Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Byron Nelson Championship Tips 2021

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Congratulations if you were on-board Rory McIlroy at prices pre-event up to 20/1. I have also seen a few ‘Transatlantic Double’ tickets with McIlroy and Higgo at 12/1 on Social Media. Fantastic stuff! Our European Tour expert Paul Williams landed Higgo at 12/1, whilst I made do with a full each-way payout on Matt Wallace at 66/1. I also had Bubba Watson who standing on 17th tee at Quail Hollow was also set for a full each-way payout at 55/1. A triple/double finish though put paid to that upside!

The AT&T Byron Nelson sees us return to Texas for the third time in 2021. We were in the Lone Star State previously for the WGC Dell Matchplay and the Valero Texas Open, both of which were played in the immediate weeks before The Masters in April. The Byron Nelson is the curtain-raiser for next week’s PGA Championship at Kiawah Island. My 2021 PGA Championship research preview is ready to read here with my full betting tips preview out on Monday next week.

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the AT&T Byron Nelson we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System, with the PGA Championship next week.  Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 5,900+ strong, private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Guide: The AT&T Byron Nelson for the first time ever is being hosted at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas this week. A new course to the PGA Tour, Craig Ranch has hosted U.S. Open Sectional Qualifiers in 2019, but of more interest to readers would be a couple of Korn Ferry Tour Championship tournaments across 2008 and 2012.

Set in a rolling valley, the course features tree-lined fairways and plenty of water in-play around the course. At 7,468 yards and a Par 72, I’m expecting low scores this week, unless the Texas wind decides otherwise.

TPC Craig Ranch, McKinney, Dallas, Texas: Designer: Tom Weiskopf, 2004; Course Type: Parkland; Par: 72; Length: 7,468 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 13; Fairways: Cavalier Zoysiagrass; Rough: Bermudagrass 2.5″; Greens: 6,778 sq.ft. average Bentgrass; Tournament Stimp: 11.5ft.

Fairway Course Designer Links: For research purposes, other Tom Weiskopf designs include (including re-designs):

  • North Course, Torrey Pines 2017-2021 Farmers Insurance Open
  • TPC Scottsdale – Waste Management Phoenix Open

Course Overview: The AT&T Byron Nelson moves again to a new home for the 2021 renewal. Part of the PGA Tour’s own TPC Network, Craig Ranch will play as host course this week. Located in McKinney on the north-east fringes of Dallas, Texas, it’s a 7,468 yard, Par 72 set-up with the standard split of 4 par-3s and 4-par-5s.

The course itself is a Tom Weiskopf design, with gently rolling hills and mature woods surrounding the limestone banks of Rowlett Creek. Ex PGA Tour player D.A. Weibring also served as a consultant on the golf course design. Water in various guises is apparent throughout the course, with Rowlett Creek crossing the course 14 times. The course itself is far more conventional than the quirky faux-links at Trinity Forest, which hosted the Byron Nelson across both 2018 and 2019, and a stronger entry list has undoubtedly been attracted.

The front 9 at Craig Ranch is where some serious birdies can be made. The 1st, 3rd and 6th holes are all par-4s at 430 yards or less. Throw in 570 yard (5th) and 564 yard (8th) par-5s and there are birdies to be made on these Bentgrass greens. The back 9 sees a driveable par-4 at the 14th, a short 147 yard par-3 at the 17th and a couple of easy par-5s at 547 yards (12th) and 552 yards (18th). The other holes though are made of sterner stuff, so I’m expecting lower scores on the front side.

TPC Craig Ranch does share one familiarity with previous host venue Trinity Forest in that the course has been planted from tee to green with Zoysiagrass, which we see on occasions in the southern states of the United States. Zoysiagrass also features at TPC Southwind (WGC-St Jude Invitational & 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 and at Bellerive Country Club which hosted the 2018 PGA Championship.

