Main Bet: Adam Hadwin each way @ 51.050/1
The AT&T Byron Nelson found another new home last year when it moved to TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, a suburb just over 30 miles north of Dallas.
The curveball was slightly negated by the course being used previously on the Korn Ferry Tour although when KH Lee was crowned the winner last May, punters were forgiven for tweeting shrug emojis and moving quickly on.
A full year of PGA Tour form will hopefully help solve the puzzle this week and the most notable stat from 2021 was that five of the top six were ranked between 2nd and 7th for Strokes Gained: Approach.
Only runner-up Scott Stallings took a different path, the American ranking 42nd for SG: Approach but compensating by finishing 1st for SG: Putting.
The need for good iron play is backed up by a quick glance at the 2012 Korn Ferry event held at TPC Craig Ranch – a lengthy Tom Weiskopf design with bentgrass greens. Strokes Gained stats aren’t available but the first five hole ranked 4th, 11th, 11th, 11th and 1st for Greens In Regulation.
With the US PGA Championship taking place next week (look out for my trends preview this Wednesday), a few glamor names are taking part and the identity of a couple of them is no surprise given their Texas conditions.
Masters champ Scottie Scheffler heads the betting at 9/1 while fellow Texan Jordan Spieth is third favorite at 16s. The field also includes 12/1 Justin Thomas and 18/1 Dustin Johnson.
All deserve respect but for my main bet I’m going to scroll down to 50/1 and put up Adam Hadwin.
The Canadian ranks 17th for Strokes Gained: Approach this season and has picked up at least 3.2 strokes over the field in six of his last six individual strokeplay events.
During that time period he had a string of strong finishes in the Southern States with tied ninth at The Players Championship, tied seventh at the Valspar Championship and tied fourth at the Valero Texas Open.
He’s since added tied 26th at Hilton Head before missing the cut at the Zurich Classic pairs event alongside Adam Svensson. Whatever.
The fourth at the Texas Open is certainly extra relevant given that it came in the Lone Star State and was played the week before a major, the same deal he has in front of him this week.
Hadwin’s previous start in Texas resulted in tied eighth at the Charles Schwab Challenge so he clearly enjoys his golf here.
But best of all he finished third at this very course when TPC Craig Ranch staged the Web.com Tour Championship in 2012. Hadwin shot 69-69-68-65.
This is his first return since and hopefully some positive mental associations will come flooding back.
Take Hadwin at 50/1.
Main Bet: Aaron Wise each way @ 51.050/1
My second pick is another 50/1 chance, Aaron Wise.
If you want a recent example of excellent iron play check out Wise’s numbers at the Mexico Open where he gained 7,745 strokes on Approach (rank: 3rd).
Also 2nd for SG: Tee To Green (10,333) that week, Wise finished in a tie for sixth place.
That built on a tied 21st at the RBC Heritage on his previous start and tied 17th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational.
If Wise and the Byron Nelson is scratching away at your brain a bit, that’s because he won this tournament at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas four years ago.
He shot 23-under that week while his one Web.com/Korn Ferry win was achieved with 21-under.
It suggests he’s best in a tournament where the birds are flying and this could be it given that Lee triumphed with 25-under 12 months ago.
Wise is 20th for Greens In Regulation and 31st for SG: Approach on the season-long stats while 22nd for Scoring Average is also impressive.
The obvious weakness appears to come on the greens where he’s 140th for SG: Putting. But he ranked 21st in that category at Hilton Head and again produced positive numbers in Mexico.
Speaking at the former, he made this positive comment about his putting: “I went to it [brookstick putter] last season right before the playoffs. It’s been great.
“I felt like I putted bad for long enough that I was ready to try something completely different.
“It kind of reset things for me, and I was able to start gaining confidence rather than losing it. From there, I’ve just kind of built with it.”
In Mexico, Wise also showed his ability to shoot low scores by firing rounds of 65-75-66-64.
That weekend blitz was fuelled by 14 birdies so his game looks in ideal shape to attack TPC Craig Ranch.
Final Bet: Dylan Frittelli each-way @ 101.0100/1
I’m going to stick with the Texas angle and add in Dylan Frittelli at a three-figure price.
The South African went to the University of Texas and, importantly, has been able to turn that local connection into tangible results when teeing it up in PGA Tour events.
There was evidence of that just last month when he finished eighth at the Texas Open. That’s good but it was actually a little bit better than that as he was the 54-hole leader.
After round three, Frittelli said: “If there are three tournaments that I want to win in my career, it’s the South African Open and the Texas Open and a major.
“Those three are still waiting to be ticked off on my resume, so I’m going to give it all I can tomorrow.”
Perhaps the desire to just put a little too much pressure on him on Sunday but it’s fair to presume that any win in Texas would be fairly high on his wish-list and therefore he could be a factor this week.
Frittelli has two top 10s and a further top 20 in his last four Texas starts while his Strokes Gained: Approach numbers are strong too.
He ranked 22nd for SGA in both that Texas Open and the Arnold Palmer Invitational while between that pair he finished 11th for Approach at The Players Championship.
Speaking at the halfway point of the Texas Open he said: “Last week I worked with Chuck Cook, my coach back in Austin, and had really good two sessions with him that helped a lot on the long game.
“So feeling really comfortable from tee to green right nowwhich is kind of the forte of my game and the thing that propelled me onto the PGA Tour. “
He looks a good bet at 100/1.