AT&T Byron Nelson Championship: Three to play in the First Round Leader market

American golfer Kevin Na
Kevin Na can get off to a flyer
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Dave Tindall picks out three players to get onside early at this week's AT&T Byron Nelson Championship...

"Na is ranked 1st in Strokes Gained: Around The Green and he should get plenty of opportunity to show off those short-game skills."

Back Kevin Na each-way @ 60/1

*EW Terms: 1/5 Odds | 6 Places

Weather forecast: Scorchio! It's very, very hot in Dallas this week. The 9am forecast should see temps around 80 degrees and the mercury will rise to the early 90s at 3pm.

History: Erm, there isn't any. Well, not at this week's new venue at least. For the record, the two joint-leaders at the former venue, Four Seasons, were early early starters last year but in 2016 two of the three co-leaders had gone off in the afternoon. The famous Texas winds don't appear to be much of an issue on Thursday although they could rise to around 10mph for the later groups.

Overview: This really is the ultimate guessing game this week. I've watched Golfchannel reports live from this new course, scoured the local Dallas newspapers and gone through player Twitter feeds but, apart from comments by Jordan Spieth and Hunter Mahan, who are both members at Trinity Forest, it's been hard to get any player feedback at all at time of writing (Wednesday morning UK). Will the afternoon starters have an edge if they take the time to watch the morning coverage on TV?

Na can go far

Interviewed recently, you could sense Kevin Na's frustration at so many courses on the PGA Tour now playing into the hands of bombers.

At 183rd in Driving Distance he's certainly not part of that group but one of the key differences at Trinity Forest this week is how far the ball will bounce down the fairway. In other words, the shorties won't be inconvenienced and can get it out there too.

It'll then come down to approach play, scrambling and putting and that levels the playing field. Na is ranked 1st in Strokes Gained: Around The Green and he should get plenty of opportunity to show off those short-game skills.

Na opened with a 69 at Sawgrass last week and has been in the top six after day one in three of his last 14 regular strokeplay events.

I have a feeling he'll either love or hate this course but am leaning towards the former given that it should play to his skill-sets.

He's a morning starter (08:30) and it may just help that he has Geoff Ogilvy in his group. The Aussie is a huge fan of this design and could be worth a bet himself (110/1). Hopefully he can throw the odd nugget the way of Na on how best to attack it.

Leish can make a mark

Marc Leishman admitted he didn't really want the event to switch from Four Seasons given that he'd had two top threes there and fourth other finishes of T13 or better.

However, he told the Australian Associated Press: "I'm actually pretty excited about the move.

"It's a blank canvas and I'm told it plays like a British Open course, which would suit me very well as I've had good results at the Open."

The visuals - all those wide-open spaces, huge greens and lack of rough and water - will certainly suit the Aussie, who has made the top six in three of his last four Claret Jug bids.

Crucially, he's also a proven fast starter.

He's been second after 18 holes in this event twice and in his last 16 starts since September, he's finished round one in the top three on five occasions, leading at the BMW Championship at the Tournament of Champions.

In more recent times, he was T11 after the opening lap at Augusta National where he finished ninth.

Leishman, a 30/1 chance for R1 leader, tees off at 12:40 local alongside buddy Adam Scott and American Scott Piercy.


Perhaps it could be wise to get with a wide-eyed youngster this week. There'll be none of the cynicism of some of the older pros who want everything just as they like it and more a feeling of relishing a different challenge.

One up-and-comer who could hit the ground running is Joaquin Niemann.

Big things were expected from the youngster from Chile, who topped the World Amateur rankings for a year, and he delivered in style on his pro debut.

That was at the nearby Texas Open where he closed with a pair of 67s to finish a superb tied sixth.

Niemann admitted pre-event that he'd been practising with Sergio Garcia for the last few months, the Spaniard telling him to enjoy every moment.

He was ranked 2nd in Strokes Gained: Approach in the Texas Open and 12th in SG: Putting so if he can bring those elements with him again, he might just be one of the surprise names on the early leaderboard.

Back Niemann (08:40 from the 10th tee) at 80/1.

Dave's 2017/18 R1 leader P/L (based on £5 ew per selection)

Staked: £210
Returned: £45
P/L: -£165
(After Players Championship)

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