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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 has moved venues this year, with the tournament now being hosted for the very first time at Trinity Forest Golf Club. Built on land which was previously used as a landfill site, Trinity Forest is a high-profile private club development in south-east Dallas designed by Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. Built to mimic a genuine links golf course, the course visually looks very intimidating with plenty of contours, difficult green complexes, run-off areas and plenty of native areas surrounding fairways. Results right now are key for many with U.S. Open OWGR top-60 qualification (first cut-off next Monday) and the Ryder Cup also very much in mind.
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We're back to regular European and PGA Tour action this week so I'll take this opportunity to highlight Golf Betting System's unique guide outlining which online bookmakers offer the very best golf each-way terms. Covering both the PGA Tour and European Tour, the results for 2018 to-date including last week's Players Championship are in with Coral leading the way for each-way places provided, ahead of Paddy Power. The full analysis, which we update monthly, is valuable insight for all golf punters and is well worth a read here.
Course Guide: We take a step into the unknown this week with the PGA Tour visiting Trinity Forest Golf Club for the first time. Set only 15 minutes southeast of downtown Dallas, Trinity Forest has been built on a old landfill site. Using the topography of the old site, eminent co-designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw have sculpted a truly unique golf course which has clearly scared off plenty of Tour players this week. The course is a treeless inland links-like design, which features elevation changes, no rough as fairways have native area boundaries and even a shared green.
Trinity Forest Golf Club, Dallas, Texas: Designer: Coore and Crenshaw 2016; Course Type: United States, Links-Style; Par: 71; Length: 7,380 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 0; Fairways: Trinity Zoysiagrass; Rough: Trinity Zoysiagrass with wispy Buffalo grass native areas; Greens: Champion UltraDwarf Bermudagrass; Tournament Stimp: 10.5ft.
Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for Trinity Forest and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:
Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Bill Coore & Ben Crenshaw designs /re-designs include:
• Pinehurst Number 2 - 2014 U.S. Open.
Course Overview: This new golf course designed by the revered Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw partnership will certainly present a totally different challenge to what we saw at TPC Sawgrass last week and also what we see week-in, week-out on the PGA Tour. It undoubtedly presents a unique challenge and that in itself has probably had a lot to do with the fact that the field this week is very weak, despite AT&T putting up a $7.7 million prize fund which is the biggest of the 4-strokeplay events on the Texas swing in 2018. Expect a far better field at Colonial next week, with $600k less up for grabs.
Trinity Forest Golf Club undoubtedly looks like a links golf course, despite the course being only 15 minutes from Dallas city centre. The property is treeless; it's also quite undulating, with the course built on the undulations left from the landfill it has been built upon. That combination has been maximised to the full by Coore and Crenshaw who set out to build a challenging golf course which can attract Major Championships in the future. The course itself features wide fairways which are bordered by buffalo grass waste areas rather than traditional rough. The course has been set up to play firm and fast and it's also been designed to look at the very least visually like a United Kingdom or north-east United States links-golf course. Green complexes vary massively in size, but most feature some pretty severe contours and with that in mind they will only play to 10.5ft on the stimpmeter. Coore and Crenshaw also readily admit that they have used techniques from great old-school course designers such as Donald Ross, Tillinghast and Perry Maxwell to present challenges for the players. Indeed the course features a 30,000 sq.ft sized double green across the 3rd and 11th holes. Bunkering is well positioned and challenging, like a links-golf course, however it's interesting to take on board the comments of club member Jordan Spieth who describes the course by saying, "It's like an American links. You've kind of got to play it from the air, not really a bounce the ball up kind of links, but it is still a links-looking golf course."
