AT&T Byron Nelson Championship Tips

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Steve Bamford's Tips for the 2017 AT&T Byron Nelson Championship. Follow Steve on twitter: @bamfordgolf

So The Players Championship produced a 500/1 winner in the form of Si-Woo Kim. A definite bolt from the blue, or maybe not as a number of our knowledgeable golf punters on our Facebook Group highlighted the 21 year-old pre-event. All the more reason to join the group which you can via this link. On to this week then and world number 1 Dustin Johnson plays the Byron Nelson along with defending champion Sergio Garcia, home-town boy Jordan Spieth and course winner Jason Day. Not too shabby!

The AT&T Byron Nelson Championship sees us return to Texas for the second half of the Texas swing. After The Players Championship we now move into the segment of the season that will focus on the U.S. Open which is now only 4 weeks away. The Byron Nelson, which is played on the relatively tight TPC Four Seasons Resort course at Las Colinas, is ideal preparation for many elite players who are honing particular skill-sets for Erin Hills in June. This tree-lined par 70 features pure Bentgrass greens, as does the Wisconsin U.S. Open venue, and TPC Four Seasons is renowned for windy conditions. Results right now are key for many with U.S. Open OWGR top-60 qualification (first cut-off next Monday) and the Presidents Cup also very much in mind.

Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the Rocco Forte Open - you can read his thoughts on that event here.

Course Guide: TPC Four Seasons is always an interesting test where long and short hitters can compete on a level footing. This short course in the Irving suburb of Dallas, which measures only 7,166 yards, is a rare par-70 as it can be overpowered by the longer bombers. Texas golf is renowned for its wind factor and this week is set to be relatively tough.

TPC Four Seasons Resort, Las Colinas, Irving, Texas: Designer: Jay Morrish 1986 with Weibring/Wolford redesign prior to 2008 tournament; Course Type: Resort; Par: 70; Length: 7,166 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 8; Fairways: Bermudagrass; Rough: Bermudagrass 2.25"; Greens: Bentgrass, 6,000 sq.ft average; Tournament Stimp: 10.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 71.09 (+1.09), Difficulty Rank 14 of 49 courses. 2013: 70.41 (+0.41), Difficulty Rank 18 of 43 courses. 2014: 70.54 (+0.54), Rank 14 of 48 courses. 2015: 67.93 (-1.07), Difficulty Rank 39 of 52 courses. 2016: 69.12 (-0.88), Difficulty Rank 32 of 50 courses.

TPC Four Seasons Resort Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for TPC Four Seasons and how they compare to recent courses that we've seen on the PGA Tour:

Course Overview: The AT&T Byron Nelson Championship is the sixth-eldest tournament on the PGA Tour and is naturally steeped in tradition focussed on the 5-time Major champion. The course was re-designed between 2007 and 2008 renewals with the new layout featuring large, undulating greens, tree-lined fairways and a number of creeks and ponds. There are a couple of key elements to watch out for this week and both are weather-based. Both 2015 and 2016 have seen a very soft course in play here and slower putting surfaces have in general aided those with a hot putter, namely Bowditch and Hoffman in 2015 and Brooks Koepka last term. The young Floridian 12 months ago had let his flat stick do the work prior to a final round where the pressure got to him and Sergio pounced on a course the Spaniard feels very comfortable on. With a very dry build-up, expect a faster course on Thursday and Friday, but potential thunderstorms from Friday night onwards are again likely to change course conditions towards those who are comfortable firing at pins and making plenty of putts. As ever in Texas it's also worth working through wind conditions this week and undoubtedly a strong breeze will be evident across the opening 3 rounds.

However TPC Four Seasons is one of those rare venues were both ball-strikers and short game specialists can and do win. For every Sergio Garcia and Jason Dufner who have hit 80% of greens in regulation on their way to victory, streaky putters such as Jason Day, Sang-moon Bae, Brendon Todd and Steven Bowditch have also captured titles here by hitting enough greens and putting beautifully. It's a free-for-all in this part of Texas, but noticeably 5 of the past 6 winners here have all finished in the top-15 for Driving Distance in the week they triumphed. Yes, you can't rule out the shorter hitters, but power in turn with a warm putter often prevails here.

Winners: 2016: Sergio Garcia (-15); 2015: Steven Bowditch (-18); 2014: Brendon Todd (-14); 2013: Sang-moon Bae (-13); 2012: Jason Dufner (-11); 2011: Keegan Bradley (-3); 2010: Jason Day (-10).

Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week's event that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes.

Published Predictor Model: Our published AT&T Byron Nelson predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 5 of the predictor are Dustin Johnson (No.1), Jordan Spieth, Russell Henley, Sergio Garcia and Jason Dufner.

DraftKings Predictor Model: For those of you who play DraftKings there's now a dedicated predictor model available here.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Valspar Championship / Indian Open and includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

Winners & Prices: 2016: Garcia 25/1; 2015: Bowditch 500/1; 2014: Todd 100/1; 2013: Bae 150/1; 2012: Dufner 22/1; 2011: Bradley 200/1; 2010: Day 100/1. Average: 157/1.

Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for Irving, Texas is here. A dry build-up, should see the course in a firmer state than we have seen across the previous 2 renewals. Wind up to 20 mph will be a feature across the first 3 days of play, but the potential for thunderstorms from Friday might across Saturday, could well see the course play softer for some part of the final 2 rounds.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 7 winners of this event since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

Tournament Skill Averages:

So let's take a view from players as to how TPC Four Seasons has set up in the past and what specific skills it requires:

Sergio Garcia (2016): "I've always enjoyed these kind of golf courses that usually are a little bit firmer than today. Unfortunately we got a lot of rain. But, it's always a little bit breezy and, you know, you have to place the ball in the right spots and I've always enjoyed that kind of golf. So, you know, it just kind of brings me to my comfort level, I guess. Never really got that firm. Obviously less wet I would call it. We're still playing lift, clean and place and the fairways were wet. They were in great shape but were wet. The greens were soft. So, I guess the weather is supposed to be good from now on so I will expect it to dry up a little bit. I don't think it's going to get extremely fast or firm but it will definitely dry up a little bit and it will probably play a little bit tougher than it did today."

Jordan Spieth (2015): "But, you know, it looks like it's going to be lower scores this week. I like this course when 4, 5-under wins when it's firm and windy and it's hot. There's nothing you can do about it. But it doesn't, I don't think we're going to be playing it down or playing the ball up through the green. I think it's only going to be in the fairways. I think it actually makes it less of a bomber's course this week and more of putting on a premium of hitting the fairway because if you hit the ball in the rough it's still going to gather mud on it, it's wet enough. Then you're left with a mud ball out of the rough. If you hit the ball in the fairway you'll be able to clean it and put it on a real good lie. The greens are big enough to where you miss, still should be putts. All in all, if we're hitting the ball straight this week, there's going to be some low scores that are produced."

Steven Bowditch (2015): "I mean I guess it widens out the fairways a little bit. The course is not a long golf course - it's more of a tricky golf course. You sort of got to place it in the right spots. I think the easiest part about it is how soft the greens are. Even if you get it in the rough you can still get it on the green whereas in past years - that's really been because the greens get so firm here. I think that really makes it easier. Obviously, shorter hitters, so to speak, they might be coming in with 7-irons, you know, and they're probably easier to control a lot of the time out of the wet than a wedge would be with. The greens are really good for how much rain they've had there, in really good shape. You can make some putts out there. It's not really as bad as everyone thinks."

Brendon Todd (2014): "I think it's demanding off the tee and I drive the ball pretty straight. It's so difficult around the greens with the ridges. You have to have a great short game. I think those two things complement my game."

Marc Leishman (2014): "It's normally pretty windy around here, I enjoy playing in the wind, especially on golf courses where you can land it short of the green and bounce it up. I found a lot of courses that we play all year, if it's windy you have to land it on the green, here you can land it short and if you have to, run it up. I feel like I read the greens pretty well and on each hole there is one side that you can't miss it on as far as tee shots go, but there's one side that's normally alright, so I feel like it gives me a little bit more room. I think mostly it's the wind. I like playing in the wind. I think the most important thing about this place is obviously avoiding the wrong side of the fairways, so, for instance, 4 you can't go left, because of the hazard. You have to steer clear of the hazards, and general the other side is not great but it's playable. I think the most important thing is hitting greens. I found it tough to get up and down around the greens here, it's pretty grainy. It will generally roll you're below the level of the green, it's tricky, I will say, if you get a good lie, it's ok, but generally you've got a pretty tricky shot. A lot of the tee shots here just I like the look of. I stand up and feel like I'm going to hit a good shot. Not all golf courses are like that for me, so that's a good feeling. A lot of left to right tee shots here. So maybe that has something to do with it. I can read the greens here pretty well, general."