When you look into the detail, TPC Craig Ranch hosted the Korn Ferry Tour Championships in both 2008 (Nationwide Tour Championship) and 2012 ( Tour Championship). Matt Bettencourt won the 2008 tournament with Marc Leishman in 7th place with a winning score of -17/267. 2012 saw Justin Bolli captured the title with a -16/268 winning total. James Hahn was runner-up. Luke List and Ben Martin were in 13th spot.

Analysing the final stats of the Korn Ferry winners here across 2008 & 2012 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for the course this week:

  • 2012, Justin Bolli (-16). 288 yards (43rd), 58.9% fairways (48th), 80.6% greens in regulation (4th), 42.9 % scrambling (39th), 1.72 putts per GIR (6th).
  • 2008, Matt Bettencourt (-17). 306 yards (8th), 67.9% fairways (39th), 79.2% greens in regulation (12th), 53.3 % scrambling (17th), 1.67 putts per GIR (1st).

Greens in regulation was ultimately a key component for both winners here on the Korn Ferry and, at 80% Greens in Regulation, the course is clearly attackable for those with both a switched on and consistent approach game.

And finally it’s worth noting that TPC Craig Ranch in both tournaments played as a Par 71, with the 547 yard 12th hole playing as a par-4.  The PGA Tour though have switched the 12th from a par-4 to a par-5, which at just 550 yards is going to be taken apart this week. So with everything else equal, although there maybe slightly longer rough and the Texas wind can always be a leveller, a winning score approaching -18/268 or less is in the ballpark I think.

bryon nelson championship tips

Winners: Hosted at Trinity Forest: 2019: Sung Kang (-23); 2018: Aaron Wise (-23); Hosted at AT&T Four Seasons: 2017: Billy Horschel; 2016: Sergio Garcia; 2015: Steven Bowditch; 2014: Brendon Todd; 2013: Sang-moon Bae; 2012: Jason Dufner; 2011: Keegan Bradley; 2010: Jason Day.

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 | Combined Stats.

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 Jon Rahm, Marc Leishman, Ryan Palmer, Brooks Koepka, Sergio Garcia, Daniel Berger, Bryson DeChambeau, Peter Uihlein, Charl Schwartzel and Hideki Matsuyama.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Honda Classic / Kenya Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Fabian Gomez; 2) Thomas Pieters; 3) Josh Teater; 4) Brice Garnett; 5) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 6) Brian Stuard; 7) David Hearn / Wes Roach; 9) James Hahn; 10) Ryan Armour / Jon Rahm; 12) K.J. Choi; 13) Ben Martin; 14) Doug Ghim; 15) Ryan Moore; 16) J.J. Henry; 17) Scottie Scheffler; 18) Rickie Fowler; 19) John Catlin; 20) Martin Laird; 21) Satoshi Kodaira; 22) Talor Gooch; 23) Tim Wilkinson; 24) Bronson Burgoon / Russell Knox / J.J. Spaun.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) J.J. Henry / Jon Rahm; 3) John Catlin; 4) Wes Roach; 5) Doug Ghim; 6) Hideki Matsuyama; 7) Cameron Champ / Matthew Fitzpatrick; 9) Hank Lebioda; 10) Roberto Castro / Charl Schwartzel; 12) Marc Leishman; 13) Bryson DeChambeau; 14) Si Woo Kim; 15) Keith Mitchell; 16) Daniel Berger / Sergio Garcia; 18) Russell Knox; 19) Jordan Spieth; 20) Martin Laird / C.T. Pan; 22) Mark Anderson; 23) Sam Burns / Bronson Burgoon / Brooks Koepka / Luke List.
  • Scrambling: 1) Marc Leishman; 2) Shawn Stefani; 3) Bryson DeChambeau; 4) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 5) Jordan Spieth; 6) Josh Teater; 7) Jamie Lovemark / Alex Noren; 9) Dominic Bozzelli / Brice Garnett / Si Woo Kim; 12) Robert Streb / Aaron Wise; 14) Charles Howell III; 15) Tim Wilkinson; 16) John Huh / Vincent Whaley; 18) Pat Perez; 19) Wes Roach; 20) Ryan Blaum; 21) C.T. Pan / Camilo Villegas; 23) Wyndham Clark / Brandon Hagy / Luke List / Ryan Palmer / Charl Schwartzel.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Chris Baker; 2) Jordan Spieth; 3) Mark Anderson / John Senden; 5) Cameron Champ / Marc Leishman; 7) Johnson Wagner; 8) Tyler McCumber / Camilo Villegas; 10) Aaron Baddeley; 11) Hideki Matsuyama; 12) Thomas Pieters / Brandt Snedeker; 14) Scottie Scheffler; 15) Daniel Berger / Roberto Castro / Matt Kuchar / Josh Teater; 19) Matt Fitzpatrick; 20) Danny Lee; 21) Sebastian Munoz; 22) John Catlin / Harry Higgs; 24) Bryson DeChambeau; 25) Harris English / Kris Ventura.