For the Byron Nelson, the 7,450-yard Par 72 course will play as a 7,380 yards Par 71, with the normal par-5 11th playing as a long par-4 (to a massive double green shared by the par-4 third.) Without question, Trinity Forest will be the firmest and fastest course that will be seen in America on the PGA Tour this year. The Tour has asked the Course Superintendent Kasey Kauff to consider raising the height of cut of greens surrounds just slightly, to keep errant shots from rolling 40 or 50 yards away. They consider it a pace of play issue. It's also been reported from the course this week that the hoses have been switched on, again to make sure that the course does not play too tough - with a lack of the wind that is a huge defence for the course, that should make he course more scoreable this week.
Located in the southern United States, clearly it was never going to be feasible to use Fescue grass across the golf course, so instead the course has been planted in Trinity Zoysiagrass which has comparable spring and bounce. Zoysiagrass also features at TPC Southwind (FedEx St Jude Classic) and East Lake (Tour Championship) and isn't the most popular of fairway grasses with many players who claim the quirky grass promotes flyers. These fairways also featured at the 2011 PGA Championship hosted at Atlanta Athletic Club.
Greens feature Ultra-Dwarf Champion Bermudagrass. These greens can be found across PGA Tour stop-offs at Quail Hollow (Wells Fargo Championship), Sedgefield Country Club (Wyndham Championship), TPC Southwind (FedEx St Jude Classic), the Country Club of Jackson (Sandersons Farms Championship) and the Robert Trent Jones Golf Trail (Barbasol Championship). The 2011 PGA Championship hosted at Atlanta Athletic Cub and won by Keegan Bradley also featured Champion Bermudagrass putting surfaces.
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. NEW! Combined Current and Course Form is now available here.
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker, Charles Howell III, Ryan Palmer, Brandt Snedeker, Branden Grace, Marc Leishman, Adam Scott and Hideki Matsuyama.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the Valspar Championship / Hero Indian Open and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices (TPC Four Seasons): 2017: Horschel 125/1; 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: 153/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 188/1. For a full summary of winner's odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for Dallas, Texas, is here. Very hot is the summary for this week in Texas - temperatures of up to 35 degrees Celsius are anticipated. With this in mind the course is being watered pre-event, so unfortunately we won't see the truly firm and fast course conditions the course designers want. The course is also designed to play in the wind, and that looks likely for only Friday and Saturday. South-westerly breeze gusting to 20 mph and 25 mph on Friday and Saturday should see the course play as the organisers want it to, leaving Thursday and Sunday for serious scoring.
So let's take a view from players and the course designer as to how Trinity Forest will play this week and what specific skills it requires:
Jordan Spieth: "It looks as good as I've seen it since - and I've been going out there since before the greens were even sprigged. It looks really good. It's grown on me a lot over the past six months, and in the springtime, I think it's at its best. It's in his best condition that it can be now or the next month or two. I think the weather looks like it's going to really cooperate to give it a good first showing.
A lot of big grandstands. It's like an American links. You've kind of got to play it from the air, not really a bounce the ball up kind of links, but it is still a links-looking golf course. So it's weird, it's unique. It's actually - Birkdale was kind of the closest comparison I've found to a links course that you kind of have to attack from the air. You get maybe four or five, six holes where you can bounce the ball up, but the way to get balls close is to come in with a higher shot. That's not necessarily true links. I don't want to say that about Birkdale because of the history and everything, but it's just the way I've found to play it well is that route."
Bill Coore: “This is one week where the shortest hitter on the PGA Tour might have an equal chance to win. From its look to its playing qualities, Trinity Zoysiagrass is the closest thing to fescue that we’ve seen from a warm season turf. The golf ball will really scamper on this grass, just like you see in the British Isles. But we’re in Dallas.”
Ben Crenshaw: "We tried very hard to present a diverse test of golf. In other words, some shorts holes, some long holes, and we have different-sized greens. We have some very large, and then a couple that were pretty small.
Geoff Ogilvy: "I love it. Strategically, it’s so interesting. It’s got everything that’s missing from modern architecture. There are ways to challenge golfers besides long rough and narrow fairways. Trinity Forest is going to make us use our brains a little bit. Sometimes here at Trinity, the pin is not necessarily the target."
