PickGuru Golf: AT&T Byron Nelson

PickGuru Golf: AT&T Byron Nelson

This article is part of our PickGuru Golf series.

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AT&T Byron Nelson

Over much of the last decade, the AT&T Byron Nelson has struggled to get high-profile players to commit to the tournament. This year, though, either because the Wells Fargo Championship was played at a new course or this week's event is in close proximity to next week's PGA Championship at Southern Hills, the field in McKinney, Texas is littered with top-25 players in the OWGR.

TPC Craig Ranch will play host to the Byron Nelson for the second straight year. In 2021, K.H. Lee picked up his first career PGA Tour win with a tournament-record score to par of 25-under-par. That week saw a very soft golf course with a lot of rain falling throughout  the tournament. This year's edition will be quite the opposite, with dry conditions and the customary Texas breezes.

Profiling the Winner

TPC Craig Ranch features four gettable par-5s and some other par-4s that should give players plenty of scoring opportunities. Like TPC Potomac, there is some trouble that can lead to some big numbers with errant drives, although finding the rough will be nowhere near as problematic as it was last week. The greens at TPC Craig Ranch are pretty sizable and feature a fair amount of undulation. Firmer conditions should make iron play a little more important as well. The areas around the greens are not that difficult for PGA Tour players, so we can probably ignore a lot of the short-game numbers.

Last year the top two players finishers – K.H. Lee and Sam Burns – finished second and first, respectively, in SG: Tee-to-Green. That emphasizes that golfers will need to hit the ball well and give themselves a lot of opportunities for birdies to be in the hunt come Sunday.

Category Picks

Premium Picks

Players Included: Scottie Scheffler, Justin Thomas, Xander Schauffele, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth

Guru Verdict: This is a group of players that has a knack for making a ton of birdies, and all have been strong ball strikers this season. I have a hard time looking away from Scheffler, who won four of his last six individual events. The Masters champion and Texas resident has also been the best putter in this group of late. Scheffler is familiar with this type of course, and if the wind picks up, that should only help his chances of picking up another win. Spieth's ball striking has really come around and he finished top-10 last year at TPC Craig Ranch.

World Elite

Players Included: Hideki Matsuyama, Brooks Koepka, Sam Burns, Joaquin Niemann, Will Zalatoris

Guru Verdict: With the exception of Koepka, this is another strong contingent of ball striker, and all have been playing weel in recent months. I'm going to lean towards Burns, much for the same reason I went with Scheffler in the group above. He's the best putter in this elite group of ball strikers. Burns ranks 34th in SG: Putting and seventh in putts per GIR, and is also 11th in SG: Approach, 18th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 10th in GIR percentage. He also of course finished runner-up last year at TPC Craig Ranch after beginning the week 65-62.

US Contenders

Players Included: Jason Kokrak, Talor Gooch, Aaron Wise, Davis Riley, Brian Harman, Cameron Champ, Matt Kuchar

Guru Verdict: Gooch has been one of the most consistent players on Tour this season. He has made 14-for-17 cuts and has recorded a whopping 13 top-30 finishes, including his first career win at The RSM Classic. Gooch ranks 18th in SG: Approach, 26th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 21st in GIR percentage. He is also a much better putter than he gets credit for. Every other player in this group has a glaring hole in his game, but Gooch has been really good all the way through the bag.

European Stars

Players Included: Lee Westwood, Tommy Fleetwood, Seamus Power, Ian Poulter, Alex Noren, Matt Wallace, Aaron Rai

Guru Verdict: A place that provides plentiful birdies sets up well for a guy like Power. The Irishman is an accurate driver of the ball and ranks fourth in GIR percentage this season. Power is also 15th in birdie average and fourth in par-5 scoring average. He hasn't been getting the results of late, but went on a torrid T15-T3-T14-T9 stretch early in 2022 at courses that surrendered a lot of birdies. Power was also top-10 in last year's Byron Nelson. Fleetwood has struggled from a ball-striking perspective, but a hot putter led him to seven top-25s in his last nine starts.

International Challengers

Players Included: Adam Scott, Marc Leishman, Sebastian Munoz, Si Woo Kim, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, Jhonattan Vegas, Jason Day, Adam Hadwin

Guru Verdict: Vegas continues to impress. He scored a top-15 result at the Wells Fargo Championship after going T27-T4-T18 in his prior three appearances. Vegas has been a tremendous driver for a few years and now ranks 21st in SG: Approach and 39th in GIR percentage. He also led the field in SG: Approach at TPC Potomac and finished top-10 a year ago in this event. Hadwin was the other golfer that stuck out in this group after racking up seven top-26 finishes over his last 10 events.

Clutch Putters

Players Included: Matthew Wolff, Tom Hoge, Kevin Kisner, Luke List, Bubba Watson, Ryan Palmer, Maverick McNealy, Matthew NeSmith

Guru Verdict: This may be the most challenging category of the week, but McNealy is the golfer who stands above the rest. The 26-year-old is both a good ball striker and putter, something the rest of this group can't say. McNealy ranks 36th in SG: Putting and 44th in SG: Tee-to-Green on the PGA Tour. He is also 18th in birdie average and 10th in par-5 scoring average. McNealy has missed the cut just once this season in individual events and has totaled 10 top-35 finishes.

Outside Chances

Players Included: Mackenzie Hughes, Carlos Ortiz, K.H. Lee, C.T. Pan, Mito Pereira, Sepp Straka, Brendon Todd

Guru Verdict: Pereira is head-and-shoulders the best iron player in this category. He ranks 18th in SG: Approach, eighth in GIR percentage and 32nd in proximity to the hole. Pereira doesn't have a lot of high finishes this season but he has finished at least T31 a total of 11 times. Pan is another interesting option, with made cuts in seven of his last eight starts. Sometimes that is enough when you get down this far.

Wild Cards

Players Included: Brandon Wu, Keith Mitchell, Lanto Griffin, Charley Hoffman, Stephan Jaeger, Francesco Molinari, Kurt Kitayama, Henrik Stenson

Guru Verdict: Kitayama is a pretty sneaky play in this category. He had a third-place finish earlier this year at the Honda Classic and went T2 at the Mexico Open and T15 at the Wells Fargo Championship the last two weeks. Kitayama ranks 10th in SG: Approach for the season and was second in both that category and SG: Tee-to-Green at TPC Potomac. Jaeger quietly finished top-15 each of the last two weeks.

(Editor's Note:  Here are a few more opinions from RW's Len Hochberg and PG's Matt Hardy)

Ryan's Selections

Premium Picks: Scottie Scheffler
World Elite: Sam Burns
US Contenders: Talor Gooch
European Stars: Seamus Power
International Challengers: Jhonattan Vegas
Clutch Putters: Maverick McNealy
Outside Chances: Mito Pereira
Wild Cards: Kurt Kitayama

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Ryan  Andrade
Ryan has covered golf and college basketball for RotoWire since 2016. He has also written articles for ProGolfNow.com.
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