Recent Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the Honda Classic / Kenya Open, which includes PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 2) Bryson DeChambeau; 3) Scottie Scheffler; 4) Jon Rahm; 5) Cameron Champ; 6) Peter Uihlein; 7) Ryan Palmer; 8) Keith Mitchell; 9) Will Gordon; 10) Jordan Spieth; 11) Sergio Garcia / Jhonattan Vegas; 13) Luke List; 14) Ryan Brehm / Ben Martin / Aaron Wise; 17) Doug Ghim; 18) Daniel Berger / Si Woo Kim; 20) Brandon Hagy; 21) Hunter Mahan / Sepp Straka; 23) Charles Howell III; 24) Satoshi Kodaira / Tom Lewis.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Marc Leishman; 2) Jordan Spieth; 3) John Catlin; 4) Seamus Power; 5) Hideki Matsuyama; 6) Daniel Berger; 7) Doug Ghim; 8) Sam Burns / Si Woo Kim; 10) Charl Schwartzel; 11) Russell Knox; 12) Tom Hoge / Camilo Villegas; 14) Ben Martin; 15) Will Zalatoris; 16) Aaron Wise; 17) Brandt Snedeker; 18) Luke List; 19) Matt Kuchar; 20) Brooks Koepka; 21) C.T. Pan / Roger Sloan; 23) Talor Gooch; 24) Hank Lebioda / Johnson Wagner.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Jordan Spieth; 2) Hideki Matsuyama; 3) Marc Leishman; 4) Seamus Power; 5) Charles Howell III; 6) Jonas Blixt; 7) Wyndham Clark / C.T. Pan / Tim Wilkinson; 10) Camilo Villegas; 11) Alex Noren; 12) Mark Hubbard; 13) Rickie Fowler; 14) Brandon Hagy; 15) Sam Burns / Kramer Hickok; 17) Joseph Bramlett / John Huh / Brooks Koepka / Peter Uihlein; 21) Bryson DeChambeau / Matt Kuchar; 23) K.J. Choi / Harris English / Michael Kim / Troy Merritt / Pat Perez.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Jordan Spieth; 2) Marc Leishman; 3) Hideki Matsuyama; 4) John Catlin; 5) Scottie Scheffler; 6) Daniel Berger; 7) Si Woo Kim; 8) Doug Ghim; 9) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 10) Brandt Snedeker / Jhonattan Vegas; 12) Luke List; 13) Sam Burns; 14) Charl Schwartzel; 15) Aaron Wise; 16) Cameron Champ / Keith Mitchell; 18) Ben Martin / Camilo Villegas; 20) Jon Rahm; 21) Russell Knox / Matt Kuchar / K.H. Lee / C.T. Pan; 25) Brandon Hagy.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) Johnson Wagner; 2) Marc Leishman; 3) Matt Kuchar; 4) Aaron Baddeley; 5) Jimmy Walker; 6) Camilo Villegas; 7) Patton Kizzire; 8) Bryson DeChambeau; 9) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 10) Vincent Whaley; 11) Harris English; 12) Sebastian Munoz; 13) Austin Cook / Jordan Spieth; 15) Patrick Rodgers; 16) Alex Noren / Brandt Snedeker; 18) Ryan Palmer; 19) Pat Perez / Will Zalatoris; 21) Brooks Koepka / Kevin Tway; 23) Cameron Champ / Charles Howell III / Si Woo Kim / Vaughn Taylor.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Jordan Spieth; 2) Marc Leishman; 3) Camilo Villegas; 4) Hideki Matsuyama; 5) Matthew Fitzpatrick; 6) John Catlin / Brandt Snedeker; 8) Si Woo Kim; 9) Matt Kuchar; 10) Bryson DeChambeau; 11) Cameron Champ; 12) Daniel Berger / Alex Noren / Vincent Whaley; 15) Scottie Scheffler; 16) Ben Martin; 17) Charl Schwartzel / Will Zalatoris; 19) Jon Rahm; 20) C.T. Pan; 21) Sam Burns; 22) Pat Perez / Jhonattan Vegas / Aaron Wise; 25) Kevin Chappell / Russell Knox / Robert Streb.

