The Punter

CJ Cup Byron Nelson: Lee backed for a third Craig Ranch success

Golfer K.H Lee
K.H Lee after his second success at Craig Ranch

The PGA Tour returns to Texas for the CJ Cup Byron Nelson and Steve Rawlings has the lowdown ahead of Thursday's start here...


Tournament History

Originally known as the Dallas Open and first played in 1944, the inaugural CJ Cup Byron Nelson 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. However, 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 three years ago, this time to TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, 25 miles north of Dallas.


Venue

TPC Craig Ranch, McKinney, Texas


Course Details

Par 71, 7,414yards

Stroke average in 2023 - 68.91

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 three 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 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 in 2022 and Seung-Yul Noh matched his feat 12 months ago. There were two rounds of 61 over the weekend two years ago by James Hahn in round three and Xander Schauffele in round four and Jason Day won the event for a second time last year when he signed for a ten-under-par 62 in round four.


Weather Forecast


TV Coverage

Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 12:45 (UK time) on Thursday


Last Eight Winners with Pre-event Prices

2023 - Jason Day -23 21.020/1
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?

Here are the leaderboards with traditional stats for the two editions of the Korn Ferry Championship held here, as well as the last three 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

2023 Byron Nelson Championship

1st Jason Day -23 DD 23rd, DA 37th, GIR 10th, SC 10th, PA 19th
T2nd Austin Eckroat -22 DD 7th, DA 33rd, GIR 24th, SC 6th, PA 1st
T2nd Si Woo Kim -22 DD 69th, DA 25th, GIR 55th, SC 1st, PA 2nd
4th C.T Pan -21 DD 31st, DA 14th, GIR 15th, SC 8th, PA 31st

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 five events and the most important stat is Greens In Regulation.

Just looking at the five 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 in 2022 ranked inside the top-10 for that stat.

Jason day wins the Byron Nelson.jpg

The first four home two years ago and five of the top-six in 2021 ranked inside the top-seven for Strokes Gained Approach and last year's winner, Day, ranked third for SG: Tee to Green and first for SG: Approach.


Is There an Angle In?

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 23 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, Steven Bowditch and Jason Day (twice).

K.H Lee, who won back-to-back in 2021 and 2022, was the third Korean to win in eight renewals when he took the title for a first time three years ago and they were in-the-mix again last year.

Noh led after round one and it was Ausie-Korean one-two with Si Woo Kim finishing tied second.

Like the Aussie contingent, the Koreans clearly enjoy the windy conditions too.


Great event for longshots

Although Day was a well-backed 20/121.00 shot 12 months ago, outsiders have a great record in the Byron Nelson.

Sergio Garcia is the only other 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 ten winners all being matched at a triple-figure price before the off.

Aaron Wise only went off at 80.079/1 six 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 eight winners above, and it's perhaps worth noting that Lee was matched at as high of 500.0499/1 before the off three 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 ten years ago and Sang-Moon Bae was a largely unconsidered 200.0199/1 chance 12 months earlier.


Winner's Position and Price Pre-Round Four

2023 - Jason Day - tied fourth, trailing by two 8.615/2
2022 - KH Lee - tied sixth, trailing by four 50.049/1
2021 - KH Lee - solo second, trailing by one 6.411/2


In-Play Tactics

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.

Although the track appears to suit frontrunners, Bettencourt is the only one of nine men to convert a lead or co-lead after 54 holes here.

Market Leaders

In a wide-open betting heat, Si Woo Kim and Jordan Spieth are vying for favouritism at 20/121.00 and neither man makes much appeal.

Last year's runner-up, Kim, was fourth at The Memorial Tournament the following month but his off the pace sixth place finish in the Players Championship in March is his only top-ten finish in 20 starts on the PGA Tour since then and he's clearly priced up on last year's effort.

And that could be perceived as a flash in the pan given he finished 55th in 2021 and missed the cut here in 2022. He's not for me.

Spieth has a decent record in his home state and he's looking to win in Texas for a third time.

jordan spieth ryder cup.jpg

He's also finished second in the Lone Star State six times, including in this event two years ago, 12 months after finishing ninth on debut.

Spieth skipped the event last year and he's no value this time around given he arrives with inconsistent and largely poor current form figures reading 30-MC-MC-10-MC-39.

The defending champion, Jason Day, is next up at around 23/124.00 but after a reasonable start to the year he appears to have gone off the boil a bit and he's not for me either.

Since finishing sixth at Pebble Beach and ninth at Riviera, he's put up form figures reading 36-35-MC-30-18 but he has been starting tournaments nicely so he may be one to consider in the first round leader market.

He's been inside the top-six three times after the opening round this year and he's bound to want to start well here given he's the defending champ.

Will Zalatoris is the only other player trading at less than 30.029/1 and he has 2024 form figures reading MC-34-13-2-4-MC-74-9-44-MC.

That's nothing to write home about and in two previous visits to Craig Ranch, in 2021 and 2022, he's finished tied for 17th and missed the cut.

Selection

I've got two outsiders for the Find Me a 100 Winner column and I'll be back later today or tomorrow with those but my only other pick before the off is two-time winner K.H Lee, who looks very fairly priced to win the tournament for the third time in four years at 65.064/1.

After winning back-to-back here in 2021 and 2022, the 32-year-old finished only 50th last year.

That kicked off a run of mediocre form, but he's been in reasonable shape in 2024 so far.

A fourth in the Cognizant Classic and a top-ten in the Valspar are the highlights and he was in-contention alongside Michael Kim at last week's Zurich Classic with a round to go before a lacklustre 72 on Sunday saw them slip to tied 11th.

Back K.H Lee @ 65.064/1

Bet Here

Kim is no bigger than 50/151.00 on the High Street so the 65.064/1 available is more than fair.


*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


Now read more golf tips for this week's action here


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