Colonial looked good for us until Boo's back went and Charley found himself in the perennially doomed last group on Sunday. Congratulations to all Chris Kirk backers who defied all tee-to-green logic and putted and scrambled his way around a soggy Colonial to grab both his 4th PGA Tour victory and 4th spot in President's Cup qualification. Even softer conditions will be in play at this week's AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Four Seasons which will see further unsettled weather close the 2015 Texas swing. Meanwhile over in Europe, Rory McIlroy plays host at the Dubai Duty Free Irish Open to a dozen of the top 50 OWGR players including Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Martin Kaymer, Victor Dubuisson, Lee Westwood and Graeme McDowell. Undoubtedly the highlight of the golfing week, let Paul Williams' preview give you all the required lowdown to Royal County Down after his 80/1 place return on Miguel Angel Jimenez last week.
2015 Punters League
Congratulations to Jamie Benson who was the only person to have Byeong-hun An in their team last week. Inspired stuff which won Jamie a £/€25 free bet courtesy of Paddy Power. Overall Sean Colgan still has a handy lead in the Punters League after 20 weeks. New entrants are always welcome so enter your 6 players across the Irish Open and Byron Nelson on our facebook group now.
The soap opera which is the PGA Tour moves to Dallas this week where local Masters champion Jordan Spieth will be fired up to capture his home title, especially as his main sponsor AT&T are now supporting the tournament. On a course he admits doesn't suit his eye, Jordan will have his work cut out to deliver a title that must be close to the top of his objective list. So here's my AT&T Byron Nelson preview which walks you through some interesting angles that have shaped my final selections:
Course Guide: TPC Four Seasons this week 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, but ultimately relatively tranquil and more importantly soft conditions will mean that any winner will need an exceptional week around the greens to become champion.
TPC Four Seasons Resort, Las Colinas, Irving, Texas: Designer: Jay Morrish 1986 with Weibring/Wolford redesign prior to 2008 tournament; Course Type: Technical; Par: 70; Length: 7,166 yards; 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.
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: 1) Very soft conditions - there's been plenty of rain in the build up to the tournament: the Bentgrass greens here are traditionally slow, which over the past 24 months, has turned this into a putting contest; 2) Wind - scoring here is always been dictated by the strength of the wind and this week, if forecasts are to be believed, will see the calmest conditions here in recent years. The lowest winning score since the 07/08 re-design was Rory Sabbatini's -19/261 in 2009, so we could well see winning scores on the low side again in 2015.
Winners: 2014: Brendon Todd (-14); 2013: Sang-moon Bae (-13); 2012: Jason Dufner (-11); 2011: Keegan Bradley (-3); 2010: Jason Day (-10); 2009: Rory Sabbatini (-19); 2008: Adam Scott (-7).
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 Byron Nelson Classic predictor is available here. You can build your own tailor-made model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Key players included in the Top 5 of the Predictor include Jordan Spieth (Predictor number 1), Jason Day (2010 winner), Matt Kuchar, Jerry Kelly and Dustin Johnson.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Valspar Championship / Tshwane Open weekend and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour. Players must have played in a minimum of 3 main Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2014: Todd 100/1; 2013: Bae 150/1; 2012: Dufner 20/1; 2011: Bradley 200/1; 2010: Day 100/1; 2009: Sabbatini 45/1. For a summary of winners' odds on the PGA Tour for the past 5 years based on the 2015 schedule click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest PGA Tour weather forecast for TPC Four Seasons is here. We were spot on with conditions last week in Fort Worth, and it's pretty much same again for this week. The players remarked how well the greens at Colonial held their firmness despite plenty of rain pre and during the tournament. Whether the same will be said this week remains in doubt as the undulating green complexes here are traditionally slow as the tournament usually faces high winds.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the last 5 winners here since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
The Byron Nelson is always a fascinating tournament which, more often than not, throws up an unexpected winner. Jason Day, Keegan Bradley, Sang-moon Bae and Brendon Todd have won 4 of the past 5 renewals at triple-digits. But 2015 has not been your typical PGA Tour season with the recent winners list looking like a who's-who of elite golf. Since Doral back in March, apart from Matt Every's 300/1 win at Bay Hill, Dustin Johnson 22/1, Jordan Spieth 16/1, Jimmy Walker 25/1, J.B. Holmes 28/1, Jordan Spieth 11/1, Jim Furyk 25/1, Justin Rose 11/1, Rickie Fowler 60/1, Rory McIlroy 4/1 and Chris Kirk 35/1 have taken the titles. Spieth supporters will undoubtedly be licking their lips.
Another strong trend at TPC Four Seasons this week is the fact that 4 of the past 5 champions here have been first time Tour winners. Only Jason Dufner in 2011 was a PGA Tour winner and interestingly he'd only just grabbed his first 'W' at TPC Louisiana 2 appearances prior to arriving in Dallas. So in a current golfing environment where players in the OWGR Top 25 have won every title in the 9 consecutive weeks, it will be fascinating to see what happens.
The Byron Nelson also links into the traditional season-ending team events, namely the Ryder Cup and President's Cup. Nelson champions Sabbatini (2009), Dufner (2012) and Bae (2013) went on the play for their respective teams the season they triumphed here. Let's not forget Jeff Overton in 2010 either who finished runner-up to Jason Day and went on to represent Team USA at Celtic Manor.