Winners & Prices: 2019: Kang 125/1; 2018: Wise 50/1; 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.  Past 6 Renewals Average: 154/1. Overall Average: 140/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2019: Thursday: Mostly cloudy. High of 72. Wind NW 10-15 mph, gusting to 20 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy. High of 62. Wind NNE 6-13 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 64. Wind NNW 4-8 mph. Sunday: Mostly sunny. High of 77. Wind NNW 4-8 mph. Played at Trinity Forest.
  • 2018: Thursday: Mostly sunny. High of 93. Wind E 5-10. Friday: Sunny. High of 96. Wind SSE 10-15 mph. Saturday: Partly cloudy. High of 91. Wind SSE 15-20 mph, with gusts to 30 mph. Sunday: Showers and thunderstorms early led to a four-hour delay to the start of the final round. Mostly cloudy in the afternoon. High of 80. Wind SE 6-12 mph.  Played at Trinity Forest.

Weather Forecast: Latest weather forecast for Dallas, Texas, is here.

30mm of rain on Monday, allied to a wet end to April and 90% chance of rain Tuesday, should see TPC Craig Ranch soft and receptive, and with little wind forecast on both Thursday and Friday we should expect low scores. Warmer conditions are forecast for the weekend – up to 27 degrees Celsius – but that comes with more breeze, with 15mph and 20mph southerly winds across Saturday and Sunday. More rain via thunderstorms cannot be ruled out for the final day either.

Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the winners of the AT&T Byron Nelson since 2010:

  • 2019 – Sung Kang:  Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2018 – Aaron Wise: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Billy Horschel: Round 1: 14th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2016 – Sergio Garcia: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2015 – Steven Bowditch: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2014 – Brendon Todd: Round 1: 13th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2013 – Sang-moon Bae: Round 1: 9th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2012 – Jason Dufner: Round 1: 11th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2011 – Keegan Bradley: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 8th, Round 3: 8th.
  • 2010 – Jason Day: Round 1: 1st, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 1st.

Incoming Form of winners since 2010:

  • Sung Kang: MC Quail / MC New Orleans/42nd San Antonio/18th Copperhead.
  • Aaron Wise: 2nd Quail/ MC New Orleans/MC TPC San Antonio/32nd Houston.
  • Billy Horschel: MC Sawgrass/ MC New Orleans/MC TPC San Antonio/MC Heritage.
  • Sergio Garcia: 54th Sawgrass/3rd Valderrama/34th Augusta/MDF Houston.
  • Steven Bowditch: DQ Colonial/47th Quail/MC Sawgrass/12th New Orleans.
  • Brendon Todd: MC Quail/38th Heritage/43rd Houston/6th TPC San Antonio.
  • Sang-moon Bae: 33rd Sawgrass/MC Ballantines/48th Heritage/WD TPC San Antonio.
  • Jason Dufner: 68th Sawgrass/1st New Orleans/24th Heritage/24th Masters.
  • Keegan Bradley: 72nd Sawgrass/MC Quail/26th New Orleans/MC Heritage.
  • Jason Day: MC Players/22nd Quail/22nd Heritage/MC Houston.

