AT&T Byron Nelson Preview

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The season's second major sits in the on-deck circle but first, we head to TPC Craig Ranch for the AT&T Byron Nelson.

It's a full field of 156 golfers this week with plenty of star power at the top of the board. Notable names include Scottie Scheffler, Jordan Spieth, Xander Schauffele, Will Zalatoris, Hideki Matsuyama, Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Sam Burns, and Brooks Koepka. Just to name a few.

TPC Craig Ranch hosted this event last year and we saw plenty of fireworks with a 25-under winning tally from K.H. Lee and 19 others eclipsing the 15-under mark. Let's jump into the course preview to see if we should expect more of the same this week.

The Course

TPC Craig Ranch returns to host for a second straight year.

This Tom Weiskopf design is a par 72 that stretches out to 7,468 yards from the tips. In addition to last year's Byron Nelson, it has also hosted Q-School events in the past as well as a couple of Korn Ferry Tour Championships (2008, 2012).

During the 2021 edition, the average yardage used sat under 7,300 yards due to softer conditions. It still played very long with nearly 40% of approach shots coming from outside of 200 yards. Without that rain in the forecast, we should expect the course to play firmer and faster and allow them to play closer to the full yardage.

Off the tee, the fairways are about as generous as it gets on the PGA TOUR. Golfers can grip-it and rip-it with the driver and still find a good amount of fairways. You could say it becomes a second-shot course from there but the longest of hitters should be able to snap off some extra yardage and give themselves a nice upgrade on approach-shot distances.

The zoysia fairways allow for lots of spin, allowing golfers to be very aggressive with their iron shots. Last year, lead-in iron play turned out to be the key element in predicting success. That was only one year of data, though, and the conditions were soft. We'll have to wait and see if a similar story plays out this week.

When missing the fairway, golfers will be hitting out of bermuda rough which is never fun. There is water in play on 13 holes but really not much of an issue for where these pros are hitting it.

Finding the greens is a relatively easy task due to the width of the fairways and the size of the greens (6,778 square feet on average). Last year the field found roughly 74% of greens in regulation.

Rounding out the turf trifecta, the golfers will be greeted with bentgrass putting surfaces that are prepped to run around TOUR average speeds of 11.5 feet.

Last year, the field average scoring sat almost 3 strokes under par. That was a combination of a conservative setup in the first year of hosting and the weather that rolled through. The main defense of this course is the wind, so we'll check in on the forecast below to see if we should expect more fireworks.

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Quotes on the Course

Will Zalatoris: "I think the biggest defense of this place really is the wind. Typically, when I've played here, it's fairly wide open, it's very long, especially when you have Zoysia grass, the ball doesn't roll very far."

Bryson DeChambeau: "The golf course is for the most part wide open. There are areas you got to be precise, but for the most part it's a bombers' paradise."

Harris English: "Pretty wide off the tee, big greens. The greens were rolling so good out here. We just don't play a whole lot of the courses like this where we can gear up and let the driver loose and not worry about the rough and hit a lot of fairways."

They all talk about how this course benefits the longer hitters but we saw K.H. Lee win last year. Perhaps in more normal weather conditions this week, we'll see the bigger hitters taking over page one of the leaderboard.

Correlated Courses

Looking at last year's leaderboard and comparing it with overlapping success, here are the courses that popped up as potential pointers:

TPC Southwind
Corales GC
Detroit GC
Pebble Beach Pro-Am Rota

Wide fairways and an emphasis on approach play. That is what we saw in year one at TPC Craig Ranch.

The Weather

Thursday: Sunny with a high of 89 degrees. Winds around 15 MPH.

Friday: Cloudy with a high of 92 degrees. Wind at 7 to 12 MPH.

Day one could be the trickiest with winds around 15 MPH for most of the day. Mother Nature turns off her fan for the majority of Friday through Sunday so there should still be plenty of scoring by week's end.

Golfers to Watch

Scottie Scheffler
He's a winning machine in 2022 and now he gets a home game followed by the PGA Championship at a course he calls one of his favorites.

Jordan Spieth
He cracked a top 10 here last year but seemed surprised to do so. "Coming in I didn't think this was necessarily the best golf course for me. Historically I didn't feel that way." Was that a one-year fluke due to weather? Is the local factor that big of an edge for him? Or will we see him overwhelmed by the length of the course this week?

Will Zalatoris
Another local who has grown up playing the venue. Zalatoris found a T17 finish here last year and should be well-equipped if the course is more suited to big hitters this week. Looking at his last three starts, he made a deep run at the WGC-Match Play, posted a top 10 at the Masters, and then snagged a top-5 finish alongside Davis Riley at the Zurich Classic. He's playing some good golf right now.

Dustin Johnson
He's making his first start since becoming a married man. DJ should really like the generous fairways here at TPC Craig Ranch. He ranks fourth in this field in adjusted approach proximity from outside of 200 yards, over the last six months. That is where a big chunk of the approach shots came from last year.

Sung Kang
Looking for potential value options in weekly fantasy formats, Kang is an interesting name to consider. He's a member of the course and has practiced at TPC Craig Ranch for over a decade. He posted a top 50 here last year but arrives with missed cuts in five of his last six starts this time around.

Jason Day
While Kang still calls this area home, this used to be home for Day back when he joined the TOUR. Perhaps that comfort in the area is why he has top 10s in four of his six appearances at the Byron Nelson, including a win in his 2010 debut. He missed the cut at TPC Craig Ranch last year but arrives off a fast start at TPC Potomac. Can he shake off the weekend collapse and get right back in the hunt?

Ranking the Field

1. Justin Thomas
2. Scottie Scheffler
3. Will Zalatoris
4. Sam Burns
5. Dustin Johnson
6. Xander Schauffele
7. Tommy Fleetwood
8. Joaquin Niemann
9. Hideki Matsuyama
10. Jhonattan Vegas
11. Jordan Spieth
12. Talor Gooch
13. Alex Noren
14. Aaron Wise
15. Adam Hadwin
16. Matt Kuchar
17. Maverick McNealy
18. Marc Leishman
19. Brooks Koepka
20. Seamus Power