Forelinx Fantasy Golf Preview ⏤ AT&T Byron Nelson

Fantasy Golf

Tpccraig Ranch1

The PGA TOUR brings a new host venue into the mix with the playing of this week's AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, TX. This tournament has moved around a little bit lately with the last three years being played at nearby Trinity Forest after a long run at the TPC Four Seasons Resort at Las Colinas. Technically, Sung Kang will be defending the title he won in this event back in 2019 by two shots over Scott Piercy and Matt Every as the 2020 edition of this tournament was cancelled due to COVID-19 and was not rescheduled.

In past years, this event has struggled to draw a good field but this week will buck that trend as the event will feature one of the strongest fields that it has had in a number of years. Two major factors are converging at once to create that change of pace--the first being the playing of the PGA Championship at Kiawah Island's Ocean Course next week. A number of PGA TOUR players prefer to play their way into major championships and a number of those players are on hand this week. The other factor continues to be the quarantine protocols that make it extremely difficult for non-American to travel home and back to the United States without dealing with lengthy quarantines on one or both ends.

The Field and the Favorites

Before we get too deeply into the field, it is worth mentioning that Dustin Johnson would have been one of if not the favorite going into this week but for his late withdrawal from the field on Monday. "It is with deepest regret that I must withdraw from this week's AT&T Byron Nelson," said the world number one. "Unfortunately, the knee discomfort I occasionally experience has returned, and after consultation with my team and trainers, I feel it is best that I remain at home and focus on my rehabilitation work."

It's hard to blame DJ for having next week's PGA Championship on his mind, but a number of the other players who actually are in the field this week will be in the field next week as well. That group is led by new tournament favorite Bryson Dechambeau (+850) who is actually in the correct geographic location for a hometown start in the Dallas/Fort Worth area. The reigning U.S. Open Champion flew home to Dallas last week on Friday after what he thought was a missed cut at Quail Hollow, but landed to discover that he had actually made the cut and would need to fly back to Charlotte for his tee time the following morning. Dechambeau made it with time to spare and shot weekend rounds of 68-68 to turn what he thought was a missed cut into a 9th place finish. If you throw out a poor start at Augusta, Dechambeau has four straight top-25 finishes including three top-tens and a win and he figures to be among the contenders come the weekend at TPC Craig Ranch.

The second favorite is Jon Rahm (+875), but he comes into this week's tournament with some uncertainty in the wake of a missed cut at Quail Hollow last week. While Rahm has put together a ton of quality performances (six top-15 finishes in eight starts) this season, he hasn't been around the top of many leaderboards lately and a lot of those top-tens are coming on the back of strong finishes on Sunday to jump into the top-ten when he wasn't really in contention. As a bet to win he may not be a great pick this week, but as a player to roster on your fantasy team he's likely to deliver a strong performance.

Jordan Spieth (+1100) comes into the week as the third favorite and it's awfully tough not to love him in his home city. The last start we saw Spieth make in Texas was his win the week before the Masters Tournament at the Valero Texas Open and his game has absolutely been trending the right direction all season. That win was hardly tough to see coming in the wake of his run of strong play both on the West Coast and in Florida and it culminated in the win at TPC San Antonio. He backed that up with a T3 finish at Augusta National and there's no reason to believe the game that he's brought to the table in 2021 has gone too far. The crowd will be behind him every step of the way at TPC Craig Ranch and it's hard to imagine he won't give them something to cheer for this week. It is, however, worth noting that Spieth is coming off a bout with COVID-19 that kept him out of a couple of events over the last month.

The Golf Course

It's tough to get a read on what will be critical at TPC Craig Ranch as it will be the first time we're seeing this golf course on the PGA TOUR schedule. It was designed by Tom Weiskopf (who has done other TPCs including WMPO host site TPC Scottsdale) and opened in 2004 to high praise. Its most prominent feature is Rowlett Creek, which meanders throughout the golf course and is present on the overwhelming majority of the holes. While the creek does come into play on a few of the approaches, it impacts quite a few of the tee shots and can victimize the wayward driver on a number of holes.

On the incoming nine there are three truly critical holes and the first among them is the drivable par-four fourteenth hole. It measures just 330 yards from the championship tees, but the water that creeps in on the left hand side awaits any overzealous player whose tee shot turns over just a shade too much. Hole locations in the front right section of the green will be extremely gettable, but those pin positions on the left half of the green will be difficult to access from the tee. We wouldn't be surprised to see a number of players go for the green to the right hand hole locations and opt to lay back on the left hand pin positions.

After a great opportunity to make birdie at fourteen, players will next face the difficult par-three fifteenth hole. The experience there will be almost entirely different as players will face a mid-to-long iron from 215 or so yards to a green defended by water in the front and left and bunkers in the back and right. Moreover, the green features a prominent ridge that runs right through its middle such that it separates the green into two distinct sections. Hole locations down in the lower bowl can utilize the ridge line to feed balls towards the flag, but the higher hole locations on the back tier will be defended by that very same contour. Come Sunday, expect the pin to be located in the back left defended both by the ridge and the water.

The closing hole should be rife with excitement as yet another Weiskopf risk/reward test awaits the players at the finish. After shaping a tee shot through a chute of fairway bunkers, the player who finds the fairway will have a chance to reach the par-five home hole in two shots. However, one last bout with Rowlett Creek awaits as the greensite is fortified in front both by the water and two large bunkers that guard each side of this two-level green. Don't be surprised to see bogies and eagles here and come Sunday any close contest will be decided by this great gamble of a finishing hole.

The weather is supposed to be relatively mild with persistent but not unmanageable breezes throughout the four days. Saturday and Sunday afternoon are likely to provide the strongest winds of the week and the leaders on Sunday may even have to contend with one of Texas' infamous thunderstorms. We wouldn't be shocked to see tee times moved up on Sunday to avoid this potential issue, but it is comforting to know that the threat of inclement weather only really exists for the very end of the golf tournament. In the absence of earlier rain in the week, we'd expect the golf course to play firm and fast for the bulk of the contest.