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

  • 2019 – McCarthy – AM  -8/63 100/1.
  • 2018 – Leishman – PM -10/61 – 35/1.
  • 2017 – Barnes / Hahn – Both AM -6/64 – 200/1 & 125/1.
  • 2016 – Garcia / D Lee / Wagner – 1AM/2PM -7/63.
  • 2015 – Bowditch – AM -8/62.
  • 2014 – Hanson – PM -5/65.
  • 2013 – Bradley – AM -10/60.
  • 2012 – Palmer – PM -6/64.
  • 2011 – Overton – PM -6/64.
  • 2010 – Day / Mahan – AM/PM Split -4/66.

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

  • 5 – Jordan Spieth.
  • 4 – Jason Day.
  • 3 – Bryson DeChambeau, Brooks Koepka, Matt Kuchar, Hideki Matsuyama, Ryan Moore.
  • 2 – Rickie Fowler, Sergio Garcia, Martin Laird, Marc Leishman, Hunter Mahan, Troy Merritt, Jhonattan Vegas.
  • 1 – Daniel Berger, Jonas Blixt, Luke Donald, Bill Haas, Padraig Harrington, Michael Kim, Russell Knox, Danny Lee, Ben Martin, Sean O’Hair, Ted Potter Jnr, Rory Sabbatini, Charl Schwartzel, Brandt Snedeker, Scott Stallings, Camilo Villegas, Nick Watney.

The Byron Nelson is always a difficult tournament to call and a move to yet another new course 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, Billy Horschel and Sung Kang have won 7 of the past 10 renewals at triple digits. Bowditch topped the lot price-wise, delivering a 500/1 coup for the bookmakers 6 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. And 2018 saw Aaron Wise overhaul long term leader Marc Leishman and capture his first PGA Tour title at 50/1.

Another angle is that recent winners Kang, Wise, 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. 2017 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 Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and Marc Leishman all in this week’s field, there’s sure to be a little value further down the list.

From a timing perspective, we only have the 2019 renewal to work from in terms of this tournament the week prior to the PGA Championship in May. It’s worth pointing out that it was a far weaker field than this week’s as its headline players featured only Brooks Koepka, Hideki Matsuyama, Marc Leishman, Jordan Spieth and Patrick Reed. Winner Sung Kang was a 125/1 shot. He ranked 138th in the Official World Golf Rankings and had no entry for the PGA Championship. Scott Piercy finished T2 with Matt Every. Piercy at 50/1 had finished 3rd on his previous outing at Harbour Town, whilst Matt Every had finished 3rd in the team event at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans 2 starts prior. 15/2 tournament favourite Brooks Koepka finished 4th and went on to win the PGA Championship a week later in New York.

My Final Byron Nelson Championship Tips Are As Follows:

Jordan Spieth 3pts EW 12/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Jordan Spieth in his home state of Texas works. Indeed we were lucky enough to be on him at 16/1 when he won the recent Valero Texas Open, breaking his winless streak which went back to the 2017 Open Championship, and a detailed look at Jordan’s career uncovers some interesting angles.

From a Majors perspective, Jordan always likes to arrive in the very peak of his form. So since his rookie season of 2013, in outings prior to a Major Spieth has finished 1st at the 2013 John Deere Classic, 7th at the 2014 John Deere Classic, 2nd at the 2015 Houston Open, 3rd at the 2015 Memorial Tournament, 1st at the 2015 John Deere Classic, 10th at the 2015 WGC Bridgestone Invitational, 3rd at the 2016 WGC-Bridgestone Invitational, 1st at the 2017 Travelers Championship, 3rd at the 2018 Houston Open, 7th at the 2019 Memorial Tournament and 1st at the 2021 Valero Texas Open. That is 4 victories, plus an additional 4 top-5s and 3 top-10s.

