After an absence of around two years, it’s time for the return of our weekly golf betting column!
After the so-called fifth major saw Webb Simpson claim his first win in four years, the PGA Tour heads to Texas for the AT&T Byron Nelson.
The defending champion this week is Billy Horschel, who defeated Jason Day in a play-off at the TPC Four Seasons last year.
The TPC Four Seasons has hosted this event since 2008. However, this year sees the tournament move to Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, Texas.
Playing this week as a 7,380 yard par 71, Trinity Forest is a tree-less links course, and was designed by Bill Coore and two-time Major winner Ben Crenshaw. The course only opened for play in Autumn of 2016.
This presents a huge challenge for us punters, with no course form whatsoever to draw on ahead of May 17.
Given the unique nature of a PGA Tour links course, the players are wary also. The field boasts five of the world’s top 22 players, but that quintet also comprises almost all of the top 50 contingent that are present this week.
So, what do we have to work with?
The official PGA Tour guide tells us that the links course will play like its Scottish counterparts, as seen in the annual Scottish Open, the now defunct Johnnie Walker Championship at Gleneagles, and many of the venues that host the Open Championship.
“With a terrain full of humps and bumps, the course looks and plays very much like a Scottish links with fast turf in the playing areas, native grasses in the roughs and a strategic design where the best angles of approach require flirting with trouble.”
CBS Sports’ Kyle Porter recently played at the venue, which reminded him of the infamous Chambers Bay, which hosted the 2015 US Open.
“The entire course reminded me of a more natural, less over-the-top Chambers Bay. I sort of liked Chambers Bay (don’t tell Billy Horschel!), and this place felt like a smaller, more reasonable version of it.
The aforementioned Horschel (25/1) is in this week’s field, and had this to say about the venue at the time: “It’s just a very disappointing week to be here.” Make of that what you will.
Jordan Spieth, who won at Chambers Bay, has played numerous rounds at Trinity Forest as a Dallas native, telling Dallas News’ SportsDay:
“It’s a second-shot course where you’ve got to really think about where you’re leaving the ball. Because everything looks very spacious … you can work different flights, but it’s very challenging if you’re not really focused on where the ball is being left.”
The wind forecast in Dallas is nothing to write home about for the first two days, though it is set to kick up over the weekend. If that doesn’t materialise, the last line of defence is the quirky, undulating set of greens, which implies that scrambling will be a key factor for victory.
With Spieth’s comments on it being a second-shot course, greens in regulation are also a must in order to contend.
Unsurprisingly, Jordan Spieth is the bookies’ favourite. While that was likely to be the case regardless, this venue presents a particular advantage for the three time Major winner. Course designer Ben Crenshaw says that it favours the 24-year-old, whose instructor, Cameron McCormick, is based there.
While home-field advantage favours the Texan, his struggles with the putter have been clear to see all season. Those are offset somewhat by his cracking tee-to-green stats, but at 5/1, it’s still a risky venture for us.
Sergio Garcia (16/1) finished in the top 20 at Chambers Bay, and knows his way around links courses, with ten top tens in the Open Championship. His form since arriving at Augusta last month isn’t encouraging, however, with two missed cuts a 70th place at TPC Sawgrass.
While still ranked ninth in the world, Hideki Matsuyama (20/1) hasn’t had a top ten finish in a regulation PGA Tour event since the CIMB Classic in October of last year. While three top 20s in five Open appearances works in his favour, the Japanese star hasn’t opted to play other links events.
Matsuyama’s ball-striking hasn’t been prolific this season, but he is ranked 4th on Tour ‘around the green’, which comprises of sand saves and scrambling.
The ever-consistent Matt Kuchar (16/1) hasn’t missed a cut since the 2017 Shell Houston Open – over 13 months ago. The popular American hasn’t threatened to win much this season though, and frustratingly fell away in the Players Championship after being tied for the lead through 18 holes.
With such a weakened field, those in-form at the top of the sportsbook, such as Jimmy Walker, who comes in off a 4th place at the Valero Texas Open and second at TPC Sawgrass, and Adam Scott (25/1), will fancy their chances of victory.
Conversely, with a non-top heavy field present, most players will feel capable of securing an all important Tour win, so if a longshot takes your fancy on an unpredictable set-up, feel free to take the risk.
At the other end of the field, Geoff Ogilvy is priced at 250/1 for a reason, given that he has made only one cut in eleven events this year. The former US Open winner is very much familiar with the course though, and has his own video series offering tips on how to play Trinity Forest.
Y.E Yang has been a non-factor since his amazing 2009 PGA Championship win over Tiger Woods. But he has recently returned to form in Asia, winning The Crowns in Japan, and following up with two decent finishes. The Korean heads back to the States as an alternate with renewed hope.
Jimmy Walker’s form is just too good to ignore at 20/1. The 2016 US PGA Champion, who now resides in Texas, has the momentum after shooting under par in all four rounds at the Players. Solid top 40 stats both on and around the greens bodes well for this peculiar challenge. Walker doesn’t have much links form to speak of, but did make the cut in both of his appearances at the Scottish Open.
Beau Hossler (40/1) lives a few hours down the road from the venue in Austin. The 23-year old has made the most of this, playing there since 2016, and regularly with Jordan Spieth at a course that he “really likes”.
Since his play-off defeat to Ian Poulter at the Shell Houston Open, Hossler has made four cuts on the bounce, including at The Players. His driving accuracy is a worry, but he still hits over two thirds of greens in regulation, and is currently solid with the flat stick.
Peter Uihlein is a sleeper bet at 66/1. The American has a wealth of links experience, including a play-off loss in the Alfred Dunhill Links Championship, having been based on the European Tour for years. His fifth place finish at the Wells Fargo a few weeks ago came thanks to a third round 62. His stats since making the move back home this year aren’t encouraging, but a renewal of his fine form in late 2017 could be on the horizon.
Our outsider this week is Ben Crane (150/1). The veteran has steadily improved his results in 2018, earning an 11th place at the Valero Texas Open in his last outing. Crane is second on Tour for sand saves, 13th in scrambling, and 23rd in driving accuracy. An unlikely winner, but his steady nature could lend itself well to a high finish.