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 8 AT&T Byron Nelson winners:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
For the record, here's the breakdown of Bermudagrass PGA Tour victors in the field since 2008:
The Byron Nelson is always a difficult tournament to call and a move to a new course which has been described as "unique" adds another level of intrigue to this betting heat. As a tournament, we've seen a whole list of unexpected winners. Indeed Jason Day (this was 2010), Keegan Bradley, Sang-moon Bae, Brendon Todd, Steven Bowditch and Billy Horschel have won 6 of the past 8 renewals at triple-digits. Bowditch topped the lot price-wise delivering a 500/1 coup for the bookmakers 3 years ago. But in Jason Dufner (22/1 in 2012) and Sergio Garcia (25/1 in 2016), 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. Jason Dufner in 2012 had only captured his previous victory 2 appearances prior at TPC Louisiana. Last year saw Billy Horschel arrive with form of MC-MC-MC-MC to then go onto capture his 4th PGA Tour victory. The Floridian had not won a tournament since the 2014 Tour Championship ending a 2 and a half year hiatus. It's certainly a mixed picture, but with Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia, Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Matt Kuchar and Billy Horschel all in this week's field, there's sure to be a little value further down the field.
From a course perspective, naturally we don't really know what we are getting this week. However this treeless, links-style test has a definite coastal feel and looks relatively intimidating with strong bunkering, plenty of native areas, plus undulating green surfaces. However with runway-wide fairways and no actual rough, the level of penalty from the tee looks minimal. Instead Coore and Crenshaw have set the whole course up for the main defence to be the famous Texas wind, which this week looks relatively calm. Green complexes are severely contoured so greens always need to be receptive (10.5 ft on the Stimpmeter), so I think that Trinity Forest will be scoreable. A glimpse of that can be seen from the very first tournament played here last year - the Texas State Open. On a shorter Par 70 7,135 yard set-up it was won by Brax McCarthy at -18/262.
My selections are as follows:
Backing Australians in Texas is never a bad strategy and in Adam Scott we have the only player in history to have won the Texas Grand Slam. Clearly he's been struggling of late, with no confidence in a short putter basically undermining his whole game. Asked about his putting in 2018 at The Players, Adam said, "I made some really good par saves this week that help so much with momentum that I wasn't making when you're really out of position and you're 15 feet for par and maybe made one or two a day. It keeps the round going, and I just haven't been doing that consistently and it makes it hard, always on the back foot. It was just me being a little too stubborn too long trying to putt well with the shorter style putter." Scott made the change back to his original long, belly putter at Quail Hollow 2 weeks ago and results have been encouraging with 2 positive Strokes Gained Putting performances. Adam described the change as "It's a feeling of ease, it's very much no thought, and the body just moves and the ball just goes. It was very much instinct. And I feel when I putted my best with the long putter, it was just easy as well." And as we know with Adam Scott, if he can have just an average week on the greens, he definitely becomes a factor as we saw last week with a season's best 11th place finish.
