Our man takes a detailed look at this week PGA Tour action from Texas where he fancies outsiders and rookies are well worth chancing. Read Steve Rawlings' comprehensive preview here...
"After a fast start to the year, Tony Finau went a bit cold but he might just be warming up nicely now following a 16th at the Wells Fargo Championship and an 18th at the Crowne Plaza in the last two weeks. He’s a player I’m keen on and where better to give him a try than at an event where debutants and PGA Tour maidens have prospered?"
First staged in 1944, and won by the man the tournament is now named after, the AT & T Byron Nelson was originally called the Texas Victory Open.
TPC Four Seasons Resort, Irving, Texas
Par 70 - 7,166 yards
Stroke Index in 2014 - 70.54
Designed and built by Robert Trent Jones Jr and opened in 1983, TPC Four Seasons was remodelled in 1986 by Jay Moorrish, Byron Nelson and Ben Crenshaw, and it underwent a major renovation again in 2008 by D.A Weibring. It has tree-lined Bermuda grass fairways and large undulating Bentgrass greens which usually run at around 11 on the stimpmeter.
The fields used to be really strong here but since Byron Nelson died in 2006, the quality hasn't been as great as it once was. the venue has never been a favourite with the players and indeed each year it's voted as one of the least popular courses played on Tour, which is probably why the event will move to a brand new course called Trinity Forest in 2019.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting on Thursday
Last Five Winners
2014 - Brendon Todd -14
2013 - Sang-Moon Bae -13
2012 - Jason Dufner -11
2011 - Keegan Bradley -3 (playoff)
2010 - Jason Day -10
What Will it Take to Win The AT&T Byron Nelson?
As you'll see from the 10 year averages listed below, nothing really stands out stats wise.
10 Year Averages - Main Stats
Driving Accuracy - 20.5
Driving Distance - 28.6
Greens In Regulation - 18
Scrambling - 18
Putting Average - 20.4
Putts Per Round - 26
Brendon Todd only ranked 71st for Driving Distance and 55th for greens hit last year but he found more fairways than anyone else, scrambled better than anyone else, and putted really well too. Other years, the winners have hit it far, hit lots of greens but putted poorly.
Keegan Bradley and Jason Dufner ranked 47th and 54th for putting in 2011 and 2012 but in the two years before and since that pair won, the four winners have had a Putting Average ranking of 1st or 2nd so it's a pretty confusing picture.
An ability to handle windy conditions is very often important here - as it tends to be at all events in Texas.
Is There an Angle In?
I know it's now five-year-old form but a look at the 2011 PGA Championship leaderboard, from Atlanta Athletic Club, may be worth a quick look. Two of the last four winners of this event, Dufner and Bradley, fought out the playoff there and the leaderboard was littered with HP Byron Nelson winners and players that fare well here.
Scott Verplank, who won here in 2007, finished tied for 4th, the 2008 Byron Nelson champ, Adam Scott, finished 7th and Sergio Garcia, the 2004 champ was tied for 12th at AAC. And although it's really old form now, it's still noteworthy that when the PGA Championship was played at AAC in 2001, David Toms, who has some very respectable form here, beat the 1996 Byron Nelson champ, Phil Mickelson, by a stroke.
It may be a little tenuous and I did even ponder whether to mention the link but then I noticed that Gary Woodland, who finished tied for 7th in this last year, finished tied for 12th in the 2011 PGA. That 7th should have been much better as well - he player the easiest hole on the course, the par 5 7th, in three-over-par!
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Some weeks course form counts for plenty and some weeks it's not so important. This week it's almost irrelevant. If you fancy someone with little or no course from here don't let it concern you. The latter may even be a plus.
After two missed cuts, Todd finished tied for 17th 12 months before winning last year's renewals but three of the four winners that preceded him, Sang-Moon Bae, Bradley and Day, were all playing here for the very first time.
In last year's renewal, Peter Hanson led after round one having never played here before, Paul Casey equaled the PGA Tour scoring record for nine-holes, when he shot 27 on the back-nine on Friday morning, and James Hahn would have rewarded anyone that backed him at a huge price each-way, as he finished fifth on debut. Two years ago, four of the first seven home were playing in the tournament for the very first time.
It's a quirky trend and I've no real idea why it keeps happening, but given how few first timers are in the line-up, playing a few debutants might be a worthwhile exercise. And I wouldn't worry too much how big a price they are - three of the last four winners have gone off at a huge price.