So we face a real challenge when it comes to covering bases this week. Predictor No.1 Jordan Spieth, in the soft conditions he thrives upon, will undoubtedly be 100% focussed on winning his home title. 5/1 is tempting, but there will be plenty of layers interested on a course where he has only managed 16th in 4 appearances. For me a win this week for the World No.2 will require a special performance which we know Jordan is more than capable of, but he will need to play holes 1 to 4 far better than he has done up to now. So reluctantly I'll look elsewhere and cover off a few angles with a couple of the World's Top 30, a few Tour maidens and some current short game specialists, two of whom have great course form.
My selections are as follows:
Now Gary Woodland is in no way a natural born putter but he's undoubtedly playing some of the best golf of his career right now. It's interesting to see that Team Harmon is collectively grabbing high profile results right now with Phil Mickelson (2nd Augusta), Rickie Fowler (1st TPC Sawgrass) and Brandt Snedeker (2nd Colonial) adding to that momentum last week. However Woodland is certainly part of the performance group as his 2nd place at the recent World Matchplay and 4th at Quail Hollow on his last appearance have boosted him to 28th in the OWGR and 17th in the President's Cup standings. Gary has always played well at TPC Four Seasons and went out in the second last group here 12 months ago, so I can see his current confidence making him a real factor again this week. That confidence is certainly being buoyed by his short game right now where he ranked 14th for Scrambling at Quail and 1st for Strokes Gained Putting as he landed a field-best 368 feet of putts.
Love him or loathe him, Ian Poulter has always been a momentum tournament winner. Poults doesn't tend to win strokeplay titles from out of the blue so placed in the final group at Colonial last week I wasn't overly surprised to see him struggle with Charley Hoffman and Kevin Na for company. However what's crystal clear right now is that Ian has been incredibly motivated by a change to Titleist clubs and by the most overrated player survey results which also clearly lifted Rickie Fowler as well. So, for me, 50/1 this week on the World Number 24 is clearly wrong, especially when you see that his overall game is in fine fettle - especially his scrambling and putting. An in-form Poulter always plays better across multiple appearances, so even the addition of both Colonial and TPC Four Seasons to his schedule rather than attending Wentworth and potentially Royal County Down shouts from the rooftops that Poulter means business right now. He was 3rd here back in 2007 and is as short as 28/1 elsewhere.
I've had Tour maiden Morgan Hoffmann earmarked for this tournament for a while now and it's not difficult to see why. A fine wind player who loves to play in softer conditions, Hoffmann finished 5th here in his rookie season back in 2013 and the 25 year old backed that up last year where he went off in the last few groups only 2 shots back. Morgan ended up 16th after a disappointing final round, but 2014 saw him go on to visibly mature at the FedEx PlayOffs where 9th at Ridgewood was followed by a career best 3rd at Cherry Hills, which ultimately qualified him for the Tour Championship. 2015 has been quiet, but 4th at Bay Hill and 9th at Harbour Town have shown that Morgan is still a force in softer conditions. His short game is outstanding right now, so fits the bill perfectly.
Now onto some triple-digit prices, which with the price profile of this tournament seems a decent enough tactic.
Texas-based New Zealander Danny Lee has taken an age to develop since he hit the world scene back in 2009 by winning the European Tour's Johnnie Walker Classic at The Vines Resort in Perth, Australia. Maybe high expectations from that win combined with a gleaming amateur career were too much for the New Zealander, whose professional career bombed quite badly via a schedule that never really made any sense spanning both main Tours with spells on the web.com Tour. 2014 saw Danny hit the milestone of earning his PGA Tour privileges for the first time and results this season have gone from strength to strength with an autumn 3rd at El Camaleon followed by 7th at Copperhead, 17th at Bay Hill, 22nd at New Orleans and 13th at Quail Hollow. Lee has always played well in the Lone Star State as a victory plus 2nd at Midland Country Club (2011 and 2012) on the web.com testify, so it was good to see him finish a creditable 10th last week at Colonial. Stats-wise Lee ticks all the boxes for me and has 2 Top-20 finishes here from 3 appearances.
John Huh is a Par 70 specialist who finished with a stunning 64 at Colonial last week, good enough to lift him to 18th. A 2012 PGA Tour winner in his rookie season, Huh has the ability to play tough, tree-lined courses well and it's therefore no surprise to see a CV that contains Top 5 finishes at TPC San Antonio (2012), Harbour Town (2014), Colonial (2012) and Sedgefield (2013). Huh's putting and scrambling game this season has been top-notch so a new found consistency with his approach shots seen at Quail and Colonial makes him dangerous. 8th and 16th here across 2013 and 2014.
Jerry Kelly at 125/1 seems underestimated again this week. Only 5 Bogeys at Colonial, on a classical layout that Kelly has struggled with in recent years, boosted Jerry to 11th in the Bogey Avoidance season long category. A streaky scorer whose short game is razor-sharp right now, TPC Four Seasons holds great memories for the veteran who finished 3rd here in 2007 as well as 9th (2003) and 11th (2004). Hasn't finished outside the Top 22 in his 4 appearances since Augusta which included leading at TPC Sawgrass after 36 holes. Could spring a surprise.
Finally, backing an Aussie in Texas is never a bad ploy so Matt Jones, who is still very much in the race for a spot in the International Team for the President's Cup, looks attractive. Jones, you'll remember, won in soft conditions at the GC of Houston last term and he's already finished 11th at Kapalua, 7th at Pebble Beach, 14th at Riviera and 3rd at Bay Hill in 2015. Has never made the weekend here in 3 appearances but his love of soft conditions, on a track where hitting less greens in regulation isn't critical, should see him feature far higher this week. Lower scoring and soft bentgrass greens will be right up the World Number 68's street.
Our predictions and final tips for the 2016 AT&T Byron Nelson Championship will be published here on the Tuesday before the event.