The Texas angle is also fascinating. 10th (2014), 2nd (2015) and 1st (2021) at TPC San Antonio; 7th (2013), 2nd (2015), 1st (2016), 2nd (2017), 8th (2019) and 10th (2021) at Colonial; 2nd (2015) and 3rd (2018) at the GC of Houston. It’s only the Byron Nelson where he has actually struggled with nothing better than 16th in 9 appearances.

From a motivation perspective, the AT&T Byron Nelson has always been a tournament very close to Jordan’s heart. He made his first ever PGA Tour start at Las Colinas in 2010, and in his first press conference stated, “I’ve been coming here to this tournament since I was five years old, so I’ve always wanted to play in this event, and for it to be my first Tour stop obviously is incredible. I didn’t think it would come this young.” He was 16 at the time and after being 7th after 54 holes(!), finished 16th. Fast forward to 2015, when he said; “It would be cool to close a Texas tournament out (he won his first at Colonial in 2016) and it would be a dream come true at this event. This is one I’ve always imagined winning and it would be cool to just do it this year.”  But apart from 2016 when Spieth went into Sunday in 2nd spot, he frustratingly never really got on with Las Colinas as a golf course, something which again continued at Trinity Forest. Fact is though that Jordan is desperate to win his home town event in Dallas.

And a first ever look for the vast majority of the field to TPC Craig Ranch might be just the trick this week. With Dustin Johnson, Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau in so-so form, Jordan will be undoubtedly motivated to add the 3rd leg of his Texas Grand Slam to his CV. And his game last time out at Augusta National was spectacular. 14th for Driving Accuracy, 1st for Greens in Regulation, 3rd for Total Accuracy and 9th for Ball Striking highlight how Spieth’s long-game has returned in 2021.

Although I would have liked to have seen him play between Augusta and this week, it’s also worth noting that his 2015 John Deere Classic, 2016 Tournament of Champions, 2016 Australian Open and 2017 Open Championship wins came after prolonged periods of no competitive action. RESULT: T9

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Charl Schwartzel 1pt EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Coral

I would have thought that a change to Bentgrass putting surfaces will be welcomed by many in the field this week. Bermudagrass greens or overseeded Bermudagrass has dominated the PGA Tour since Riviera Country Club and the Genesis Invitational in February, bar of course The Masters in April. Charl Schwartzel won’t mind the change that much is clear. Yes, Charl has won on Bermudagrass and Paspalum globally across his 15 professional wins, but like many South Africans, Bentgrass is really where it’s at.

European Tour victories at the Royal Johannesburg and Kensington Golf Club (2010 & 2011), Leopard Creek (2012, 2013 & 2015), and Pretoria Country Club (2016) all came on Bentgrass putting surfaces, as of course did his 2011 Masters Tournament victory. Charl was also 4th at Crooked Stick in 2016 and 3rd at Augusta National in 2017, when he was up to 18th in the OWGR. But a wrist injury in 2019 and a total loss of confidence and form which saw him fall to a low of 224th in the OWGR after a MC at The Memorial Tournament last May, has seen him struggle on the PGA Tour for a protracted period of time.

But things are undoubtedly on the rise right now. 26th at The Masters, Charl has gone on to finish 2nd at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with Louis Oosthuizen, 21st at the Valspar Championship and 14th last week at the Wells Fargo Championship. That was his best strokeplay finish in the United States since his 3rd place last July at the 3M Open, played on Bentgrass greens at TPC Twin Cities.

4th for Strokes Gained Approach and 3rd for Strokes Gained Tee to Green at Quail Hollow last week, Schwartzel across my 8-week trackers ranks 10th for Greens in Regulation, 10th for SG Approach, 14th for Tee to Green and 17th for SG Current Form in this field. A long awaited victory for Branden Grace on the PGA Tour in Puerto Rico already in 2021 must inspire, as must the winning heroics of fellow South Africans Daniel van Tonder, Justin Harding, Dean Burmester and Garrick Higgo on the European Tour since the end of March. RESULT: T3

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Aaron Wise 1pt EW 66/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

If birdies and low scoring are the true currency this week then 2018 AT&T Byron Nelson winner Aaron Wise is well worth an investment.

