The AT&T Byron Nelson starts this week, and it brings with it two eye-catching items. The first is a brand new course which will double as maybe the most unique track on the PGA Tour. The second is a three-time major winner looking for his first victory since last year’s Open Championship.
Let’s take a look at this week’s contest.
What: AT&T Byron Nelson | Where: Dallas, Texas | When: May 17-20
Field and odds
- Jordan Spieth: 9-2
- Matt Kuchar: 18-1
- Sergio Garcia: 18-1
- Jimmy Walker: 20-1
- Branden Grace: 20-1
- Hideki Matsuyama: 22-1
- Adam Scott: 22-1
- Marc Leishman: 22-1
- Billy Horschel: 22-1
Field strength: B-
There is a pretty clear dichotomy happening here with a bunch of 20-1ish golfers chasing one of the best in the world and somebody who will probably go down as an all-timer. One of the checkmarks for Spieth in his career is no doubt winning his hometown tournament. He’s already sort of done that by taking Colonial, but this would complete the Texas two-step, and this is the course for him to do it on.
Three stories to watch
1. Spieth’s big ask: Let’s be honest about something here. Jordan Spieth carries this event on his back. It takes place about 20 miles from his home, is sponsored by one of his biggest sponsors (AT&T) and is to him as the Irish Open is to Rory McIlroy. He doesn’t need to win it to prove anything, but he does need to win it for myriad other reasons.
One of those reasons is that he hasn’t won since taking down Matt Kuchar in last year’s Open Championship. It’s going to be rare over the course of his career that Spieth goes 11- or 12-month stretches without a trophy, and that points us to this weekend. The course is ideal for him and it’s probably mentally beneficial that it moved from TPC Four Seasons, where Spieth’s best finish remains his showing as a 16-year-old amateur back in 2010.
“I feel as good about my game right now as I have this entire year and even a lot of last year,” Spieth said on Tuesday. “Feel like good things are coming. I’ve stayed the course. Had a lot of patience recently. Everything is starting to fall in place.
“Everyone goes through kind of peaks and valleys with different parts of their game. I got a little off in set-up in alignment with short game shots and putting. I’m really starting to progress nicely, starting to see my lines better. Whether putts have gone in or not I’ve had better strokes.”
2. Trinity Forest is exquisite: I am not an architecture-phile. I do not know courses and course structure as well as some of my golf media friends and certainly not as well as the players. But I did play this course a few weeks ago and thought it was one of the most unique, fun places I’ve ever played. One of the big storylines this week is going to be how well a links-style course near downtown Dallas (of all places) is received. Some golfers are probably going to hate it. Some will love it.
Here’s what Spieth said about it on Tuesday.
“A place where I feel like I have an advantage and creates kind of more feel,” Spieth said. “Also reminds me of Birkdale, kind of a links-style course you have to play from the air on a lot of it with big slope-y greens. Feels great and looks great. I like the vibe of the course while I’m out there. That’s what I say (to players who ask).”
3. Top 60 importance: Even barring wins for a few golfers, this week’s tournament is massively important for potentially getting into the U.S. Open. The top 60 in the world on Sunday evening are in at Shinnecock, and the list of golfers currently on the bubble is pretty interesting, including Adam Scott, who has played in 67 consecutive majors.
OWGR top 60 after this week qualify for @usopengolf. Notables not yet exempt in @attbyronnelson field:
57. Peter Uihlein
59. Charles Howell III
65. Adam Scott
— Will Gray (@WillGrayGC) May 14, 2018
Big week coming up for Adam Scott: next week’s top-60 are exempt into the U.S. Open. Adam is 65th after his T-11 at TPC Sawgrass. Scott has played in 67 straight majors, the 2nd-longest active streak to Sergio Garcia (75).
— Justin Ray (@JustinRayGC) May 14, 2018
- 2017: Billy Horschel
- 2016: Sergio Garcia
- 2015: Steven Bowditch
- 2014: Sang Moon Bae
- 2013: Jason Dufner
This is a pretty great list of ball-strikers, and I would expect that to continue despite the venue shift.
Byron Nelson picks
Winner: I’m going with the old theory that when a tournament moves to a new course, it’s best to take the person who plays that course that most and is also maybe the most creative professional golfer in the field. Spieth gets his first post-Open win at an Open-like track.
Top 10: It’s so easy to see Leishman playing well here. His record at Open Championships is strong (three top 10s in the last four years), and he can work the ball both ways, which will be important on this track.
Sleeper: He’s not really as big of a sleeper as I would like here at 28-1, but Hossler has been playing some solid golf with six straight cuts made and two top 20s in that span. He’s also a member at Trinity Forest, which seems like it should matter at least a little bit.