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The Byron Nelson is a full-field event with 150+ golfers in attendance. It’s the final warmup start on the schedule before the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island — which starts May 20 — so a lot of bigger names are in attendance. The defending champion is technically Sung Kang (2019) since this event wasn’t played in 2020. The course (TPC Craig Ranch) will be the host for the first time in the history of the event. The field is quite top heavy with Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau in attendance, although it was dealt a blow when Dustin Johnson (knee) withdrew on Monday.
This event will also mark the return of three players to action as Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth will all be making their first competitive starts here since playing at Augusta in May. Some interesting sponsor exemptions here include the likes of Euro Tour star Thomas Pieters and amateur standouts Tyler Strafaci and University of Texas grad Cole Hammer. The cut (top-65 and ties) will take place here in its usual spot after Friday.
TPC Craig Ranch—McKinney, Texas
Par 72, 7,438; Green: Bentgrass
TPC Craig Ranch will be making its debut on the PGA TOUR here, replacing Trinity Forest, which had a two-year run as host venue. Craig Ranch was built back in 2004 by Tom Weiskopf and is now set to host this event for the next five seasons. The venue has seen some action hosting other professional Tours, and acted as the stage for the Korn Ferry Tour Championship back in 2012, an event that saw a winning score of 16-under par. Expect the conditions to be ramped up a bit for the pros.
The venue sets up as a traditional par 72 and like many Weiskopf designs it has a nice blend of tougher stretches and scoring holes. Weiskopf also designed TPC Scottsdale, which plays around the same length as TPC Craig Ranch but is only a par 71. The four par 5s should all present decent birdie chances this week as only one measures in at over 560 yards. Bigger hitters likely won’t have a huge advantage on these holes, although they may on the longer par 4s as there’s six of them that measure in at over 450 yards. The routing of the course isn’t overly complex though as there aren’t many doglegs in play here and the venue does appear to have plenty of space just off the fairways in many spots. Water only comes into play on a few holes, although it could factor in heavily down the stretch.
We don’t have a ton of data to work off here but wind could play a factor on this lightly tree’d venue. If we do get a calm week I’d expect the birdies to fly a little more freely here unless they completely tricked out the greens—which are bentgrass. Considering we’re getting into the hotter months, expect firm greens with lots of roll, giving ball-strikers a bigger advantage.
2021 Outlook: The temperatures won’t be out of control hot this week and aren’t even expected to get into the 70s until the day the event starts, on Thursday. From there, we are expected to have nicer weather, although the rain from early in the week could act to soften the course up. The wind and sun should dry the venue out for the final two days though, where highs will be in the low 80s and winds are expected to be 10-15 mph in the afternoon. Low scoring could dominate early in the week as winds in the first couple of days are expected to mild. Friday afternoon looks like the only wave to watch right now as gusts could get stronger as the week progresses and make it a trouble spot for golfers in classic formats with late Friday tee times.
Last 5 Winners
2019—Sung Kang -23 (over Scott Piercy -21)
2018—Aaron Wise -23 (over Marc Leishman -20)
2017—Billy Horschel -12 (over Jason Day playoff)
2016—Sergio Garcia -15 (over Brooks Koepka playoff)
2015—Steven Bowditch -18 (over Charley Hoffman -14)
Note: All previous Tournaments played at different venues than TPC Craig Ranch.
- The last eight winners here had recorded a T8 or better on the PGA TOUR in the same year of their victory—and prior to winning at the Byron Nelson.
- Since 2012, the best a player has finished at THE PLAYERS before winning the AT&T Byron Nelson is T33 (Sang Moon Bae in 2013).
Winners Stats and Course Overview
Sung Kang—2019 (23-under-par at Trinity Forest)
2019 lead-in form (MC-T42-T18-T47-T6)
SG: OTT — +2.3
SG: APP — +4.4
SG: TTG — +5.9
SG: ATG — -0.7
SG: PUTT — +10.3
- We don’t have previous years of data to go off here, but it is worth noting that the last five winners at this event had all posted a decent result somewhere in their last five starts, with Kang having gone close to the API (T6) five starts before coming here.
- Expect the conditions to be somewhat similar this week to 2019, even if the course is different. May weather in Texas isn’t as bad as the early spring, so good conditions could mean lower scoring again.
Finding Values (DraftKings Sportsbook)
Odds to win are one factor to think about when picking players (but not the only thing, so be careful putting too much weight on them). This section is going to detail a few of the players who have the best fantasy value compared to their DraftKings Sportsbook odds of winning this week.
All odds provided by DraftKings Sportsbook and all odds subject to change.
1. Sam Burns ($9,300; win-T39): Burns enters this week off a win in his last start at the Valspar where he gained +7.6 strokes TTG and +9.1 strokes putting. He’s not likely to sink that many putts again on a new course but has still been a great upside play in DFS for most of 2021.