With a little confidence in getting the ball in the hole, I now think Scott will be a factor this week on a course which club member and AT&T Ambassador Jordan Spieth describes as, "An American links. You've kind of got to play it from the air, not really a bounce the ball up kind of links, but it is still a links-looking golf course." Personally I can see a little bit of TPC Boston - a course where coastal exponents thrive - in Trinity Forest visually and it's also worth remembering that the last new-style links course we saw in the United States was Chambers Bay which hosted the 2015 U.S. Open won by none other than Jordan Spieth. Scott finished 4th at Chambers Bay and is a winner at TPC Boston. His Open Championship record is strong at tracks such as Muirfield (3rd 2013), Hoylake (5th 2014) and we know he should have won the 2012 Open at Royal Lytham, where he threw away victory, eventually finishing runner-up to a grateful Ernie Els. Scott has also had great success in his home nation and I can see some associations course set-up associations between Trinity Forest and the likes of sand belt courses such as Royal Melbourne and Kings Heath. So I think Adam should feel at home this week on a course where his strong Stokes Gained on Approach and Greens in Regulation game, could well be rewarded. He topped scrambling at Sawgrass too which is never a bad scenario. Motivationally he also knows that he needs results to qualify for the U.S. Open via the OWGR top 60 category, where he currently sits 65th. RESULT: T9
Another for me who stands out in this mediocre field is Branden Grace, who interestingly was a very late entry for the Byron Nelson this week. The South African is an undoubted talent by the coast as we saw at the Birkdale-hosted Open Championship last year when he shot a Major Championship record low -9/62 on Saturday before finishing 6th for his third top-6 Major finish by the coast. A winner of the 2012 Volvo Golf Champions which was played on his home course at Fancourt Links, which again I can see visual associations with, Grace has always been the type who thrives on links-type assignments by the coast or on windswept golf courses: 2012 - Dunhill Links 1st; 2013 - 2nd Scottish Open - Castle Stuart; 2015 - 1st Qatar Open, 7th Harbour Town, 4th U.S. Open - Chambers Bay, 3rd PGA Championship - Whistling Straits; 2016 - 1st Qatar Open, 1st Harbour Town; 2017 - 6th Open Championship - Birkdale. So he has the kind of coastal history both on the European Tour and in the United States that we are looking for this week.
Current form is ok, with a win in the Nedbank Challenge in November preceding a South African Open challenge in January. Since then, and despite going through the challenge of a first pregnancy with wife Nieke, Grace has delivered 7 from 7 cuts in stroke play tournaments with 15th in Abu Dhabi, 20th at AT&T Pebble Beach, 8th at Copperhead and a career-best 24th at Augusta the headlines. His first appearance at Pebble Beach was interesting as 20th overall actually undersells his performance where he shot -8/280 across his 36 holes at the U.S. Open host course which was 4th best in the field. Boosted by the birth of first son Roger, Grace played well enough last week at The Players shooting a -4/68 in Round 1 before finishing 46th, which will have taken the rust of his competitive game for this week. 11th for Greens in Regulation last week, Branden has always been the sort to build on consecutive performances and I also like his last 2 strokeplay visits to Texas, where he has finished 9th (2015) and 10th (2016) at TPC San Antonio. RESULT: T3
Naturally club member Jordan Spieth is the tournament favourite and in such a week field he's as short as 9/2 with a couple of bookmakers. As the reigning Open Champion he obviously has the best chance, but I'm passing. For a full status PGA Tour event with a $7.7m prize fund, this tournament sees more 500/1 to 750/1 shots than I can remember and that has severely impacted on the prices available. At an event where first-time winners have a great record, I'm taking Beau Hossler at 40/1. Hossler, who's based in Dallas, plays out of Trinity Hills so has course knowledge on his side, but it's his coastal form that really interests me this week. Beau always excelled at the Junior World Golf Championships played at Torrey Pines at youth level. A 2016 win at the Jones Cup Invitational played at Ocean Forest Golf Club on Sea Island, Georgia is also interesting. Players such as Justin Thomas, Patrick Reed, Jordan Spieth, Victor Dubuisson, Paul Dunne and Austin Connelly all feature in the winners list of this strong amateur event, with a couple of those featuring at Birkdale last July. 2015 saw the then amateur Hossler finish 58th at the U.S. Open hosted at Chambers Bay and since his promotion to the PGA Tour, Beau has shown serious signs by the coast. 