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Opinion & Analysis

2022 AT&T Byron Nelson: Outright Betting Picks

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As anticipation mounts for the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills, we make one final pit stop at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, to play the 2022 AT&T Byron Nelson.

Last year was the first time the tournament was held at TPC Craig Ranch. The prior two editions of the AT&T Byron Nelson were played at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas.

TPC Craig Ranch is a 7,468-yard par 72 and features bentgrass greens.  The event historically plays relatively easy, and that certainly didn’t change last year with the new course. K.H. Lee won the event by shooting -25.

The course structure may provide some additional intrigue with the par-3 17th set up like the stadium hole at TPC Scottsdale. The course also has both long and difficult par-4s mixed with driveable par-4s, which should create some exciting moments.

There are 156 golfers in the field this week, and it’s a very strong collection of players. Some notable golfers in the field include Dustin Johnson, Sam Burns, Justin Thomas, Will Zalatoris, Adam Scott, Brooks Koepka, Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler Xander Schauffele, and Hideki Matsuyama.

2022 AT&T Byron Nelson Best Bets

Jordan Spieth (+2200) (DraftKings):

When I took my first glance at the odds this week, I thought there may have been a mistake. Coming off of a win and a stretch where he’s played great golf, I fully anticipated Jordan Spieth’s betting odds this week to have a “1” in front of them.

Spieth’s win at the RBC Heritage was impressive, but I was more impressed with the way he got it done. In the past, we’ve seen Jordan contend by gaining strokes putting and making improbable birdies throughout the week. That wasn’t the case at Harbour Town. The 28-year-old gained 13.3 strokes from tee to green which led the field by a whopping 3.0 stroke margin. He’s gained strokes on approach in his past six measured events and has gained strokes off the tee in five of his past six measured events. Shockingly, Spieth has had a difficult time putting this season. If he can regain form with the putter he will be incredibly difficult to beat.

Throughout the past few seasons, the former Texas Longhorn has been incredible in the state of Texas. Three of his past four starts in the state have resulted in a top-ten finish, including a win at last year’s Valero Texas Open.

I typically don’t like betting on golfers to win in back-to-back starts, but if there is anyone who can do it, it’s Spieth. He’s won in consecutive starts twice already in his career and tends to get scorching hot once he starts rounding into form.

Will Zalatoris (+2200)(Bet365):

Will Zalatoris is overdue for his first PGA Tour victory and there’s plenty of reason to believe that TPC Craig Ranch is the perfect spot for him to finally get over the hump.

In Zal’s past five starts, he’s gaining an average of 4.3 strokes on approach and 6.9 strokes for tee to green. His ball striking has been nothing short of exquisite and returning to a course that he is incredibly familiar with should do nothing to deter that this week. In his press conference prior to the event last year, Zalatoris said in regard to the course:

“So I played TPC Craig Ranch a bunch going back, I think, to when I was actually 12 years old. I played in the Ewing Junior Tour regular season championship, played in a foursome with Scottie Scheffler, and I’ve got a lot of great memories here. So I guess I’ve been competing here basically half my life, so really looking forward to, obviously, competing in front of some friends and family this week.”

Last year at the Byron Nelson, Zalatoris led the field in Strokes Gained: Approach by gaining 9.5 strokes on the field. His Achilles heel (putting) was his undoing that week, as it typically is. He lost a paltry 4.3 strokes putting and was the only top-20 finisher to lose strokes putting. If he can manage to putt to field average this week, look out!

Marc Leishman (+6500)(DraftKings):

In the past, I’ve written about golfers who offer some tremendous value on the betting board due to what I call a “missed cut discount”. Marc Leishman fits that description perfectly this week. Although he missed the cut at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship, I didn’t see any major cause for concern. Despite missing the cut, Leishman gained 3.1 strokes on approach in two rounds. He bladed a bunker shot into the water which is most definitely an anomaly but cost him three strokes and ultimately, the cut. 

Leishman now heads to a course that should be a much better fit for him than TPC Potomac was. When the 38-year-old gets into trouble, it usually is due to an errant driver. Missing the fairway at TPC Potomac was incredibly penal, and that won’t be the case at TPC Craig Ranch. It also will be much harder to miss the fairways considering they are one of the widest on Tour. 

Throughout his career, the Aussie has played some of his best golf in the state of Texas. He was the runner up at this event (AT&T Byron Nelson at Trinity Forest) back in 2018, and finished 21st at this course last season. Additionally, back in 2008, Leishman won a Nationwide Tour event (WNB Golf Classic) by 11 strokes which took place in Midland, Texas. Something about Texas golf undoubtedly resonates with him. 

Leishman is a golfer I love going to on outright bets because of the win equity he offers. He has six PGA Tour wins, so I am confident he will be able to convert a good performance into a win if given the opportunity. I expect the winning score to eclipse -20 this week, and three of Leishman’s six Tour victories have come at -20 or better. 