Todd was matched at 190.0189/1 before the off last year, Bae at 200.0199/1 in 2013 and two years before that, Bradley was matched at a whopping 300.0299/1. This is trending towards being a great event for outsiders and it's also a good one for first-time winners on the PGA Tour.
Jason Dufner had finally broken his PGA Tour duck at the Zurich Classic a month before winning this in 2012 but four of the last five winners were tasting success on the PGA Tour for the first time.
Outsiders of late, event debutants, and Tour maidens may all have a decent record but past winners don't. Bruce Lietzke, way back in 1988, is the last man to win the Byron Nelson for a second time and as a sign of how big an event this once was, the only other multiple winners are Jack Nicklaus (twice), Sam Snead (three times), and Tom Watson, who won it in 1975, 1978, 1979 and 1980.
As is always the case in Texas, pay close attention to the Aussies. They've grown up playing in windy conditions and they have a great record in the Lone Star State.
Since 1996, every winner bar Jesper Parnevik in 2000, who shot 70 in round one, has opened up the tournament with a round of 68 or better and every winner has been inside the top-22 after the opening day's play so a fast start is essential. Every winner since 1996 has been inside the top-ten at halfway and Bradley is the only winner this century to be more than three off the lead through 36 holes.
Bradley had trailed by five at halfway and he was still four back with a round to go but since Parnevik won from three behind in 2000, he's the only winner to be more than two strokes off the lead and he's the only winner this century to be outside the first three through 54 holes. It's not easy to play catch-up golf on this course.
If you're betting in-running, especially on Sunday, bear in mind that four of the last five holes averaged over-par last year so it's a reasonably tough finish. The par 5 16th was the second easiest hole on the course, averaging 4.74 on the week, but holes 14, 15, 17 and 18 ranked 4th, 2nd, 6th and 3rd hardest respectively last year.
Favourites may not have a great record here but Jordan Spieth is impossible to ignore. After an understandable lull since winning the US Masters, the world number two bounced back to form in Texas with a tied second behind Chris Kirk at the Crowne Plaza Invitational yesterday.
A number of players will feel that was a tournament they perhaps should have won but none more so than Spieth who got caught up on the infamous Horrible Horseshoe (holes 3, 4 and 5) on Friday when he bogeyed the 4th and triple-bogeyed the 5th.
Spieth finished 16th on debut here in 2010 but has subsequently failed to better 32nd so that's a slight negative, as is the fact that he's yet to win in his home state, and I suspect that must be quite a big goal.
I distinctly remember backing Dustin Johnson in this event at 95.094/1 back in 2009 when he was an emerging talent with just one title to his name and he really should have won. He started round four by birdying six of his first eight holes but he lost the plot after that and eventually finished 4th.
He's contended a couple of times since then, finishing 7th in 2010 and again last year. The course clearly suits his eye and he too demands respect but with so many outsiders and first timers winning the event, he looks too short to play. As does the 2010 winner, Jason Day.
Quite what's happened to Day since he lost his way at Augusta I don't know but he looks worth swerving. Since finishing 28th after a great start in the US Masters, Day has thrown away a chance of victory at the Zurich Classic with a poor final round, failed to get out of the group stages of the WGC - Match Play event, and missed the cut at the Players Championship. A break may have done him some good but he doesn't win anywhere near enough for my liking and not that he's out of form he's even easier to dismiss.
Of those with course experience, I quite liked Marc Leishman and Gary Woodland but for now, I'm playing just a couple of PGA Tour rookies...
After a fast start to the year, Tony Finau went a bit cold but he might just be warming up nicely now following a 16th at the Wells Fargo Championship and an 18th at the Crowne Plaza in the last two weeks. He's a player I'm keen on and where better to give him a try than at an event where debutants and PGA Tour maidens have prospered.
Carlos Ortiz is another that graduated to the PGA Tour after a successful season on the Web.com Tour, where he won three times throughout 2014. He's only shown glimpses of his potential so far this year, with an 11th at the Farmers Insurance Open and a 15th at the Texas Open, following an opening 79, the highlights, but I thought the big-hitting Mexican was worth chancing here with conditions so suiting the rookies.
Tony Finau @ 120.0119/1
Carlos Ortiz @ 160.0159/1
As always, if I add any more selections I'll update the preview and tweet again.
Update - May 27
Just two more added since Monday - Geoff Ogilvy, who has definitely been playing better than his odds of 200.0199/1 suggest and D.A Points, who comes in to the equation courtesy of his 10th placed finish at Atlanta.
Geoff Ogilvy @ 200.0199/1
D.A Points @ 370.0369/1
Other Golf Articles this week:
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