AT&T Byron Nelson Championship: Get with Grace

South African Branden Grace
Branden Grace has the tools to shine at this week's new venue
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It's a new venue on the PGA Tour this week as the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship moves to Trinity Forest Golf Club. Dave Tindall picks out his three best bets...

"Spieth has also compared Trinity Forest to Royal Birkdale which he got to know very well when winning last year's Open. Grace, of course, made history of his own there by becoming the first player in the history of the majors to shoot a 62. That helped him T6."

Back Branden Grace e.w. @ 20/1

Each-way terms: 1/5 odds, 7 places

Main Bet: Back Branden Grace e.w. @ 20/1

A links-ish par 71 unlike any other course on the PGA Tour. Excellent!

In one sense, it represents something of a headache. In another, it's an opportunity to test out some theories, get creative and not just rely on bread-and-butter courses form. Just like the players themselves, punters should embrace the new challenge rather than turn their noses up at it.

There were some positive noises from the early arrivals at Trinity Forest and Monday's Dallas News carried this quote from Carl Pettersson: "It was great. Different. More like a British Open-style golf course. We didn't know what to expect, but I'm pleasantly surprised." The Swede has played the Open Championship eight times, finishing T8 at hard, bouncy Hoylake in 2006, so he knows what he's talking about.

Some more clues. Jordan Spieth is a member there while co-designer Ben Crenshaw describes Trinity Forest as "links-like."

The comparisons to controversial 2015 U.S. Open venue Chambers Bay are very dubious in one sense but in another there are some common themes. That was a brand new course which split opinion and it was also a faux-links.

Did Chambers Bay produce a weird leaderboard therefore? Hardly. Spieth, whose caddie Michael Greller was a member there, edged out Dustin Johnson by a shot.

Another man in real contention at Chambers Bay was Branden Grace. Tied for the lead with Spieth walking off the 15th tee, he drove out of bounds on 16 and his chance went.

I'm not really using that course form as supporting evidence here but it did show how well he was able to knuckle down on a course which gave some bad breaks and had a links feel. There will be some similar mental challenges this week.

Spieth has also compared Trinity Forest to Royal Birkdale which he got to know very well when winning last year's Open. Grace, of course, made history of his own there by becoming the first player in the history of the majors to shoot a 62. That helped him to T6.

Grace has also won the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, the Volvo Golf Champions over The Links at Fancourt and lifted the trophy twice at the Qatar Masters on the wide-open spaces of Doha GC. In short, he has bags of pedigree and the ideal game for this test of golf.

It's also going to be very, very hot this week and that won't hurt the South African either.

As for latest form, he's finished T8 at the Valspar, T25 at The Masters and T48 at Sawgrass last week. It's nothing amazing but good enough and I'd rather lean on other formlines such as his top 10s on his last two starts at the Texas Open.

A proven winner, who ranks 6th in Strokes Gained: Putting, I'll take Grace at 20s.


Next Best: Back Adam Scott e.w. @ 22/1

It would be very easy to back Spieth given his local knowledge and links prowess but these days I watch the three-time major winner stood over a three-and-a-half foot putt and almost expect him to miss.

I'm willing to swerve him at 9/2 even though he obviously has a big chance and will love this creative test.

Instead, I'll turn to another major winner who could be ready to throw in something big after a quiet spell.

Family life has given Adam Scott a different focus and that's great. Clearly those different priorities had a negative effect on his golf game but at some point he was always going to find a way to balance both and get back to being a world-class golfer.

It could be jumping the gun but after T13 in the Honda, T16 at the Valspar and T11 in last week's Players Championship, he's dropping hints that it could be now.

In many ways, all roads lead to Scott this week. He's a brilliant performer in this part of the world and his 13 PGA Tour wins include the Texas Slam of this event (2008), Texas Open (2010) and Colonial (2014).

He's also a wonderful links player, having finished in the top five in three straight years (2012-2014) and also posted two other top 10s.

Trinity Forest also has the rarely seen combo of Zoysia fairways and Bermuda greens. They use it as the St. Jude Classic and Scott, in his first appearance there last year, finished T10 and carded a 64.

While his putting remains a cause for concern, it might just inspire him that a fellow former long-stick putter, Webb Simpson, captured last week's Players Championship. Scott had a positive SG: Putting figure of 2.360 at Sawgrass and he has done a large chunk of his winning on Bermuda surfaces.

He said at Sawgrass: "I putted well this week, relatively speaking. I mean, I putted better than I have this year for four consecutive days, and I putted well for three consecutive days last week. So I like that; confidence is building with the putter and certainly helps free up a little bit of the rest of the game."

There is extra incentive too. Because of his slide down the world rankings, Scott isn't in the field for Shinnecock next month. He intends to be. "I'm feeling pretty confident I can play my way into the U.S. Open over the next five weeks or so. Obviously it would be a shame not to play, for a lot of reasons."

Incentive, Bermuda greens, improved putting, Texas and a course that should suit. Yep, I like Scott at 22/1.


Final Bet: Back Ryan Palmer e.w. @ 66/1

Backing Ryan Palmer in a Texas event may seem a bit old (Stetson) hat, but he could be a better bet than usual this week.

For starters, there are plenty of local ties. Palmer knows this course well and, perhaps just as importantly given the job Greller did with Spieth at Chambers Bay, so does his caddie James Edmondson.

If a Spieth/Palmer combo at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans seemed a slightly unexpected combo, it came about because the two players and caddies were on the driving range at Trinity Forest. The story goes that Edmondson told Spieth that if beat him at Trinity Forest that day, he had to play with his man Palmer at the Zurich. "He won and here we are," said Palmer later.

Can Palmer play links golf? He's certainly good in the wind (Sony Open winner) and has actually finished T30 in three of the four Open Championships he's contested, also making the cut in the other.

With Edmondson by his side, Palmer should get an added leg-up here and this event might just be coming around at the perfect time.

Since finishing runner-up at Torrey Pines, Palmer has struggled badly but at Sawgrass last week he closed 67-69-69 to make the top 25. It was his joint-second best finish in 13 starts there and he'd previously failed to make the cut eight times.

The standout flip in his stats was the leap from negative numbers to a gain of over four Strokes Putting.

Palmer should have increased comfort levels in a number of areas this week and with seven top 10s in his last 16 starts in Texas, he's a proven performer in his home State.

Take the 66/1.

Elsewhere, as the winner of the last two St. Jude Classics, Daniel Berger certainly loves the Zoysia/Bermuda combo.

Former World No. 1 amateur Joaquin Niemann could be interesting at 75/1 having finished T6 in the Texas Open shortly after turning pro while Mexico's Abraham Ancer, a Texas resident, has drifted out to a big price (150s) having been on the radar after a run of three top 16s highlighted by T8 at the Houston Open.

The romantic in me also hopes double Open winners Ernie Els and Padraig Harrington can make a run but it requires quite a leap of faith based on recent form.

Dave's 2017/18 PGA Tour P/L (based on £5 ew per selection outrights, £10 win top 5s/10s)

Staked: £790
Returned: £1209.84
P/L: +£419.84

(After The Players Championship)

2016/2017:
P/L: +£1179.89

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