Picks and tips: Expect low scores at Nelson

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The AT&T Byron Nelson has a new look this year as several big names look to play their way to next week's PGA Championship.

After a two-year stint at Trinity Forest outside Dallas, the tournament has moved across town to TPC Craig Ranch. It's the first time that the venue has hosted a PGA Tour event, but the course has been home to Korn Ferry competition as well as previous stints of Q-School. It's one where several Texas products in the field like Scottie Scheffler and Will Zalatoris have some experience, and 2019 Nelson winner Sung Kang is actually a member.

World No. 1 Dustin Johnson pulled out of the field Monday afternoon, leaving Jon Rahm and Bryson DeChambeau as the betting favorites against a list that also includes Jordan Spieth and Brooks Koepka among others. They'll all be looking to hone their game amid the pressures of competition ahead of a trip to Kiawah Island next week for the second major of the year.

PGA Tour officials have a tendency to set up courses a little on the easy side for first-time venues, and I don't expect anything different this week. With wide fairways and ample-sized greens, the scoring should be deep into red figures in the Lone Star State. Here's a look at some of the players I have circled as potential wagers, including one notable who already has a win to his credit this year:

To Win (odds via PointsBet Sportsbook)

Daniel Berger (+1600): Berger got the fourth win of his career at Pebble Beach back in February, although that result feels like it was about eight months ago. He's been a little quiet since then, even though his game hasn't really fallen off: look no further than top-15 finishes at both The Players and RBC Heritage over the last two months.

I'm looking to back solid putters this week given the large greens at Craig Ranch, and Berger fits that bill: he's 23rd in SG: Approach this season but also 18th in SG: Putting. He's had ample success playing the week before a major, as well, including each of his first two wins in Memphis when it was played the week before the U.S. Open. All told, he has made 12 starts the week before a major and turned those appearances into six top-10 finishes. His win last year across town at Colonial showed he's comfortable playing in this part of the country, and even though the grass types and conditions are different this week he's a play-on for me.

Luke List (+6600): After a banner week at Quail Hollow, I'm willing to go back to the well. List was one of the best ball-strikers in the field last week, finishing fourth in SG: Off-the-Tee and 16th in SG: Tee-to-Green en route to a T-6 finish on the leaderboard. The putter, so often a point of concern with the veteran, was cooperating as he finished 23rd in SG: Putting. It was another solid week for List, who also finished T-17 in San Antonio last month and T-10 earlier this year at Torrey Pines.

List actually has some experience at TPC Craig Ranch, having finished T-13 at the Korn Ferry Tour Championship here back in 2012. That week included rounds of 67-68 over the weekend as he rebounded from an opening 74 and demonstrates an affinity for a venue that many players are seeing for the first time. He's still one of the longest players on Tour, and with four par-5s that length off the tee could prove to be an even bigger advantage. List hasn't won on Tour but did win a Korn Ferry event in June, and his fit this week should be a good one as he looks to snag a breakthrough victory.

Sebastian Munoz (+12500): I considered Carlos Ortiz at +6000, but instead I'm going with his former teammate at North Texas at more than double the price. Munoz should be more than comfortable in Dallas and he had three rounds in the 60s last month en route to a T-9 finish at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. He's a streaky player, one that mixes top-20s with missed cuts with regularity, so there's an element of caveat emptor. But two recent missed cuts have boosted odds on a player who, as 15th Club's Justin Ray pointed out, leads the Tour in birdie average in the state of Texas over the last decade. He's 37th in birdie average this season, 30th in par-5 scoring, and should be able to give himself plenty of birdie looks. He'll need the putter to warm up, as his work on the greens has regressed in recent weeks, but I think it's worth a stab at a triple-digit price on a player who has won previously on Tour and advanced to East Lake last season.

Top Finishes (odds via PointsBet)

Ryan Palmer (+340 top-10 finish): With Jon Rahm missing the cut at Wells Fargo, Joaquin Niemann now leads the Tour with 18 consecutive cuts made. But in second place is Palmer, who has now made 14 cuts in a row dating back to the U.S. Open, tallying four top-10 results in that span. His affinity for (and membership at) Colonial is well-documented, but he has also played Craig Ranch a "couple dozen" times over the years and will bring with him more local knowledge than most in this week's field. Palmer's consistent play has been a bit underrated in recent weeks, but he had a run of four top-20s in five starts before a final-round fade in Tampa. Palmer boasts both a DFW familiarity and a solid tee-to-green game, and with four par-5s on the card this week I love the fact that he's fourth on Tour this season in par-5 scoring. Palmer's still in search of his first individual win since 2010 which makes me hesitant to back him at +4000, but I'm definitely willing to throw down for a top-10 result.

Charl Schwartzel (+440 top-10 finish): The former Masters champ has found his groove again. Schwartzel has finished T-26 in four straight starts, including a playoff loss at Zurich with Louis Oosthuizen and a T-14 showing last week at Quail Hollow. After dropping as far as 219th in the world rankings, he's back up to No. 157 and scored a last-minute invite to the PGA Championship. Schwartzel's strong play last week came despite a balky putter, as he finished the week 71st in SG: Putting but was third in SG: Tee-to-Green and fourth in SG: Approach. He lost strokes on the greens all four days in Charlotte and will need that to turn around if he's going to have a chance to contend, but momentum is certainly on his side and the ball-striking stats are beginning to appear like a legitimate resurgence as opposed to a brief outlier.

Patton Kizzire (+400 top-20 finish): Kizzire has gradually become a player that I've circled for potential inclusion over the last few weeks, as his game appears to have rebounded from the abyss. Once a two-time winner on Tour in short succession, Kizzire fell off the map in 2019-20. He seems to be rounding the corner, albeit slowly, and this could be another opportunity to cash in on his incremental rise. A T-9 finish in San Antonio just a few weeks ago shows he can handle things in Texas, and Kizzire enters the week ranked 23rd on Tour in SG: Putting which is promising considering the Craig Ranch makeup. His weakness is off the tee, which should be significantly mitigated by the generous targets this week, and he has made 15 of his last 17 cuts dating back to September. Kizzire has shown some flashes over the last two weeks - an opening 66 in Tampa, a first-round 69 in Charlotte - before fading over the weekend. With a new venue that could suit his game, there's potential for him to string together a more consistent performance.

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