We’re riding the Wells Fargo stagecoach over to the AT&T Byron Nelson this week, where we’re likely going to see a lot of the same trends that we saw last week. The tournament is back at a course that is in the top 5 most confusing golf course names in the history of golf course names: Trinity Forest. Knowing nothing about it, you’d assume by the name that it is tree lined and probably narrow and favors accurate people that can keep it out of the woods. In reality, this course was built over top of a landfill and has no trees on it and is wide open. It’s a long course too, so those that can really bomb it should do well especially not having to worry too much about bad left or right misses. Sounds similar to last week, right? For that reason, a lot of popular guys from last week will be popular again this week. Here’s who I am liking:
Sure Play: Hideki Matsuyama (DK 11,000 / FD 11,500)
You’ll hear or have heard Brooks Koepka’s name as a heavy favorite at this course and in this field, especially considering his elite power, but Hideki has all the tools to get it done here as well. Koepka has a reputation for not showing his “A” game at events that aren’t majors, so if that worries you (like it does me), Hideki is the guy to go with. He’s made every cut this year and has three top 10 finishes. This tournament was played at Trinity Forest last year as well and he finished 16th in that event. He’s 17th in driving distance on tour (three spots below Brooks, by the way), and 30th in Shots Gained – Off the Tee. Hideki’s putter is what holds him back from winning more often, but even just an average putting week for him should be good enough to keep him in contention in a relatively weak field.
Hit or Miss: Jordan Spieth (DK 10,800 / FD 11,200)
If there’s ever a week where what Jordan has been struggling with in his game might not matter, this might be the one. Although he’s not among the longest hitters on tour, he still hits it plenty far, and since the course is wide open, being almost dead last statistically in driving accuracy on tour might not matter. In fact, one of my favorite follows on Twitter, Lou Stagner, posted a statistic recently that shows that if you miss the fairway by 3 yards or less, it’s actually a bigger penalty than if you miss by 5-7 yards, so maybe that horrible driving will prove to be “helpful” this week! Of course, buyer beware, just a quick look at his recent finishes will show you he’s not been able to put together a good tournament in quite some time and there’s really no telling if that will change in the near future.
Mid-Tier Favorites: Lucas Bjerregaard (DK 8,700 / FD 9,900) Charles Howell III (DK 8,500 / FD 10,400) Keith Mitchell (DK 9,100 / FD 10,200)
Bjerregaard: Your guess is as good as mine as to how to pronounce his last name, so I’ll just stick with Lucas B for now. You may remember this name recently as the guy that took Tiger Woods down in the WGC Dell Match Play a few weeks ago, and if you paid close enough attention to the craziness of the Master’s leaderboard, you’d have seen his name among a lot of the guys that had been chasing the lead on Sunday (finished 21st). He’s only missed one cut between the PGA and European tours this year and has a handful of solid performances on both stages in strong fields. He fits the “bomber” mold for the course as the 12th longest hitter statistically on the PGA Tour and gets a field that is much weaker than other PGA events he’s played in. Look for Lucas B to have a good showing this week and be sure to listen to how many ways all the announcers botch his name as the week goes by.
Howell: He’s been one of the most consistent golfers on tour for a number of years, and although he hasn’t won a ton of events, his name seems to always appear near the top of the leaderboards. He’s 51st in Driving Distance and 39th in Shots Gained – Off the Tee, which in this field will put him much closer to the top in both categories. He’s missed two cuts in a row, but that’s a rare occurrence in his career, plus, one of those events he historically hasn’t played very well in. Prior to that, he was playing some really good golf. Since his win at the RSM Classic in November, he’s recorded six finishes in the top 20. He finished ninth in this tournament last year and was one of a handful of guys to play all four rounds under 70 (bonus points on DK for that by the way). Looking for him to bounce back from his two missed cuts and have a solid outing this week.
Mitchell: Mentioning him two weeks in a row as a guy that crushes it off the tee. Again, statistics might not say he’s of the very elite bombers (40th on tour), but the VERY scientific “eye test” will tell you he hits it farther than most on the tour. He’s on Bermuda greens again which he’s mentioned he loves to play on. He’s priced up this week compared to his normal prices but still worth playing I think. He finished in a tie for third last year at this tournament too, so it’s obvious his game is a fit for this course.
Value Plays: Wyndham Clark (DK 7,300 / FD 8,500), Adam Schenk (DK 7,000 / FD 8,500)
Same guys as last week I think are really good value plays this week. Their prices didn’t move much and I think they have an even better outlook this week in a field that isn’t so top-heavy.
Clark: He missed the cut badly last week but going right back to him for a bounce back this week. He’s in a much weaker field and fits the long hitter trend as the fifth-longest hitter on the tour this year. If he misses the green, his around-the-green game is above average on tour and he has shown so far this year that he’s a good putter. He also appears to be a guy that can come back and play well after a bad week. Although a small sample size, he’s finished 37th, 10th, 18th, and 65th in the four tournaments right after playing one that he didn’t play all four days in.
Schenk: He’s still at 59th on the tour in driving distance which is plenty long for this field and this course. He now has 14 starts this calendar year, he’s only missed four cuts and two of those were within two strokes. He’s got two top 15 finishes in his last three events and finished 59th in this tournament last year. Looking for him to continue this nice streak he is on and this cheap price tag should make it easier to fit in guys like Brooks or Hideki if you choose to do that.