AT&T Byron Nelson
It was nearly a fantastic week for us at the Wells Fargo as one of our picks Joel Dahmen came close to notching his first PGA Tour victory.
In the end though unfortunately he came up against an inspired opponent on Sunday in the form of Max Homa who produced a near faultless display to land his first tour title and in doing so continue this events history of giving a breakthrough win to a highly thought of younger player.
It wasn’t all bad news for us though as with Dahmen finishing second we secured a decent e/w profit on the week.
So moving on and the tour heads back to Texas for the AT&T Byron Nelson, the final event on the rescheduled calendar before the years second major, The PGA Championship.
For the second year the event is held at the Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas.
With the event coming the week before a major championship not unsurprisingly the field is on the weak side with proceedings being headed up by Brooks Koepka.
Behind him in the market we then find Texas native Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama and defending champion Aaron Wise.
For the second year running the event will be held at the Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas.
The course is a par 71 playing at 7380 yards.
The greens are Bermuda.
The course is a Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw design which opened for play in the Autumn of 2016.
The course is a treeless [well it has one tree apparently!] links course with undulating terrain and large undulating greens and undoubtedly has the feel of British Open type venue.
The course features a driveable par 4 which is the 5th hole measuring at 315 yards. The longest Par 5 is the 14th hole measuring at 630 yards.
The 1st hole is a reachable par 5 so for those starting on the 1st on Thursday and Friday it is a good opportunity to get off to a fast start with an early birdie.
With this being only the second year this course has hosted this event we have very little to go on.
Looking at the one year of history we do have we saw two players come home in second and third, Leishman & Grace who you would consider good exponents of links style courses so this is clearly an angle in whilst the winner Aaron Wise is a big hitter with a great short game touch on his day.
A general point I made coming in to the event last year is that Texans or players with clear Texas connections tend to play very well in Texas and we saw one Texas man Jimmy Walker, who we had on side, make the frame last year.
We have had a succession of disrupted weeks due to the weather on tour of late and we look set unfortunately for another one in Dallas this week with the possibility of storms popping up on most days.
Temperatures aren’t set to be as high as last year when we saw them hit the 90s most days and instead they look like being in the mid to high 70s.
The wind which is the courses main defence looks like hitting 15 mph+ for the first couple of days before settling down to around 8-10mph over the weekend.
As I always say though this could all change!
As is always the case the week before a major it is a case of deciding whether the big names are here for prep or to win.
I took the view last week that with the Wells Fargo being sandwiched right between the Masters and The PGA that we could well get a bigger priced winner ,and whilst we were nowhere near finding the right man the theory was correct and I can see a similar scenario playing out this week.
As such I have gone with five players this week as follows;
MATT JONES – 100 -1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED T5th
The player that has caught my eye in the market the most this week is Aussie Matt Jones.
The 39yr old has one PGA Tour win to his name, which interestingly came in Texas at the Houston Open back in 2014, the week before a major.
Since then it’s been pretty slim pickings for the Aussie which resulted in him having to resort to the Web.com tour finals in both of the last two seasons to retain his card.
This season saw him start in slow fashion once more, however since a 13th place finish at the Farmers he has fallen in to a pretty solid groove of form, which has seen him make his last eight consecutive individual stroke play cuts.
Last week at the Wells Fargo Matt produced four solid rounds to finish 38th and he now arrives at a course that should fit his game right down to a tee.
My logic in saying this is that Jones is historically known as a short game wizard, both on and around the greens and therefore with the bulk of the test of this course coming at the business end of the hole, this should be right up his ally.
Matt arrived here last year in a fairly poor run of form, which had seen him miss three of his previous five cuts and finish no better than 28th on the season at that stage, however he produced a great performance at Trinity Forest to sit at -13 and only four shots behind eventual winner Aaron Wise after three rounds before he stalled in round four to finally finish 13th.
This year though as already noted he arrives here in a far better groove and should he find himself in the mix again I would expect a far more solid effort.
We saw last week with Joel Dahmen that it doesn’t take much for a player who is in good solid ‘nick’ to step up another level and get right in to the heat of the battle and I am confident we can see a similar ‘step up’ from Matt Jones this week.
OLLIE SCHNEIDERJANS – 100-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 69th
I mentioned earlier that players with Texas connections tend to play well in Texas and the first of two of these to make my team this week is Ollie Schneiderjans.
Ollie was born in Dallas so although he now resides in Georgia this is still something of a home game for him, which he will be desperate to perform well in, and despite his lack of form this season there are some sound reasons to think he will do so.
Firstly, we have seen in Ollie’s short career to date that courses with a links feel and/or coastal element to them suit his game with good performances at the Sony Open, The Farmers, The Heritage and most noticeably the British Open when he was still an amateur testament to this, so whilst we have no evidence to prove it you would like to think Trinity Forest would suit his game.
