GIR and SGT2G the stats to ponder
A sub-60 round could be on the cards
Longshots have won eight of the last nine renewals
Can Kim win three in-a-row?
Originally known as the Dallas Open and first played in 1944, the inaugural AT&T Byron Nelson Championship was won by the man that the event is now named after.
As a measure of how big a tournament this once was, Sam Snead and Ben Hogan won the next two editions and the likes of Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Fred Couples and Payne Stewart all took the title in the 1970s and 80s. A three year spell in the mid-90s saw Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods victorious and since the turn of the century, major winners Vijay Singh, Adam Scott, Jason Day, Jason Dufner and Sergio Garcia have all also won but the tournament started to lose a bit of its lustre when it moved to TPC Four Seasons - a venue unpopular with many of the pros.
The tournament switched to Trinity Forest in 2018 but after just two editions there and a year off due to the pandemic, the tournament moved again two years ago, this time to TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, 25 miles north of Dallas.
The new venue has attracted some decent fields and this year's line-up is fairly strong too with the likes of Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Tyrrell Hatton and Hideki Matsuyama all in attendance.
TPC Craig Ranch, McKinney, Texas.
Par 72 7,468 yards
Stroke average in 2022 - 69.22
Designed by Tom Weiskopf and opened in 2004, TPC Craig Ranch has minimal rough, generous zoysiagrass fairways and bentgrass greens that have previously been set at 11.5 on the stimpmeter. That's not overly fast but we're in Texas so they can't be set too speedy in case the wind gets up.
Water is a constant feature with the Rowlett Creek criss-crossing the course numerous times.
In addition to the last two editions of this event, TPC Craig Ranch was also used a couple of times on the Korn Ferry Tour for the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in both 2008 and 2012.
Craig Ranch played as a par 71 on the Korn Ferry Tour with the 12th hole playing as a tough par four but it's now a par five. It was the easiest hole on the course last year, yielding 33 eagles, 253 birdies and it averaged just 4.38.
This is a very easy track, and we might just see a round in the 50s this week. Sebastian Munoz opened the event with a 12-under-par 60 12 months ago and there were two rounds of 61 over weekend. James Hahn in round three and Xander Schauffele in round four.
*Please note that since the preview was first published, it's been revealed that the 12th hole is reverting back to a par four this year so it's now a par 71 over 7,414 yards and the chances of a sub-60 round have increased considerably.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 21:00 (UK time) on Thursday.
Last Seven Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2022 - KH Lee -26 200.0199/1
2021 - KH Lee -25 250.0249/1
2019 - Sung-Hoon Kang -23 180.0179/1
2018 - Aaron Wise -23 80.079/1
2017 - Billy Horschel -12 (playoff) 200.0199/1
2016 - Sergio Garcia -15 (playoff) 30.029/1
2015 - Steven Bowditch -18 500.0499/1
What Will it Take to Win the Byron Nelson Championship?
Here are the leaderboards with traditional stats for the two editions of the Korn Ferry Championship held here, as well as the last two editions of this event.
2008 Korn Ferry Championship
1st Matt Bettencourt -17 DD 8th, DA 39th, GIR 12th, SC 17th, PA 1st
2nd Jeff Klauk -16 DD 31st, DA 4th, GIR 19th, SC 1st, PA 12th
T3rd Colt Knost -15 DD 28th, DA 2nd, GIR 2nd, SC 5th, PA 27th
T3rd Bryce Molder -15 DD 25th, DA 11th, GIR 3rd, SC 10th, PA 8th
5th Peter Tomasulo -14 DD 24th, DA 20th, GIR 6th, SC 38th, PA 17th
2012 Korn Ferry Championship
1st Justin Bolli -16 DD 43rd, DA 48th, GIR 4th, SC 39th, PA 6th
2nd James Hahn -14 DD 14th, DA 15th, GIR 11th, SC 5th, PA 1st
T3rd Adam Hadwin -13 DD 24th, DA 15th, GIR 11th, SC 1st, PA 9th
T3rd Morgan Hoffman -13 DD 7th, DA 19th, GIR 11th, SC 11th, PA 1st
5th Justin Hicks -12 DD 28th, DA 2nd, GIR 1st, SC 47th, PA 8th
2021 Byron Nelson Championship
1st KH Lee -25 DD 35th, DA 41st, GIR 5th, SC 18th, PA 2nd
2nd Sam Burns -22 DD 27th, DA 49th, GIR 5th, SC 18th, PA 27th
T3rd Daniel Berger -21 DD 25th, DA 9th, GIR 4th, SC 60th, PA 7th
T3rd Patton Kizzire -21 DD 17th, DA 66th, GIR 11th, SC 10th, PA 22nd
T3rd Charl Schwartzel -21 DD 7th, DA 53rd, GIR 8th, SC 5th, PA 46th
T3rd Scott Stallings -21 DD 8th, DA 49th, GIR 17th, SC 38th, PA 1st
2022 Byron Nelson Championship
1st KH Lee -26 DD 49th, DA 22nd, GIR 18th, SC 4th, PA 33rd
2nd Jordan Spieth -25 DD 13th, DA 33rd, GIR 49th, SC 13th, PA 23rd
T3rd Hideki Matsuyama -24 DD 39th, DA 22nd, GIR 10th, SC 11th, PA 8th
T3rd Sebastian Muoz -24 DD 34th, DA 17th, GIR 1st, SC 65th, PA 13th
DD = Driving Distance
DA = Driving Accuracy
GIR = Greens In Regulation
SC = Scrambling
PA = Putting Average
We can ignore the driving metrics with neither length nor accuracy proving key in any of the four events and the most important stat is Greens In Regulation.