2018 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, the 24 year old has been through a fallow patch in his career development, but this guy is undoubtedly a real talent.  Professional wins across PGA Tour Canada, Korn Ferry and PGA Tour have come at -19/269 (Syncrude Oil Country Championship), -21/259 (Air Capital Classic) and -23/261 (AT&T Byron Nelson). His last 3 top 10 finishes on the PGA Tour came at -18/266 (2019 Bermuda Championship), -19/265 (2020 Mayakoba Classic) and with a field topping 23 birdies when 8th at the 2020 Barracuda Championship, played with the Modified Stableford scoring system. The World Number 130 can definitely score.

Recent outings have undoubtedly shown an improvement at events I wouldn’t have thought were ideal for Aaron. Wise was the 36 hole leader at the Honda Classic, with straight rounds of 64 across both Thursday and Friday. Ahead by 3 strokes going into the weekend, the wheels came off Sunday, but a 13th place finish was one for the notepad. 44th at the Valero Texas Open featured a closing round -5/67, but last week’s performance on a technical Quail Hollow really alerted me to Wise’s upturn in confidence. With 20 and 25 mph gusting winds a feature, Wise shot -5/137 across the weekend which was only bettered by McIlroy, Ancer, Hovland and DeChambeau. 9th was not too shabby, especially as his putter started to warm over those closing 36 holes and he ranked 5th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green.

That brings us to a new venue, and in comparison to Quail Hollow we should expect birdies and low scoring, especially across the calm opening conditions. A genuine Par 71 playing as a Par 72 must be music to the ears of Aaron, who ranks 7th for Greens in Regulation across the whole season and won this title on Zoysiagrass fairways 3 years ago at Trinity Forest. RESULT: T55

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Brandt Snedeker 1pt EW 90/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Paddy Power

Brandt Snedeker seems re-galvanised and a quality player to keep on side as we move towards the summer.

The 9-time PGA Tour winner as recently as the start of April was down and out at 160th in the FedEx Cup standings, with 7 2021 starts eliciting nothing better than 32nd at Torrey Pines, 68th at Bay Hill and 5 MCs. But there has been a serious turnaround across his last 4 outings. The Valero Texas Open was the turning point as he was 4th after 36 holes, eventually finishing 6th. That week at TPC San Antonio he ranked 3rd for Strokes Gained on Approach and 11th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green. Buoyed by that performance, 42nd at the RBC Heritage saw him rank 1st that week for Strokes Gained Around the Green.

A week later at TPC Louisiana he teamed up with Keith Mitchell and finished in 4th spot, and the last time we saw him was at Copperhead for the Valspar Championship. 9th after 54 holes, he eventually finished 11th, ranking that week 20th for Strokes Gained on Approach and 8th for Strokes Gained Putting – his go-to strength. Now 100th in the FedEx Cup standings, life seems far better for the 40 year-old who, for me, has always been dynamite on low scoring tests. Indeed 4 of his wins across the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and the Wyndham Championship have come at -19/267 and -22/265 at Pebble; plus -22/266 and -21/259 in North Carolina.

The Lone Star State has always been good to Brandt, who captured his first professional title – the 2006 Permian Basin Charity Golf Classic – on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2006 in Texas. 4th (2011) and 6th (2021) at TPC San Antonio, plus 2nd at Colonial (2015) and 6th at Las Colinas (2015), I think the tree-lined nature of TPC Craig Ranch should suit him this week.

And he’s undoubtedly in very good nick at the moment as my 8-week tracker data points out clearly. In this field he ranks 12th for Putting Average (Putts per GIR), and from a Strokes Gained perspective he’s 17th for Approach, 10th for Tee to Green, 16th for Putting and 6th for Current Form. RESULT: T17

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:25BST 10.5.21 but naturally subject to fluctuation.