: P.
11. Hideki Matsuyama: It’s always interesting to see how a player responds to getting his first big-time win like he did at the Masters. He went back to Japan to celebrate for a few weeks and will be making his first start back this week. Always a threat when irons are important. Ranks 4th in Opportunities Gained.
10. Sergio Garcia: Distance, Par 5s and birdie opportunities are his specialty, so this could be a week that his talent shines. Always seems to play well in Texas, and the fewer the tough par saves, the better for him. Won this tournament in 2016. Ranks 3rd in SG: Par 5.
9. Ryan Palmer: Much like Leishman, he has the public perception of being a difficult course player, but actually plays much better in easier tournaments. That should help this week, especially in his home state where he can handle the winds. His game continues to be rock solid. Ranks 2nd in SG: Par 5.
8. Daniel Berger: With one of the lowest apexes on Tour, he would look much better this week if the Texas wind gets going. After really peaking last year and early this year, he’s faded away a bit after an injury but played well at Harbour Town. Ranks 4th in SG: P.
7. Jordan Spieth: Coming in as the hottest player in the world over the last three months, he’ll get to try to win another title in his home state of Texas after winning the Valero last month. We’ll see if he can overcome the distance with elite iron play once again. Ranks 1st in SG: Par 5.
6. Sam Burns: Another guy coming off a win, this feels like a perfect course for his skillset after winning at a course that didn’t necessarily fit it. He hits it a long way, creates great birdie looks and putts as well as anyone. His only weakness could be hidden this week around the greens. Ranks 1st in Opportunities Gained.
5. Scottie Scheffler: He’s been knocking on the door for more than a year for his first victory, and I feel this really could be the week he gets it done. He grew up near Dallas and knows the course. He can also make as many birdies as anyone and should create looks with his distance and short irons. Ranks 7th in BoB Gained.
4. Brooks Koepka: If he’s healthy, this could really be a course he tears apart. Always hits it far and knocks a lot of wedges close when he’s in the zone. Has a nice history at this tournament and in Texas. But if the knee still hurts, he could struggle. Ranks 2nd in SG: APP.
3. Jon Rahm: Surprised everyone with his first missed cut in nearly a year last week in Charlotte. His struggles revolved around a concerning trend with his putter and short game failing him fairly often. I’d be stunned if that continues, and his driver and irons continue to be great. Ranks 5th in BoB Gained and 5th in SG: APP.
2. Will Zalatoris: Another Dallas kid that should be right at home this week and also possesses everything you’d need to dominate this course. The only thing that troubles him sometimes is an errant driver and cold putter … and both should be hidden a bit at this type of track. Expect him to hit a ridiculous amount of greens and make birdies in bunches. Ranks 1st in SG: APP and 7th in Opportunities Gained.
1. Bryson DeChambeau: If you need anyone to overpower a course, this is your guy. He played some admittedly terrible golf last week and still finished in the top 10 thanks to his driver and putter. Those tend to always show up, so if he doesn’t lose 5 shots on approach this week, he could get prepared for the PGA in promising fashion. Ranks 3rd in Driving Distance, 3rd in BoB Gained and 3rd in Opportunities Gained.
*All stats are from a player’s last 36 rounds.
AT&T Byron Nelson betting odds
Up next on the PGA Tour
The PGA Tour will head back east to the coast of South Carolina for golf’s second major, the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. Located near Hilton Head, the home of the RBC Heritage, Kiawah is a completely different course than its neighbor as a completely exposed oceanside course that runs around 7,800 yards. The leaderboard was very strange in the 2012 version with McIlroy dominating, but many of the other top players were shorter hitters that scrambled incredibly well and saved pars to keep their heads above the water. Collin Morikawa will be defending his 2020 Harding Park title as the No. 6 ranked player in the world.