The First Tee at The Byron Nelson Classic (TPC Four Seasons)

Congrats to Jason Day, who lapped the field for much of the tournament and captured his first Players Championship. Day, the #1 player in the world, opened the tournament with a course record tying 63, which happened to be 18 strokes better than the last time he played the TPC Stadium Course. What most impressed me about Day was his ability to take what the course gave him. When the greens were soft and yielding birdies, Day went out and attacked the pins. After Friday's round, the executive committee firmed up the course (especially the greens), which paved the way for some really high scores, Day however, played for the middle of the greens and avoided the big numbers that plagued so many other players. It was a dominant performance, so much so that Day really had no pressure on him to make birdies on the weekend. Jordan Spieth and Rory McIlroy have their work cut out for them, as Day has no plans on relenting the #1 spot in the world. The other player that really caught my eye this weekend was Kevin Chappell. Standing on the 9th tee on Friday, Chappell was +2 on the tournament, and in danger of missing the cut. Then he went on one, if not the most remarkable run in Players Championship history. He birdied his next eight holes to finish his round at -5 for the tournament, and then backed that up with a -2 round on Saturday, which was one of the best rounds shot that day. He made two eagles in that round, and added another one on Sunday, showcasing his firepower en-route to a solo 2nd place finish at -11. Chappell is starting to figure out how to match is high level talent with the restraint needed to win tournaments on Tour…watch out for him, he will win in the near future. Another young gun, Justin Thomas, fired a final round 65 to shoot up the leaderboard and T3, and move him up to 6th place in the Fed Ex Cup rankings. In addition to Thomas and Chappell, Colt Knost made himself part of the discussion on Sunday by playing solid golf and getting around TPC Sawgrass in a way that so many other players had difficulty with. The TPC is an exercise in patience, and Knost did that as well as anyone outside of Day.

The Field

The Tour rolls into Texas this week for the Byron Nelson Classic, hosted by the TPC at Four Seasons Resort. This is the fourth consecutive week the players will get a taste of a TPC track, so we know what to expect. Firm and fast course setup, with excellent conditions.

The Players was jam packed with top talent in the field, so it should come as no surprise that this week will be somewhat of a letdown in that department. At the top is Jordan Spieth, who started his PGA Tour career at the Byron Nelson at the age of 16. This is when fans got their first taste of the superstar, so considering his good mojo at the event and the fact that he is a local resident, things are looking up for Spieth this week. He missed the cut at the Players and needs to get his season back on track.

After Spieth, Dustin Johnson is next up in terms of salary. He's had success at the Byron Nelson, including tying the course record during last year's tournament. There is then somewhat of a drop off, with Charlie Hoffman, Matt Kuchar, Sergio Garcia, Zach Johnson, Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen filling up the second tier. That group is all capable of winning, but the pricing is tighter this week than in week's past because their win percentage is significantly lower than what you were getting previously.

Some other names worth paying attention to are Brooks Koepka, Brandt Snedeker, Ryan Palmer and Bryson DeChambeau. DeChambeau has a limited number of spots to play himself into a full time Tour card, so he is a guy that will be getting a lot of attention this week. I mentioned Curtis Reed in the Perfect Lineup forum post yesterday. He is a young player with a load of talent, and what makes him unique is the fact that he's shot a pair of 57's on courses in the Dallas area. Just for reference, the lowest round in PGA Tour history is 59, shot five times in tournament play.

The Course

The TPC at Four Seasons Las Colinas is a par 70 and will be played at 7,166 yards this week. It was opened for play in 1986 and originally created by Jay Moorish with co-architect credit given to the tournaments namesake, Byron Nelson, as well as PGA Tour veteran Ben Crenshaw. Nelson is a Tour legend, having won the most tour events (82) in history while also creating a lifetime of goodwill by touching former and future players alike. His legacy is felt at the tournament each year, with players getting on camera and recalling stories of how Nelson impacted their career. Considering he last played a tournament several decades ago, it is a true testament to Nelson's impact as a global ambassador for the game of golf. The course saw a redesign in 2008, with Champions Tour player DA Weibring and Steve Wolford overseeing the construction.

The course is a unique test for current players, as it is a par 70 with twelve par 4's, four par 3's and only two Par 5's. The two par 5's are a critical piece of information, because one might think that favors the shorter hitters. That is not the case though, as two of the par 4's are over 500 yards, and another four are over 450 yards. This gives the bigger hitters a distinct advantage, especially with the shortish par 5's offering eagle opportunities.

The course layout doesn't necessarily jive with it being a bombers course. It features tree lined fairways that can be penalizing, and has its fair share of hazards that come into play off the tee. Also, there is a larger percentage of deep rough lining the fairways that depending on the firmness of the greens, can impact scoring a large degree. Last year's champion, Steven Bowditch, talked about it being much more of a “target-golf" course than it appears to be. In my research, I found that bombers have fared well at TPC, but aside from last year's rain soaked tournament, they didn't do it by being wayward off the tee.

The metrics I am looking at this week are Par 3 and Par 4 scoring, Proximity to Hole, Total Driving and Strokes Gained: Tee to Green. It is not a week where one skillset stands out, so I will be relying more on where the metrics point me than my knowledge of the course and tournament, which is rare for me.

The Rankings

  • 1.) Jordan Spieth: Spieth returns to the tournament where he made his PGA Tour debut, a T16 when he was still a teenager. Interestingly enough, Spieth has not improved on that finish despite returning on five occasions. His price is high ($12,500) and that offers risk in itself on a week where you can find other good options that are priced softly. With that said, Spieth needs to get his season back on track, and he would love nothing more than to do it in front of a gallery filled with his family and friends. His will to win is as high as we've ever seen, and for me, that matters.
  • 2.)Dustin Johnson: I went with my heart at #1, but my head (and the metrics) point to Johnson as the top PP$ play. Johnson is perfect in all six tries at the Byron Nelson, and that is no surprise given the advantage that he has at the TPC Four Seasons course. He's finished 8th, 7th, 20th, 7th ,4th and 63rd going to 2008. Tied the course record with a 62 in last year's third round. He comes in at $11,900, with only Jordan Spieth at a higher price point ($12,500). He's made 10 out of 10 cuts this year with five top 10's, and has been knocking on the door. He's due for a win, I will have heavy exposure to both Johnson and Spieth this week given the relative weakness at the top of the field.
  • 3.)Zach Johnson: Johnson has had a solid, yet unspectacular start to his 2016 season. His top finish came at Bay Hill (T5) earlier this season, and he struggled at TPC Sawgrass last week. His game is built on ballstriking, a skillset that shines brightest on courses that favor a litany of difficult par 4's. His price is fair this week, and I will have heavy exposure to him.
  • 4.)Ryan Palmer: Palmer, a native Texan has both course history and current form on his side this week. His price is super soft given his recent form, which includes a T4 at the Texas Open and a solid 23rd at the Players Championship. Palmer lost in a playoff in 2011 at the Byron Nelson, and has since made all four cuts with two top 10's. I will have heavy exposure in Palmer this week
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  • 5.)Matt Kuchar: Kuchar is a solid fit for the TPC, however if not for his impressive close to the Players last week, I probably would have looked elsewhere. That would have been a mistake, as Kuchar has consistently produced good results at this tournament. He's 8 for 8 in made cuts, including two top 10's in his career at the Byron Nelson, and he comes into this week having produced his best result in over a year on Tour. I wouldn't be surprised to see him under owned this week with many other sexier players around his price point.

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