HP Byron Nelson Championship: A preview and best bets for the PGA Tour event in Texas
By Dave Tindall
Last Updated: 12/05/14 10:52pm
Martin Kaymer became the first European to win on the PGA Tour in 2014 with his victory at Sawgrass but the odds suggest a home American winner at this week's HP Byron Nelson Championship.
Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar, Jimmy Walker and Keegan Bradley front the betting and if there is to be another Euro winner the man most likely is probably Kaymer himself.
Fresh from his brilliant win at The Players Championship, the German lines up in Texas for just the second time although he has positive memories to draw upon from his previous visit.
For the 29th successive year, the the TPC course at Las Colinas plays host. Between 1994 and 2007 it shared tournament duties with the nearby Cottonwood Valley course but wrestled back full control six years ago as the sole layout used.
Since staging all four rounds again, the winning scores have varied considerably: -7 (Adam Scott, 2008), -19 (Rory Sabbatini, 2009), -10 (Jason Day, 2010), -3 (Keegan Bradley, 2011), -11 (Jason Dufner, 2012) and -13 (Sang-moon Bae, 2013).
The discrepancies are explained by the Texas winds which were sustained at 25mph and gusting at 40mph when Bradley won in 2011. To show the contrast, last year in benign conditions the American carded a stunning 60 in round one.
Renovated extensively ahead of the 2008 event, the layout features undulating greens and tree-lined fairways. The par 70 clocks in at 7,166 yards and the large greens ensure that those wanting to contend will have to perform well with the flat-stick.
During his career, the great man won 52 PGA Tour events, including five majors. His most incredible achievement came in 1945 when he won an astonishing 18 times, including 11-in-a-row. And you thought Tiger in his pomp was good! He passed away in 2006.
The current forecast suggests sunshine on all four tournament days, with temps rising from the high 60s on Thursday to the mid 70s on the final day. The winds are set to pick up on the weekend to around 17/18mph.
The leading contenders - and Sky Bet odds
Jordan Spieth (12/1): Dallas-born Spieth was first invited to play this tournament as a 16-year-old in 2010 and produced a fairytale performance, contending (he was seventh with a round to go) and eventually finishing 16th. That suggested we could have a potential superstar on our hands and he's certainly lived up to the hype since. After a stellar 2013, he's now challenging seriously for the game's biggest prizes and in his last three starts he's finished runner-up in The Masters and fourth in last week's Players Championship. However, given that he still only has one win to his name, it's debatable whether we should be backing him at short prices just yet.
Matt Kuchar (12/1): Kuchar has been in superb form on the PGA Tour this season, producing form figures of 4-2-5-1 before a relatively modest 17th in last week's Players Championship. Now 5th in the world rankings and 3rd in the FedEx Cup standings, Kuchar is also 2nd in Scoring Average this season and 3rd on the Money List with over $3m already in the bank. His form in this event is solid rather than spectacular with six cuts made out of six but just one top 10. However, in Texas as a whole he's finished second, fourth and second in his last three tournaments so he loves the Lone Star State.
Jimmy Walker (18/1): Walker shot to prominence by transforming himself from a nearly man to a proven winner with three victories (Frys.com, Sony and Pebble Beach) between October 2013 and February 2014. And he's not been resting on his laurels since having finished eighth on his Masters debut and sixth (after a poor opening round 75) in last week's Players Championship. As a Texan, this is a home event for Walker although he hasn't fared particularly well at Las Colinas. Although he's made the weekend six times in the last seven years he's yet to crack the top 20.
Keegan Bradley (20/1): Bradley battled tough conditions to win this event on his debut in 2011 and, after a 24th in 2012, finished runner-up last year after opening with a sensational 10-under 60 in round one. As to why he likes the venue, he reflected last year: "I can't quite figure out what it is about this course, but there are a couple of holes where there are bunkers and I can rip it over the bunker and holes that fit my eye well. I feel comfortable out here, you can hit a lot of drivers which I like." As for current form, he missed the cut at Augusta and Sawgrass but, inbetween, was eighth in New Orleans.
Martin Kaymer (20/1): The German is back in the big-time again and $1.8m richer after suriviving a late wobble to win last week's prestigious Players Championship. He'd dropped hints that he was coming back to form by finishing 31st at Augusta (his best Masters finish in seven tries), 23rd at Hilton Head and 18th in the Wells Fargo when seventh with a round to play. It'll be a big ask to follow up his emotionally-draining Sawgrass success with a win here although his one start in the Byron Nelson produced a fifth place last year after rounds of 68-67-69-68 and he said of the course: "A lot of holes go left to right, it really suits my eye."
Charl Schwartzel (22/1): Like fellow major-winner Kaymer, Schwartzel took to this course straight away on his debut 12 months ago, finishing third after rounds of 63-70-69-68. He hasn't really sparked into life in 2014 despite a decent string of results which include a fifth at Riveira, a ninth in the Cadillac and top 20s in Houston and Hilton Head. Looking at his stats, the problem seems fairly obvious as he's a surprising 195th for Greens In Regulation. His irons were slightly better at Sawgrass last week but it didn't stop him finishing in 48th.
Dustin Johnson (25/1): Sawgrass was never really up Johnson's street and the 59th came as no great surprise - especially as it came on the back of a disappointing missed cut in The Masters. He's had much more success in this event though, with a fourth in 2009, a seventh in 2010 and a 20th on his last visit in 2011. He said back then: "It's always been a good golf course for me, it sets up well. You know, I just like it. I've liked it since the first time I came here. I like the green complexes, you can work the ball into the hole locations, and the greens are good and I read them well, so I putt pretty good out here." That suggests a return to his hot early-season form (two seconds and a fourth) could be on the cards.
There's no denying Jordan Spieth's talent but who is better value - the 20-year-old at 12/1 or proven winner Dustin Johnson at 25/1?
While Spieth had a full week under the gun at Sawgrass, DJ strolled round stress-free in even par. Johnson's 59th place finish added to previous Players Championship results of withdrawn, 57th, 34th, missed cut, missed cut.
In other words it's fairly easy to discard that result and, instead, remind ourselves that Johnson has racked up eight PGA Tour wins and is still in his 20s.
When you take that record and put him on a course where he excels (this one!), the 25/1 looks very, very appealing.
Big hitters such as Adam Scott, Jason Day and Keegan Bradley have all won this event in recent years and the latter points out how there's lots of potential to hit driver.
That plays into Johnson's hands and should also suit fellow monster-driver Gary Woodland.
Woodland hasn't quite put four rounds together here but he's twice carded 65 and in both 2011 and 2013 he was fifth going into the final round.
He's in excellent form (16-8-20-26-18-11 in his last six starts) and is already a two-time PGA Tour winner in his relatively fledgling career (he turned pro in 2007) so has enormous potential.
"I'm very comfortable with my game," said Woodland last week and it's clear he's thriving under the tutealage of Butch Harmon.
Growing up in Kansas means he can handle any wind that arrives (as can Dustin Johnson) so he looks a good bet at 25s.
Finally, Marc Leishman is a real course specialist and gave himself a timely boost for one of his favourite events of the year when closing with a 67 to finish tied 23rd at Sawgrass last week.
The Aussie's results in this event are 12th, 3rd, MC, 12th and 8th and he said in 2012: "I like the wind, and it's good that the greens are firm and they are what I grew up on. It's been a good place for me."
He was just 18/1 here last year so the 40/1 is worth an each-way punt.
2pts e.w. Dustin Johnson at 25/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2pts e.w. Gary Woodland at 25/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Marc Leishman at 40/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)