Matthew Wolff (+11000)(Bet365):

After a nightmare start to his 2022 campaign, Matthew Wolff finally showed some signs of life last week at TPC Potomac. The 23-year-old gained 4.0 strokes from tee to green and finished in 25th, which was his best finish since November. He finished 11th that week at the Houston Open, so returning to Texas may bring some positive vibes to go along with the confidence he gained last week. 

I’ve always viewed Wolff as a player who was capable of having extreme “spike weeks” where he can find himself in contention. It’s unclear whether Wolff is truly trending back towards the lofty expectations he once had or if it was an outlier. At triple digit odds, it’s worth the price to find out. 

Dylan Frittelli (+12500) (Bet365):

I was high on Frittelli the last time the PGA Tour made a stop in Texas, and he had a great week, finishing in 8th place at the Valero Texas Open. 

The former Texas Longhorn seems to find his groove in the state of Texas and also finished 19th at last year’s Houston Open. A low-scoring tournament should be a good fit for him as he is typically a prolific birdie maker. 

The 31-year-old finished 46th last week at the Wells Fargo Championship but he played better statistically than his result shows. He gained 5.1 strokes from tee to green but really struggled with the putter, losing 4.0 strokes to the field. Returning to Texas should be a positive change for his prospects with the flat stick as he gained 3.9 strokes putting in his showing at the Valero Texas Open.

Brandon Wu (+20000)(DraftKings):

Brandon Wu is a young player that I think is going to break on the PGA Tour scene in a big way in the coming years. The 25-year-old won the Korn Ferry Tour Championship in 2020 beating an impressive mix of current Tour players. He’s come on strong lately with finishes of 3rd, 33rd, 28th, and 2nd before a missed cut last week at Wells Fargo. The missed cut doesn’t bother me much considering I didn’t love the course fit for him. 

Wu cashed a top ten bet for us in Mexico and I think similar to Vidanta Vallarta, TPC Craig Ranch is a course that has a much more favorable setup for the Stanford product. Since he’s started playing on Tour, the tournaments he’s played best at are all course setups that are on the easier side. He showed us that he is more than capable of keeping up in a “birdie fest” in his Sunday round in Mexico where he fired a scorching hot 63 to grab a share of second place. 

This is a talent play on Brandon Wu. A win will come for him at some point in the next few seasons so starting to invest in him consistently at triple digit odds should pay off.

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Opinion & Analysis

What does it really take to play college golf?

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Much has been written and speculated about this question, both in popular media and by junior golfers and their parents and coaches. However, I wanted to get a more definitive answer.

In collaboration with Dr. Laura Upenieks of Baylor University, and with the generous support of Junior Tour of Northern California and Aaron R. Hartesveldt, PGA, we surveyed 51 players who were committed to play college golf for the 2021 year.

Our sample was comprised of 27 junior boys and 24 junior girls. Most of our respondents were either white or Asian. As for some other notable statistics, 67% of boys reported working with a coach once a week, while 100% of girls reported working with a coach at least once a week. In addition, 67% of boys were members at a private club, while 100% of girls were members of a private club. Here are some other interesting findings from the data:

-The average scoring differential for a boy who committed to college golf was -1.48
-The average scoring differential for a girl who committed to college golf was 3.72
-The majority of the sample reported having played over 100 tournaments
-The average boy was introduced to the game at 7 years old
-The average girl was introduced to golf at 12 years old
-The average boy first broke par at 12
-The average girl first broke par at 17
-67% of boys and girls who responded reported having won at least 10 tournaments

One of the most interesting findings of the survey was the amount of competitive golf being played. The data shows that 67% of players report playing over 100 tournaments, meaning they have close to 1,000 hours of tournament experience. This is an extremely impressive amount given all respondents were teenagers, showing the level of dedication needed to compete at the top level.

Another interesting showing was that 75% of boys surveyed reported receiving “full scholarship”. At first glance, this number seems to be extremely high. In 2016, in a GolfWRX that I did with Steph Acosta, the data we collected estimated this number was between 5-10%. This number is seven times greater, which could be due to a low sample size. However, I would also speculate that the data speaks to the extrinsic motivation of players in the data set, as they feel the need to get a scholarship to measure their athletic success.

Finally, boys in the survey report playing with a mixture of elite players (those with plus handicaps) as well as 5-9 handicaps. On the other hand, no female in the study reported playing with any plus handicaps. It also stood out that 100% of junior girls report that their fathers play golf. In ongoing research, we are examining the reasons why young women choose golf and the impact their environments have on their relationships with golf. The early data is very interesting and we hope that it can be published by the end of this year. Altogether, we suspect that girls hold lower status at golf courses and are less able to establish competitive groups to regularly play with. This could impact how long they stay in the sport of golf as well as their competitive development.

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Club Junkie: Callaway Jaws Raw wedge review and Strackaline’s yardage and green reading books

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Review of the new Callaway Jaws Raw wedge and the new Z Grind sole on the lob wedge. Great spin and improved shape make it my choice over the Jaws MD5. Strackaline’s yardage and green reading books are highly detailed and catch all the slopes on the green.

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