The AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Four Seasons Resort is the next stop on the PGA TOUR schedule, and Steven Bowditch returns to defend his title.
While named after a late legend of the game, this tournament often takes a back seat to other prominent events between the Masters and U.S. Open. For example, the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Wells Fargo Championship and THE PLAYERS are favorites of many players. This allows for the AT&T Byron Nelson to serve as a bit of a respite before the Colonial CC and Muirfield Village stops leading up to the U.S. Open.
While that is not a good thing for the tournament, it is helpful to gamers. The cream has traditionally risen near the top, so class is a factor this week. This is, in part because class in permanent, but also because the field lacks depth.
TPC Four Seasons Resort served as the lone host dating back to 2008, but was also part of a rotation for many years prior. While the vast majority of course history should be focused on 2008-2015, there is some value to taking a further look back when necessary.
It is also noteworthy that the 2015 tournament almost required canoes and scuba gear to declare a winner. That forced the difficult par-4 14th to play as a par 3 for the final two rounds, as ground conditions rendered the fairway unplayable. That effectively shifted some weight on par 4 scoring average to par 3 scoring average.
TPC Four Seasons Resort is a par 70 layout of 7,166 yards. That is, of course, when rain doesn’t force a hole to be shortened dramatically. It features two par 5s, four par 3s and 12 par 4s. As such, par 4 scoring average is a relevant metric.
The list of past winners and notables is a jumbled mess, from a statistical standpoint. We see good wind players, long players, short players, good putters, bad putters and everything in between. If forced to define a type of player as a potential fit, it’s probably safest to identify players of above average length and solid ball-striking who have a chance to get hot with the putter over those that putt better than they strike it.
With this as the backdrop, here is the list of those most likely to make some positive noise in Irving, Texas this week.
1. Dustin Johnson – While not a clear number one, DJ posted three consecutive top fives before his T28 at THE PLAYERS. He also never contends at TPC Sawgrass, so it’s completely forgivable as it relates to this week. He has made all six cuts, with four top 10s and a fifth top 20, in his time at TPC Four Seasons Resort.
2. Matt Kuchar – Season-best T3 at THE PLAYERS last week is the perfect momentum for a player with two top 10s and a third top 20 in seven trips to the AT&T Byron Nelson since 2008.
3. Ryan Palmer – Palmer has cashed in his last 12 starts, including a T4 in the Valero Texas Open. This is his home state. Oh, and his last five starts in the AT&T Byron Nelson includes three top 10s, including a runner-up in 2011, and a fourth top 25. He’s a noted wind player, should that come into play.
4. Marc Leishman – The Aussie has twice tied for third here, and has five top-12 finishes in seven starts. While 2015-16 has been nothing to write home about, Leishman has made his last three cuts including a T20 in New Orleans.
5. Charley Hoffman – A T2 last year in this event is the highlight, but he also has a total of three top 10s and a fourth top 25 since 2008. Won the Valero Texas Open before a T11 in New Orleans and a missed cut at THE PLAYERS.
6. Zach Johnson – Comes to TPC Four Seasons Resort on the heels of a series of bland finishes. The two things going for him are his class and a T5 here last year.
7. Jordan Spieth – The true wildcard this week, as he’s never missed a cut here but his only top 25 here came as a high schooler. It’s clear that he plays this event as a hometown favorite. He’s been off a bit in 2016, but it’s hard to drop him any further.
8. Jason Dufner – Dufner is a past winner with three top 10s since 2008, and hasn’t missed a cut in five tries. He is still looking for his first top 10 since a January win.
9. Charl Schwartzel – If you believe in trends, his is a bit problematic. After finishing third in 2013 and T11 in 2014, he slumped to a T78 in 2015. The pro is that he’s finished T11 or better in two of his three trips. Had four top 20s including a win before his Masters missed cut.
10. Sergio Garcia – Disappointed at THE PLAYERS last week, but tied for 20th here in 2011. Also won this event way back in 2004.
11. Brandt Snedeker – While inconsistent of late, he has two top 10s and a third top 25 in his last five starts of 2016. Couple that with a MC and a T6 in his last two Byron Nelsons, and it could be feast of famine.
12. Charles Howell III – He’s followed his course history trends very well in 2016, both good and bad. That means you can forget about a couple of poor showings of late and fix your eyes on his three top 20s in his last six starts at TPC Four Seasons Resort, including a T3 in 2014, and invest with some degree of confidence.
13. Louis Oosthuizen – Technically made two of three cuts, with a T11 here in 2014 as his last attempt, but the 2013 edition resulted in a WD due to injury after three rounds. He’s made six of seven PGA TOUR cuts in 2015-16, with two top 10s and four top 15s.
14. Jimmy Walker – Has taken a step back in 2015-16, relative to the last two seasons, but could still make a stand in the state that produced the Alamo. His T2 last year was the only top 20 he’s scored a TPC Four Seasons Resort in eight trips.
15. Jonas Blixt – Playing sneaky well of late and owns a T3 in this event. Not sure if he fits the “wildcard” mold in this weak field, but he’s certainly not a traditional favorite. Beat out Bryce Molder for the last spot.
We will return tomorrow with Playing the Tips for the weekly Rotoworld staffer picks. Until then, best of luck to all!