The main problem Ollie has had over recent times has been with the driver as to put it bluntly he was all over the place of the tee. At the turn of the year though Ollie decided not only to take on the services of a new caddy [Damon Green, Zach Johnson’s former Caddy] but to turn to renowned swing coach Butch Harmon and the signs are that the hard work is slowly but surely beginning to pay off.
The most tangible result of this was at TPC where Ollie finished 16th and where he played really solidly until unfortunately making a six on the final day at the 17th.
Last week at Quail Hollow the 25yr old again performed decently to finish 28th particularly in the final three rounds for which he was a collective -6 after opening the week with a 74.
Whilst Ollie has been struggling with his long game the area of his game, which has been in solid shape has been the flat stick and he finished the week 12th in putting at Quail Hollow.
With more room of the tee at Trinity Forest and the short game key I can therefore see this playing in to Ollie’s hands this week.
We saw with Max Homa last week how a player who was ‘a class act’ as an amateur can shine through when everything clicks when they get in to contention and I believe that this will be the case with Ollie sooner rather than later.
in a week where I think it is highly likely we will see another big priced winner I am hopeful that this may be the week it happens.
JJ SPAUN – 80-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 59th
With only one year’s form to go on, on a course that has such unique characteristics, it makes sense to give careful consideration to the players who performed well here last year, and the one who I like most of these is ‘winner waiting to happen’ JJ Spaun.
A bit like Ollie, we have seen in JJ’s career to date on the PGA Tour that he is more than comfortable on links feel/wind affected courses as he has performed well at the Heritage, The RSM, The Mayakoba, The Farmers and of course here last year when finishing third.
Last year JJ arrived here in really poor form having made only one cut in seven since the end of January, however he turned things around to produce a great week.
This season see’s him arrive in similar fashion although the last couple of starts have seen some encouragement with a 28th at the Heritage and a 22nd in the Zurich pairs event.
We have seen clearly with JJ that he is a ‘feast or famine’ type of player with no half measures, however when a course fits his eye he is more than capable of finding his form out of nowhere and I am happy to take a chance at the prices on offer that he can produce one of his ‘go’ weeks this week.
JUSTIN HARDING – 80-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 10th
The second player with Texas connections to make my team this week is South African Justin Harding.
Harding’s meteoric rise over the past twelve months has been nothing short of sensational and having bagged his first win on the European Tour in March at the Qatar Masters he shows no signs of letting up.
The Qatar Masters has long been associated as an event that crosses over with players who are good protagonists of Links style golf and we only need to look at the fact that his fellow South African Branden Grace, who finished third here last year, is a two time winner there to back this up.
Brought up on the Western Cape of South Africa it is no surprise that Harding performs well in these type of conditions and even if he had limited experience of golf on US soil he would be of interest to me this week.
What makes Justin an even better prospect for the week ahead though is that he attended college in Texas at Lamar, so he will feel completely at home in the conditions the players face.
Last time out in individual stroke play Justin performed incredibly well at Augusta on his debut to finish 12th and he must know he is within touching distance of a PGA Tour card as a result of this.
The 33yr old will therefore know a big week could lock this up for him and I can see another really strong performance from him on a course which should suit his game perfectly.
BRANDEN GRACE – 33-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 - FINISHED 63rd
I shall finish this week with another ‘horses for courses’ pick and another South African in Branden Grace.
The case for Branden is a pretty straight forward one but I shall briefly make it anyway.
Basically as I suspected when putting Branden up for this last year [and similarly to Harding] the course is perfect for a player who is at home on an undulating wide open, links style, track.
The concern of course is that Grace’s form is not where you’d hope it would be at the moment, however he showed here last year, and more recently at Phoenix earlier this year, that when a course is to his liking he can find his game.
We were on Branden at the Heritage a few weeks back and there is no denying he disappointed however he played some good stuff in patches at the Zurich when paired with the aforementioned Harding and had also played well at the Matchplay so he is not far away.
With a place in this years Presidents Cup team by no means secured I am convinced we will see something big from Grace over the next few months and it is quite possible it will be this week on a track he showed a great liking for last year.
UPDATED 8th MAY
TRADER - BRIAN HARMAN - FINISHED MC
This weeks trader pick is something of a hunch selection as for whatever reason my eyes kept getting drawn back to Georgia man Brian Harman.
Harman has had a pretty grim 18/19 campaign to date and this finds him languishing at 135th in the Fedex Cup standings and with his 2yr exemption for winning the 2017 Wells Fargo due to run out at the end of this year this could spell big trouble.
Looking at Brian's numbers this season the main problem has been his iron play as he currently sits 212th in GIR, however we saw a relatvely improved showing in this department last week at the Wells Fargo where he finished 24th.
One area that is still strong for Brian is his putter, which will be key this week. We saw in this event last year that shorter hitters who putt well can compete here with the likes of Na & Gay featuring prominently and my hunch is that this track may just suit the 32 yr old.
We know Harman is a class act on his day and in a field lacking depth like this weeks I am more than happy to chance him as our trader at the prices on offer.
CURRENTLY TRADING @ 220