10th after 36 holes at El Camaleon, 5th after 54 holes at Torrey Pines, and 2nd after 36 holes at Pebble Beach, highlight a player who loves to play on coastal tracks. Ok he went on to finish 34th, 35th and 43rd at those 3 tournaments, but since then we saw the emergence of Hossler when in contention down the road at the GC of Houston where an assured Sunday performance saw him finish 2nd to an inspired Ian Poulter. Hossler is hitting the ball well and has a strong short game to boot which is always welcome on courses with links-like properties and his performance in Houston came on a receptive golf course, which we will likely see again this week. With some extensive knowledge of the course I love his chances this week. RESULT: T32
When I think of top American coastal exponents, Brandt Snedeker is close to the top of the list. 3rd (2013 & 2016) at Kapalua, 2nd (2016) at Waialae, a 2-time winner (2012 & 2016) at Torrey Pines, a 2-time winner (2013 & 2015) at Pebble Beach, a winner (2011) at Harbour Town, 8th (2015 U.S. Open) at Chambers Bay, plus 3rd (2012 Open Championship) at Royal Lytham, highlight a player who is very comfortable on links-type assignments. If we look from a Champion Bermudagrass / Zoysiagrass perspective, the Tennessee man also has a 5th (2007) and 15th (2011) at TPC Southwind and of course his famous win at the 2012 East Lake-hosted Tour Championship in the plus column. 2 immediate missed cuts at TPC Sawgrass and TPC Louisiana get us a rather large 60/1 with Unibet this week - he's as short as 33/1 with a couple of other firms - and of late he's actually been showing some better form. 2nd after 54 holes at Copperhead in March, 4th after 36 holes (finished 23rd) at Harbour Town and 15th at TPC San Antonio, both in April, highlight a player who isn't too far away. Billy Horschel won this tournament off 4 straight missed cuts 12 months ago and often it's a case of the right course in-tandem with a positive practice session creating the right reaction from a quality player. Brandt is still on the comeback from a sternum injury he picked up when 32nd in the OWGR last summer and now, ranked 86th, he needs to get strong results if he has any chance of Ryder Cup action. Trinity Forest should be right up his street. RESULT: MC
Dubai-based Justin Parson's group of players are in form at the moment. Charl Schwartzel has used the confidence boost he gained from 3rd at the Zurich Classic with Louis Oosthuizen to finish 9th at Quail Hollow and 2nd at TPC Sawgrass. He's jumped back into the OWGR top 50 as a result. Mike Lorenzo-Vera almost picked his first European Tour victory up at the Rocco Forte Open in Sicily last week and now finds himself at a career best world ranking. And Peter Uihlein now finds himself at 57th in the OWGR after the 5th place he earned at Quail Hollow a fortnight ago. Uihlein though is unlikely to rest on his laurels, with coveted U.S. Open invite and OWGR top 50 targets now within touching distance. Peter has always been the sort who can string top-level performances together when he finds the sweet spot in his game and I also like his coastal history when it comes to the rigours that Trinity Forest will illicit. A truly global player, Uihlein captured his European Tour victory at the 2013 Madeira Island Open. He's also finished runner-up at the Dunhill Links Championship (2013) and Open de France (2017), the former of which takes in St Andrews, Carnoustie and Kingbarns. His finish at Le Golf National last year is also interesting as he finished 2nd to Tommy Fleetwood on the tough inland links-test just outside of Paris. As we know Fleetwood goes well by the coast and finished 4th last year at another modern American inland links-type course at the Erin Hills U.S. Open. Talking of modern-style American links tests, Peter won the 2010 U.S Amateur Championship at Chambers Bay and also won the 2011 Northeast Amateur played at Wannamoisett Country Club in Rhode Island which is a classical Donald Ross deign which features his famous saucer-shape green complexes. 6th (2013) and 5th (2017) at the Puerto Rico Open again show a liking for golf by the coast. Champion Bermudagrass greens also look to be a friend to Uihlein as he finished 4th in 2014 at the CC of Jackson and naturally was 5th last time out at Quail Hollow., where he was 22nd for Greens in Regulation and 1st for Scrambling. RESULT: T21
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel
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