Just looking at the four condensed results above show that accurate approach play was important but it's even more obvious looking at the expanded leaderboards. Kyle Reifers finished tied for 11th when ranking first for GIR in 2008 and in 2012, the ten players to rank inside the top-ten for GIR all finished inside the top-18 places.
Strokes Gained Tee to Green and Strokes Gained Approach are the two SG stats to consider.
The top-three and ties ranked second, first, fourth, fifth, 19th and 26th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green in 2021 and eight of the top-11 last year ranked inside the top-10 for that stat.
The first four home 12 months ago and five of the top-six in 2021 ranked inside the top-seven for Strokes Gained Approach.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
Texans usually fare well in their home state, and they have an outstanding record in the Valero Texas Open, but they don't have a great recent record in this particular event.
Overseas players have a strong record in the tournament though and only nine of the 22 winners this century have been American, And, if recent history is to be believed, it's the Australians and the Koreans that deserve most respect.
Aussies always tend to do well in windy Texas and we've seen three recent winners from Down Under - Adam Scott, Jason Day and Steven Bowditch.
K.H Lee, who's looking to win the event for the third year in-a-row, was the third Korean to win in eight renewals when he took the title for a first time two years ago. Like the Aussie contingent, the Koreans clearly enjoy the windy conditions too.
Great Event for Outsiders
Sergio Garcia is the only recent winner that's been fairly-well fancied, going off at 30.029/1, and this has been a terrific tournament for longshots with eight of the last nine winners all being matched at a triple-figure price before the off.
Aaron Wise only went off at 80.079/1 five years ago but he was well-supported having been matched for plenty at between 100.099/1 and 120.0119/1 and the other seven went off at huge odds.
I've listed the exchange prices for the last seven winners above, and it's perhaps worth noting that Lee was matched at as high of 500.0499/1 before the off two years ago. And the two winners prior to Steven Bowditch in 2015 both went off at juicy odds too. Brendan Todd was a 170.0169/1 chance in 2014 and Sang-Moon Bae was a largely unconsidered 200.0199/1 chance 12 months earlier.
Keep an Eye on the Market for Next Week
The year's second major - the US PGA Championship - immediately follows this event so keep an eye on that market.
Anyone that plays well here will shorten up for the US PGA Championship and this event telegraphed last year's winner.
After a fairly slow start, Justin Thomas finished fifth here before going on to win at Southern Hills a week later.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2022 - KH Lee - tied sixth, trailing by four 50.049/1
2021 - KH Lee - solo second, trailing by one 6.411/2
Low scoring birdie-fests tend to suit frontrunners, so it makes sense to concentrate on the leaders from early on.
Although a 50.049/1 chance on Sunday morning 12 months ago, Lee was inside the top-six places, and he'd been inside the top-six all week. The front two were in the van throughout in 2021 (inside the front three from halfway) and it was a similar story here on the Korn Ferry Tour.
Matt Bettencourt was four off the lead after rounds one and two in 2008 but he was never outside the top-ten places and he was tied for the lead with a round to go and four years later, Justin Bolli won from two back after three rounds, having led after round one and having been inside the front three places all week.
The 11/2 put up on the Sportsbook for the world number two, Scottie Scheffler, didn't last long and his credentials are strong.
Scheffler won the WGC Matchplay at Austin Country Club last year having finished runner-up 12 months earlier and he's finished second at both the Charles Schwab Challenge and the Houston Open, so he has a fair record in his home state.
In two visits here he's finished only 47th and 15th so that's a negative but having successfully defended his title at the Phoenix Open and hacked up at the Players Championship (won by five), he's in search of his third win in eight starts.
Jordan Spieth, who finished second 12 months ago, has two wins and six seconds in Texas and up until last week's missed cut at the Wells Fargo Championship, he'd been in fair form throughout 2023.
That hiccup was perhaps understandable after his fourth in the US Masters and his playoff defeat at Harbour Town when defending his Heritage title.
Having finished ninth here in 2021 and second last year, Spieth is highly likely to bounce back and contend again.
Tyrrell Hatton was tied for the lead at the halfway stage of the Wells Fargo Championship, so he'll be a bit disappointed to have eventually finished third - beaten by seven.
This is Hatton's first visit to TPC Craig Ranch so that's a bit of a negative and others are preferred.
Given how many outsiders have won this event, I'll have at least one or two picks in the event with the Find Me a 100 Winner column but I'm happy to take a chance on Japan's Hideki Matsuyama at a price that's ten points bigger than available on the High Street.
There's a chance the 2021 US Masters winner won't even make the line-up given he's been struggling with a neck injury but if he does get a clean bill of health, he looks a bit big at odds in excess of 30.029/1.
We've only had two editions of this event at TPC Ranch so it might be a bit early to take any potential course correlations too seriously but a number of players have performed well here and at TPC Scottsdale - the home of the Phoenix Open - including Matsuyama.
The Japanese shot 62 in round four last year to finish fourth, having finished 39th in 2021 and he's twice won the Phoenix Open.
Matsuyama hasn't been at his best of late but he shot 67-68 over the weekend to finish fifth at the Players Championship and he was a respectable 16th in the US Masters last time out.
Hideki Matsuyama @ 34.033/1
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter