AT&T Byron Nelson Championship: Chalk up another for DJ

Dustin Johnson can add another title to his 2017 haul
Dustin Johnson can add another title to his 2017 haul

Dave Tindall is back to preview the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship in Texas...

"Despite some decent rivals in this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, he can show why he’s currently on a different level."

Main Bet: Back Dustin Johnson @ 5.59/2

Each-way terms: 1/4 odds, 5 places

Main Bet: Back Dustin Johnson win only @ 9/2

Dustin Johnson has a big lead at the top of the world rankings and, despite some decent rivals in this week's AT&T Byron Nelson, he can show why he's currently on a different level.

Since returning from the back injury which kept him out of the Masters, he's posted T2 at the Wells Fargo Championship and T12 at The Players Championship.

If the latter doesn't look all that, let's remember that it was his best finish at TPC Sawgrass (by 16 spots) in nine attempts. His closing 68 (joint best of the day) also matched his lowest lap at the par 72.

DJ feels shackled at Sawgrass and made this revealing comment after round three: "I don't hit many drivers around here, but I feel like I drive it straighter with my driver than any other club in the bag. It's frustrating when it forces you to lay up and you still hit it in the rough, that's frustrating."

Well, by contrast, he feels he can go out and enjoy himself at Las Colinas and his results show it. He's had six straight top 20s in this event and four of those are top eights.

He should probably have won at least one but, of course, he'll return this year playing by far the best golf of his career.

Johnson opened with a 64 last year while in 2015 he carded a stunning eight-under 62. Talking after that round, he said: "Ever since I came here I liked the golf course. I think it's a fun course to play. Got to hit all kinds of shots. If you're hitting the ball well you can make a lot of birdies."

It was soft that year and could get that way again if some of the predicted thunderstorms hit although he's happy in any conditions. "Usually it's firm and fast, which I really enjoy," he said in 2015.

Of course, it naturally comes down to price and DJ is nearly the same price here as he was to win the Masters. This, clearly, is a far easier task.

Although a few of the other big names go to post, Jordan Spieth is coming off a missed cut at Sawgrass, with T11 and MC his two solo strokeplay results before that. He's also not had a top 15 here in six attempts.

Jason Day posted his first ever PGA Tour win here back in 2010 but he's not right at the moment and followed a low-key T22 at Augusta with T60 when defending at the Players Championship. It got so bad he ballooned to a final-round 80.

Sergio Garcia, the defending champion here and two-time winner, had a strange Sawgrass. He struggled at the off, used the fuel of a hole-in-one to rocket up the leaderboard and then played absolutely horribly in the final round (78).

After the earthquake moment of his Masters win, my guess is we'll see plenty of flashes of good stuff but, for a while, he'll lack the mental focus to grind out a four-round win.

There will be other challengers but I honestly think the path is clear for DJ to stroll to an easy win.

Some folk won't touch 9/2 shots in golf but they can keep a season ticking over and buy some time for bigger wins ahead.

That's how I feel with Johnson this week and I'll go win only.

Next Best: Back Tony Finau @ 35/1

Tony Finau took third place in the Texas Open on his last trip to the Lone Star State and I think he can be a big factor on his return.

Since then he's missed the cut when playing pairs golf at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and again at Sawgrass which doesn't play to his strengths.

But I think it's fairly easy to ignore those blemishes and focus instead on the three top-fives he managed in his previous eight starts.

As well as the T3 in Texas, he was solo fourth in the Valspar Championship and T4 at the Farmers Insurance Open.

Now, he returns to another course which has suited him and one where his round scores read: 67-64-68-68-68-67-68-66.

All those sub-par rounds have translated into T10 on debut in 2010 and T12 last year.

I always like Finau on a windy track and that's the deal this week. He won the Puerto Rico Open last year in really blustery conditions and fired a 65 in round two of the Texas Open when it blew over 20mph.

Las Colinas is a par 70 which means two extra par 4s. It makes sense, therefore, to look at Par 4 Performance and Finau is T5 in that list (DJ T8th by the way) which has to bode well. He was ranked 11th on the Pars at this venue last year.

This is a course where he can whirl the driver and he's finished second and seventh for Driving Distance in his two visits. Finau was even T5 for Driving Accuracy last year so that suggests this layout suits his eye and he's comfortable giving it a lash from the tee.

In truth, it's one of his strengths as his fourth place in the season-long Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee highlights.

"Everything is working well," he said at the Texas Open and, despite having a cold putter earlier in the season, he ranked 1st for Putts Per GIR that week.

One final point. Finau's world ranking is currently 69th and it's everyone's goal in that 51-100 bracket to get inside the top 50 which opens the door to everything.

A big performance here could see the American do just that and, on pure talent and potential, he belongs there.

Final Bet: Back Sung Kang e/w @ 66/1

Si-Woo Kim stunned the field at the Players Championship so how about a big performance this week from his compatriot Sung Kang?

Kang has been one of the stars of the Texas Swing this season.

At the Shell Houston Open he opened up with an incredible burst of scoring, shooting 65-63 to take a six-shot lead at halfway. He couldn't keep that pace going but still finished runner-up to show he's a talent.

A few weeks later he was at it again and, although not making the same dramatic impact, closed with a 68 to finish T6 in the Texas Open.

The idea that he might play well in this neck of the woods was first sewn in 2016 when he opened with a pair of 67s in this event before finishing T34.

Also T11 at Hilton Head between those two good Texas finishes, Kang outscored a lot of the big names when T30 at the Players Championship on Sunday so he remains on the front foot.

Assessing his game in Houston, Kang said: "I always hit it long and straight enough. I always have trouble with iron play and also putting. My putting was not bad last year.

"We've been working so hard on my iron play. It keeps getting better."

You can say that again. At Sawgrass, he ranked first in Greens In Regulation so all the hard work is paying off. Hitting 75% of greens in the right number is good anywhere but especially at Sawgrass where the putting surfaces are small.

As for his putting, it seems the switch to a TaylorMade Spider has had a very positive effect and, even last year, he was decent on these Las Colinas greens, finishing 18th in Putts Per Round.

Kang is 24th in Par 4 Performance this year which is another good pointer and, on a course where you can go low, it's worth remembering that he shot a 60 at Monterey Peninsula in the second round of another AT&T event, the Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

The 29-year-old, who was T18 in last year's US Open, is 66/1 here and that looks too big when you consider how well he performs in windy Texas conditions.

Kim's win last week might add a tad of inspiration, as could the fact that another Korean, Sang-Moon Bae won this trophy in 2013.

Others I looked at closely this week include Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed.

Koepka lost in a play-off last year and looks a bigger danger to DJ than Spieth and Day while Reed is coming back into form and is a Texas native.

Reed is top price with the Betfair Sportsbook which adds to the temptation but I just prefer Finau at that similar price range. The obvious negative with Reed is that he's missed both his cuts here although they were back in 2012 and 2013.

Aussies have won three of the last nine editions so if you want a big outsider, how about Matt Jones at 200s?

He was T13 in the recent Texas Open, won the 2014 Houston Open and, despite poor looking course form on the face of it, Jones shot middle rounds of 63-66 here in 2015.

Dave's 2016/17 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 e/w per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £750
Returned: £1619.06
P/L: +£899.06

(After the Players Championship)

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