One final tune-up before the PGA Championship takes place this week in Texas
The AT&T Byron Nelson this week represents a rarity as a complete new course for the annual event will be unveiled to the masses. While TPC Craig Ranch itself is not a new venue, it does represent the third track in the last four editions of this tournament to play host.
Located in McKinney, Texas, it’s next in a long string of golf tournaments on the PGA Tour which will host fans numbering in the five digits. It’s a bit of a jarring thing to behold after a year of so few folks in attendance, but if Rory McIlroy’s win last week at the Wells Fargo Championship was any indication, it’s a welcome sight for PGA Tour pros.
Let’s take a closer look at this week’s contest with odds provided via William Hill Sportsbook.
Event: AT&T Byron Nelson | Date: May 13-16
Location: TPC Craig Ranch — McKinney, Texas
Three things to know
1. PGA Championship tune-up: For many of the biggest stars, this is simply a final 72 (or 36) holes leading into the fourth major of the season, next week’s PGA at the Ocean Course at Kiawah Island. For two golfers in particular, this week will be telling. We have not seen Brooks Koepka or Hideki Matsuyama since the Masters. Koepka, presumably, because he’s been nursing an injury that had him crawling up hills at Augusta National and Matsuyama, presumably, because he’s been jetsetting with green jacket in hand. They both have played this event a lot in the past, and what they do this week at TPC Craig Ranch could be telling when it comes time to tee it up at Kiawah next week.
2. Spieth! Speaking of the PGA, Jordan Spieth will take another run at the career grand slam next week at Kiawah, and this will be his first truly great look since the 2017 PGA at Quail Hollow. He’s been (checks notes) the No. 1 player in the world over the last 90 days if you believe in strokes gained data (which I do). It’s been an astonishing turn for somebody who was an afterthought — as it relates to contention at PGA Tour tournaments — as recently as the end of January. Interestingly, he’s never played all that well at the Byron Nelson (albeit at different courses) throughout his career. He’s never notched a top 10 and never really contended to win on a Sunday. Maybe that changes for him at TPC Craig Ranch, but this feels more like some maintenance work leading into next week at Kiawah given that he has not played anywhere since finishing T3 at the Masters last month.
3. Birdie bonanza? Like Trinity Forest, TPC Craig Ranch seems to be fairly long and wide open. With rain in the area throughout this week, it could play even longer and more wide open than it looks. What this normally means on the PGA Tour is a scoring festival. The primary variable on courses like this one — and one Trinity Forest never really benefitted from — is wind. If it howls, Craig Ranch will have teeth. If not, 25 under might be in play. The founder of Craig Ranch said folks should walk away thinking they have seen (or played) a fun golf course. The question now is whether it will be a bit too fun.
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Grading the field
Despite Dustin Johnson withdrawing from the event on Monday with a knee injury (that may or may not have long-term implications), this field is still pretty stacked for 1) the Byron Nelson and 2) a tournament the week before a major championship. Nine of the top 25 players in the world are playing — including Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau, who are both in the top 10 — and that does not even include Spieth, who will be the most popular draw in the field (and it won’t be close) as he is every year at the Byron Nelson. It’s not a Memorial-type field, but for where this tournament is on the slate and how many unknowns there are with the track, it’s a really strong showing. Grade: B-
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Early Thoughts On Byron Nelson Classic