The AT&T Byron Nelson Classic
When: May 17-20, 2018
Where: Trinity Forest Golf Course – Dallas, TX
TV: The Golf Channel/CBS
By Evergreen, Pro Golf Handicapper, Predictem.com
Byron Nelson is a classic figure in the history of golf and his now classic event takes center stage this week. The PGA Tour has made a stop in the Dallas area since the mid 1940s but this year features a change in venue as Ben Crenshaws Trinity Forest GC makes its PGA hosting debut. The field this week will be slightly less star-studded than the just completed Players Championship but there are still plenty of big names teeing it up in Texas. Jordan Spieth highlights the list of attendees and the former number one player in the world is looking to regain his dominant form. Defending champion Billy Horschel will get you 22 to 1 odds should he make it two Nelson wins in a row with Sergio Garcia leading the Euro contingent. No one has much experience, if any, at Trinity Forest so there are plenty of unknowns heading into the tournament. The Nelson has long had a history of producing out-of-the-box winners and the new layer of unfamiliarity only increases the wide-open nature of the week.
Trinity Forest is unlike any other Texas golf course. The 7,380-yard, par-71 layout is just ten miles from Dallas but looks and feels like it is thousands of miles away. The course is essentially cut out of a heavily wooded parcel of land but there are virtually no trees on the course. The design was an attempt to bring the links style popular across the pond to Texas. The views around the course are certainly much more St. Andrews than San Antonio with rough cut waste areas and undulating greens. The turf was selected to closely mimic the grasses seen overseas and even a double-green is featured at Trinity. The often significant winds of the area could baffle players but that is a staple of links golf. What will likely be missing is the putting from the fairways and 100+ yard rollouts on drives. Open-style courses are made to be played close to the ground but Trinity Forest will be played in the air. Players will need precise irons to hold hard and fast greens but a well developed English-style game is not apparently necessary. The course was designed to make players think and those that can quickly identify the right places to miss will see an advantage. There isnt an apparent opportunity to overpower the course so the bombers will not see a large edge over the accuracy players. Putting will be a bit of a mystery for the entire field but suffice it say that the winner will have figured out the greens in short order.
Each week, we take a look at the online betting sites and highlight the best values on the board. We make some picks to win and breakdown a couple of head-to-head matches that are most commonly floating around the various golf betting outlets. Here are our picks to win the 2018 Byron Nelson Classic.
Matt Kuchar (14 to 1 odds)
Without knowing a lot about the host course, I feel good tabbing a jack-of-all-trades like Kuch. He isnt the best at anything but is above the Tour average in just about every scoring predictor and has not missed a cut on the season. He handled the unfamiliar surroundings in Rio during the Olympic competition and his significant experience travels with him everywhere. He enters in the top-35 in putting and scrambling so he should not be giving strokes back to the field around or on the greens. His scoring average is significantly better than his raw birdie numbers would suggest so keeping the damage to a minimum is a legit skill in Matts favor. If this course is as much of a mental challenge as it is purported to be, Kuchar will be a factor come Sunday.
Charles Howell III (40 to 1)
Howell has quietly put together a solid 2018 that has seen him only miss the cut once. He shot ten-under to get in the top-17 at Sawgrass last week and this weeks field will be a little more accommodating in terms of reaching a better finish. He ranks between 26th and 34th in off-the-tee and tee-to-green metrics as well as scrambling, scoring and total strokes gained over the field. He is 14th in greens hit so I like his chances to leverage that into an advantage in an area that is reported to be important at Trinity. His putting average is a bit below the level you would want in terms of predicting a winner but he is in no worse shape than anyone else in the field this week and really only needs a plus week on the greens to push toward the top of the leaderboard.
Graeme McDowell (66 to 1)
While Trinity is not supposed to be a shot-for-shot replica of an old-world links course, it does seem appropriate to lean toward those who have signifcant experience overseas. McDowell has seen plenty of links golf in his career and knows how to handle the challenges as an accuracy-first player. McDowell comes in as the 35th ranked player in fairways hit and that should have him avoiding the tee ball trouble at least. Approaching these greens from the fairways could be a must all week but will certainly be the case if the winds kick up. Graeme is solid if not spectacular across the stat sheet but his experience will help elevate him this week.
Picks to win based on predicted score after all four rounds. Check with Bovada Sportsbook for single round matches and a variety of prop bets.
Sergio Garcia v. Jimmy Walker (pick to win: Walker)
Do not over think this one. Garcia is currently riding a four tournament streak that has seen him miss the cut in three and finish 70th last week. While Walker struggled for much of the early portion of the season, his last four have all been inside the top-25 with two top-5 finishes. That is his best stretch of the season by far and you should always stick with the hotter player considering the overall stat sheets are relatively close. Walker is always going to be the better putter between these players and that counts when saving par as well. Garcia is just on a bad run at the moment and he needs to prove it before he gets you to bet in his favor. A brand new course is not a good stage to suddenly mount a complete 180 so stay with Walker for this week.
Billy Horschel v. Hideki Matsuyama (pick to win: Horschel)
Successful title defenses are rare on Tour and the venue change further complicates Horschels bid for two wins in as many years but he is still a good play in this head-to-head. He is the more accurate driver in this pairing and that is the default stat to look at when so much is not known. Perhaps you can play from the roughs at Trinity but if that proves difficult, the less accurate Matsuyama will have a tougher go of it. Much of the stat sheet is similar elsewhere but Billy is the better statistical putter although Hideki has a clutch gene on the greens that not many can match. Horschel was part of the winning team in New Orleans and while that isn’t a direct predictor of success, he is still trending up as a result and Matsuyama is slightly off his vintage form. Billy cruised to a win in this head-to-head at Sawgrass with Matsuyama missing the cut. I can see a similar result this week with Horschel in the top-20 to top-30 range while Matsuyama has a lower floor.
Good luck and good golf!