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 7 winners:

Incoming form of winners since 2010:

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their group and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

For the record, here's the breakdown of Bentgrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:

The Byron Nelson is always a difficult tournament to call. We've seen unexpected winners, indeed Jason Day (this was 2010), Keegan Bradley, Sang-moon Bae, Brendon Todd and Steven Bowditch have won 5 of the past 7 renewals at triple-digits. Bowditch topped the lot price-wise delivering a 500/1 coup for the bookmakers 24 months ago. But in Jason Dufner (22/1 in 2012) and Sergio Garcia (25/1 last year), 2 short-priced players in the betting market ultimately prevailed.

Another angle is that recent winners Todd, Bae, Bradley and Day had never won on the PGA Tour and Jason Dufner in 2012 had only captured his previous victory 2 appearances prior at TPC Louisiana. It's certainly a mixed picture, but with Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Jason Day, Sergio Garcia, Brooks Koepka and Louis Oosthuizen all in this week's field, there is sure to be a little value further down the field.

Wind will be a factor across the opening 54 holes with soft conditions possible from Saturday onwards, so the wind and soft course variable on this week's predictor model could be of real use. Another trend that could well be worth exploring is the immediate Players finish of recent winners here, when the Byron Nelson has directly followed on from Sawgrass. Dufner, Bae and Garcia came off 68th, 33rd and 54th place finishes in Florida, with Brendon Todd not even playing at Ponte Vedra Beach.

Bookmaker Offers: Latest offers and extended each-way places are detailed below.

My selections are as follows:

Patrick Reed 1.5pts EW 35/1 with Stan James Get a £20 free bet via this link plus 6 places EW, 1/4 odds: Stan James

Patrick Reed has been playing some nice stuff of late and this short game specialist has also been showing positive signs with his approach play which makes him a real danger this week. 12th in New Orleans when partnered with Patrick Cantlay, the 54-hole leader at Eagle Point and a quiet 22nd at TPC Sawgrass highlight that Reed has played well enough in gusty conditions across the past 3 weeks. 22nd at The Players doesn't sound that impressive, but TPC Sawgrass has always been a weak course (he always struggles on Pete Dye designs) for the 26 year-old Texan who's based out of Houston. But a final round -3/69 which is sure to keep the momentum of recent weeks moving nicely was only beaten by Dustin Johnson and Brendan Steele, providing Reed with his best ever finish at PGA Tour HQ. Patrick was 23rd for Driving Accuracy and 11th for Greens in Regulation across the week, whilst 1 Eagle and 16 Birdies was an impressive enough haul to give me the green light this week. 2 visits early in his career to TPC Four Seasons have yielded little here, but Reed was 2nd at TPC San Antonio last year and that course form translates well to here with Brendon Todd, Steven Bowditch and Brooks Koepka all having strong results at the Oaks Course. Reed's first PGA Tour win (of 5) was on the par 70 set-up of Sedgefield in 2013 (Garcia had won the year before) and nothing would please the World Number 15 more than winning for the first time in his home state.

Charley Hoffman 1.25pts EW 40/1 with betfred Bet £10 get £60 in bonuses using promo code SPORTS60 plus 6 places each way betfred

The first name that jumped off the entry list for me was Charley Hoffman who I think will go well again in his beloved Texas. If you're looking for a proven Texas performer, Charley's CV contains excellent Lone Star results at GC of Houston (6th 2008, 11th 2015), TPC San Antonio (1st 2016, 2nd 2011, 3rd 2013), La Cantera (8th 2006, 9th 2009), Colonial (10th 2015) and here at TPC Four Seasons (2nd 2015, 7th 2008, 8th 2006 & 2013). Comfortable in the wind (joint 4th with Sergio within our predictor model wind variable), Charley has also been making some fast starts of late, which always comes in particularly handy at this tournament. 3rd at Bay Hill, 1st at Augusta and 5th at TPC Louisiana (when partnering Nick Watney) after the opening 18 holes, Hoffman free-rolled through TPC Sawgrass last week finishing a respectable 30th. 4th at Riviera and 2nd at Bay Hill already in 2017 have been excellent performances across a couple of the best classical golf courses in the United States and TPC Four Seasons looks a perfect track where Hoffman could land his 5th PGA Tour victory this week. Charley has been hitting greens in regulation for fun of late and he's been comfortable on these Bentgrass green complexes ever since his first visit here in 2006 where he was 4th after 54 holes, eventually finishing 8th.

