It seems as though the AT&T Byron Nelson bounces around courses more than most other tournaments. The run at Trinity Forest was short-lived as the TOUR moves sites once again, this time to TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas.
The good news for us is that it can be a bit of an edge from a DFS perspective as everyone will start at an even position and the more research you can do to get ahead on which players will be best suited for this new track will give you a head start on the field.
There are several resources out there to help. One is a flyover of the course on YouTube, another is just general research, and a third is a very informative interview with Ryan Palmer about the course he has played dozens of times. He expects the bombers to be at an advantage and for the large greens to lead to a bit of a putting contest. This was my exact thought when I previewed the flyover and will likely be the angles I’m looking at this week.
The tournament field this week is surprisingly strong for a week that requires a trip halfway across the country before a major championship. Even with the Monday withdrawal of Dustin Johnson, six of the top 17 players in the world will tee it up this week in Texas.
Jon Rahm is playing again after losing his TOUR-leading streak of cuts made at the Wells Fargo, and he opens at the top of the odds board for the AT&T Byron Nelson. Bryson DeChambeau will tee it up for the second consecutive week after climbing to a top 10 despite just making the cut on the number on Friday. Brooks Koepka and Jordan Spieth will both return for their first events since The Masters, with Spieth looking to continue his strong play in Texas while Brooks hopes to find form since his latest knee surgery. It all should make for an exciting field, especially on an unknown course.
TPC Craig Ranch — McKinney, Texas
7,468-yard Par 72
- Bermudagrass tees, with the same rough up to 2.5 inches
- Zoysia grass fairways
- Bentgrass greens rolling at 11.5 on the Stimpmeter
- 6,778 square-foot average green size
- Traditional Par 72 set up with four par-5s, four par-3s, and 10 par-4s
- Rowlett Creek runs through the property and crosses in play on 14 of the 18 holes
As I looked through the course at TPC Craig Ranch, the first thing I noticed is that half of the par-4s are 450-500 yards, and only one of them exceeds 500 yards. Two of those 10 par-4s check in at well under 400 yards, including the short 330-yard par-4 14th. Additionally, the par-5s are not overly long, as none exceed 569 yards, which will presumably put an eagle in play each time the players come through. Much of the length of the course is actually tied up in the par-3s, with three of the four exceeding 200 yards.
Overall, the course seems to be fairly traditional as it’s all right in front of the players without too much surprising on any hole. The first hole is “tricked out” more than most, as at just 431 yards, players will hit a tee shot to a landing zone short of the Rowlett Creek and look to avoid the creek running up the right side before an approach to a large green protected by one bunker on the left side. The second is a better example at 466 yards straight ahead with wide-open landing zones and little trouble to concern these professionals.
One thing I noticed after going through all of the holes is that while the par-3s are long, they seem to also feature some of the largest greens on the course. It starts at the fourth, where at 219 yards, there’s just a large bunker protecting the green left and short with a huge landing area for the green. The putting surface does appear to be fairly undulating, which will make for some lengthy and difficult two-putts, but the tee shot doesn’t seem as daunting as the length may suggest.
The story is similar at the longest par-3 — Hole No. 7 — where at 232 yards, it sounds like a beast of a hole. But the green appears to possibly be the largest on the course. There isn’t much trouble around the huge green, and while getting it close will prove difficult, it appears we may see more greens in regulation on this than typical for a par-3 of this length.
The key holes to me will come with the two potentially driveable par-4s, four par-5s, and what appears to be the most difficult hole at 16. Both holes at 6 and 14 will be challenged by players off the tee. The 6th is listed at just over 360 yards, which would only be fully reachable by a small portion of the field, but due to all of the greenside bunkering, we may see more go after this hole and look to play a sand shot onto the green to set up birdie.
The 14th is quite a bit shorter at just 330 yards, but it does have some risk-reward with a lake left of the green. It will likely be dependent on the wind and tees for players as they try to determine their plan of action, but this will definitely be a hole to tune in for down the stretch on Sunday.
I really want to hype up some of this course, but the fact is it appears to be a place where these golfers will really go low. The par-5s lack much danger to keep players from swinging out of their shoes off the tee, and very few will have a need to lay up. The greens lack protection, and again, it appears they will be able to get away with imperfect shots on this track.
I expect lots of birdies, a large number of eagle opportunities and some low scoring, which will make for an exciting finish down the par-5 18th on Sunday afternoon. That finish will come after what I see as the most difficult hole on the course at 16 — a 512-yard hole that does get a touch narrow the deeper you get in the fairway off the tee. This may be one of the few holes on the course where players dial back to accept a par rather than attacking for birdie.
As I mentioned in the lead-up, keeping up with the articles we put out on FantasyLabs and Action Network will be key this week to understand this course. There is no course history to lean on this week and simply no way to really know the exact player who will succeed.
One final key will be to keep up with what the players say in interviews about the course to start the week. These interviews can be telling about the player himself and how the course is playing. I try to post these transcripts to my Twitter and will make it a point to do so for the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Photo Credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images.
Pictured: Ryan Palmer.