2. Brandt Snedeker ($7,400; T11-T4): Snedeker has been heating up as we approach the summer and has now finished T11 or better in three of his last four starts. He gained +6.1 strokes putting at the Valspar but also gained multiple strokes on his approaches there.
3. Russell Knox ($7,700; T18-T21): Knox broke out of his funk a couple of starts ago at the Valspar and followed that T21 finish up with a T18 last week—that was marked by him gaining +6.1 strokes on his approaches. He’s gained more than a stroke on approaches in seven straight starts entering this week.
4. Charl Schwartzel ($8,100; T14-T21-2nd): Schwartzel has looked great over the last month and grabbed a top-15 placing last week that was marked by him gaining +6.8 strokes on his approaches. He lost a ton on the greens and likely would have challenged at Quail Hollow if he had produced just an average putting week.
5. Vince Whaley ($7,000; T26-T29): Whaley deserves a shoutout in this section as the American has now made seven cuts in a row on the PGA TOUR and has finished top-40 in six straight starts. It’s not much but he’s cheap for DFS purposes and has been solid on the greens where he’s gained strokes putting in seven straight starts.
DRAFTKINGS DFS STRATEGY
Cash Games: Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris a good core duo
From a pure salary viewpoint, the $9K range offers lots of good upside and both Fitzpatrick and Zalatoris have proven to be some of the most consistent cut-makers on the PGA TOUR this year. The Texas-born Zalatoris has only missed two cuts since last year’s US Open and ranks first in SG: Approach stats in this field. Fitzpatrick and Scottie Scheffler ($9,400-see below) can both be considered in this range as well. From lower down, Talor Gooch ($7,900) and Brandt Snedeker ($7,400) both offer some appeal as cheap options for cash games. Gooch has only missed one cut in his last six starts while Snedeker has finished T11 or better in three of his last four. Other potential targets here include the likes of Charl Schwartzel ($8,100) and Doug Ghim ($7,500).
Tournaments: Berger a good high-end GPP pivot
It seems likely that a lot of people will either pay all the way up for the high-priced talent or avoid the $10K range altogether, which could make Berger a good GPP target. The American let the DFS world down at the Masters but bounced back nicely at the RBC Heritage where he gained +5.5 strokes on his approaches. Jason Day ($8,900) is another player I wouldn’t entirely write off this week as he’s shown better ball-striking of late despite a couple of missed cuts, and at +5500 on DraftKings Sportsbook, he makes for a decent outright target. He was second at this event in 2017 and won his first ever PGA TOUR event here in 2010. Other players to consider in big GPPs include the likes of Thomas Pieters ($8,600), Peter Uihlein ($7,600), Patrick Rodgers ($7,100) and Jimmy Walker ($6,300).
MY PICK: Scottie Scheffler ($9,400)
Scheffler is a Dallas native who has already picked up one top-5 result in Texas this year when he finished runner-up at the WGC Match Play event. Since then, the American has struggled to get himself in contention but has displayed some improved ball-striking stats as he’s now gained over a stroke against the field with his irons in seven of his last eight starts on the PGA TOUR. Ranked 11th in SG: TTG stats and 21st in SG: ATG stats over the last 50 rounds, he has the kind of all-around game to score well on the Tom Weiskopf-designed TPC Craig Ranch—and it’s worth noting that Scheffler also finished T7 earlier this season on another Weiskopf designed venue in Phoenix (TPC Scottsdale).
While winning in your hometown can often be far more difficult than we make it out to be, the 24-year-old has been a prolific winner at every level of golf in his career and looks like a great fit for this week’s venue, which should put a premium on good all-around play. Scheffler is a great upper-tier value on DraftKings this week and someone more than capable of matching the top-tiered players in terms of points and production on this venue.
MY SLEEPER: Patrick Rodgers ($7,100)
Rodgers is typically a player who lives and dies with his putter, so any kind of uptick on his approaches or ball-striking should be noted. He did lose strokes to the field in three of the four rounds last week on his approaches, but gained +3.0 strokes in that area in round two, where he shot 68. Where Rodgers hasn’t struggled is on the greens, where he’s gained multiple strokes putting in four straight events and continues to excel with that club despite deficiencies in the rest of his game.
Last week actually represented his best ball-striking week in over 10 starts—as he also ranked T15 in GIR%—so it’s possible last week marked the start of something good for the Stanford grad, who still offers tantalizing talent but has struggled with consistency since coming on the PGA TOUR six years ago. With TPC Craig Ranch featuring some wider fairways and more open landing areas, it could set up well for Rodgers, who is coming off his best result in his last seven starts on the PGA TOUR. He makes for an intriguing GPP target for me here.
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