Tony Finau 1.25pts EW 40/1 with Bet365 Get up to a £200 first deposit bonus here using promo code BONUS200 and this link: Bet365

Tony Finau is another to follow this week. One of the top ball-strikers on Tour, Finau is often held back by a recalcitrant putter, but there are signs that we should be optimistic about his chances this week at TPC Four Seasons. 2 missed cuts on the trot is hardly encouraging I grant you, but a 'Team Utah' pairing with Daniel Summerhays in New Orleans was always going to be hit or miss and his missed cut last week was by a single stroke. Interestingly Tony was still 3rd for Greens in Regulation across the whole 146 man field. However I like Finau's chances this week for 4 key reasons: 1) He has a proven track-record here with 10th in 2015 and 12th in 2016 from 2 appearances. 2) Finau has always arrived in Irving in a situation where he's been struggling to hit enough greens in regulation. The same cannot be said right now as he only sits behind World Number 1 Dustin Johnson in my 10-week GIR tracker. 3) He actually putts positively on the Bentgrass greens here as 17th (2015) and 7th (2016) in Strokes Gained Putting highlights. 4) At 69 in the OWGR, Finau could really do with a strong week. Remember the top 60 in the OWGR after the Byron Nelson qualify for the U.S. Open, so the 27 year-old needs a 2-way tie for 5th this week to grab an automatic spot. However 4th at Torrey Pines, 5th at Copperhead and 3rd at TPC San Antonio already in 2017 suggest that Finau is in line for his 2nd PGA Tour win on a course that rewards power and strokes gained tee-to-green (6th season to date).

Sung Kang 1pt EW 70/1 with Paddy Power NEW OFFER! Bet £/€10 get £/€30 free plus 7 places EW, 1/5 odds: Paddy Power Free Bet

Sung Kang is having the season of his career and the South Korean has a couple of great reasons to keep the momentum going at the Byron Nelson this week. This will be a 'home game' for the World Number 85 (up from 201) who lives in Irving and Kang naturally has plenty of course experience, more of which later. It's already been a fantastic Texas Swing for Sung who finished 2nd at the GC of Houston and 6th at TPC San Antonio. A stress-free 30th last week in Florida continued the positive vibes and Kang is now undoubtedly in the hunt for an International Team Presidents Cup spot in Nick Price's squad. He currently sits 16th in the standings with Adam Hadwin (at 46th in the OWGR) holding the last automatic spot. In Sang-moon Bae and Steven Bowditch we have 2 international players who won this title in Presidents Cup year (Bae never made the team, Bowditch did), so I can see the impressive Kang continuing his pursuit this week on a course where he played really well last year. Entering the tournament with a best of 46th plus 3 missed cuts from his previous 6 appearances, Kang showed his liking for TPC Four Seasons shooting rounds of 67-67-68 to sit 23rd after 54 holes. A 70 in the final round killed his chances of a top 10 finish, but I'm sweet on the South Korean this week who's been putting beautifully since Houston and who topped Greens in Regulation at the tough TPC Sawgrass last week.

Billy Hurley III 0.5pt EW 150/1 with Sky Free Bet Bet £/€5 get £/€20 plus 6 places each way, 1/4 odds - get it here: Sky Free Bet

Finally I'm going to add Billy Hurley III at 150/1. A true Bentgrass monster, Hurley must have been licking his lips for this point of the season to finally arrive. Sure enough, Hurley's first visit to pure Bentgrass greens at Eagle Point a fortnight ago delivered a fast start and the man from Virginia was 2nd at the halfway point. To eventually finish 8th was decent enough seeing that he hadn't been in contention since TPC Boston (pure Bentgrass greens again) last September and it was Billy's first top 10 of the season. A free-wheeling 41st last week delivered Hurley's first pay cheque at The Players and I just get the feeling that Hurley will be looking forward to both TPC Four Seasons and Colonial over the next 2 weeks. Of the 2 courses, Billy has performed better here in the past with last year's 41st actually containing rounds of 65 and 66 and he would have been in for a top 20 finish with even a 70 in Round 3. Prior to that, 2014 saw him finish 15th here. An emotional winner at Congressional last term, Hurley can deliver on low scoring Bentgrass assignments and I can see him getting in the mix this week at an event where big prices have a track record of delivering.

Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel

Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 10:55BST 16.5.17 but naturally subject to fluctuation. Author Steve Bamford, Find us on Google+

             

 

 

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