If you told me the PGA Tour was setting up shop in Texas at a brand new course and they needed a name for it, “TPC Craig Ranch” is probably the most stereotypically Texan name you could’ve came up with. You’re telling me TPC Brisket Barn was already booked up this week? We couldn’t get Pecan Pie Pines either?!
The Tour absolutely loves throwing a fly over Texas event on the schedule the week before a Major. We saw it last month at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio prior to the 2021 Masters, and we saw it at the Houston Open in November prior to the 2020 Masters. Because of that, we tend to see weaker fields at the AT&T Byron Nelson, and it tends to be a spot where players who are already qualified for the PGA Championship are likely to use as a tune up. The former is not the case this year, but it explains why Sung Kang is your reigning champion, and Aaron Wise before that. On the other hand, it is the last chance for many of the fringe players to qualify for the PGA Championship, so players who are not already qualified will be highly motivated to win their way into next week’s Major Championship.
Unlike the Byron Nelson events in the past, this field actually looks to be loaded, which is a bit of a surprise considering many of the game’s best could have stayed put in Carolina after the Wells Fargo for some extra practice reps before heading over to Kiawah Island. I would speculate that we’ll see at least one or two of the top names pull out before tee off on Thursday, and if that’s true, you’ll want to get your outrights in early on Monday before those WD’s come flying.
Very much like what we saw at The Concession for the WGC Workday in March, this week presents a challenge to profile what to look out for on a course we’ve never seen a PGA event contested at. We do know that it’s located in McKinney, Texas, which is about a 30 minute drive north of Dallas and east of the University of North Texas. Jordan Spieth, Cameron Champ, Ryan Palmer, Kramer Hickok, Harry Higgs, Will Zalatoris, and Scottie Scheffler highlight a list of players in the field this week with ties to the greater Dallas area. There are also two UNT alumni, and former teammates in the field this week: Carlos Ortiz, and (fans self aggressively) Sebastian Munoz. If there is one thing I can guarantee this week, it’s that I’ll be the very first person to submit a Sebastian Munoz FRL ticket. This is our week!
TPC Craig Ranch Club Course Specs
- Yards: 7,468
- Par: 72 (4x 3’s / 12x 4’s / 4x 5’s)
- Grass: Bent Greens, Zoysia Fairways
- Architect: Tom Weiskopf
- Comp Courses: TPC San Antonio, GC of Houston, TPC Twin Cities
- Recent Past Winners: Sung Kang (19), Aaron Wise (18), Billy Horschel (17), Sergio Garcia (16), Steven Bowditch (15), Brendon Todd (14)
You’re not going to find any course history SG data out there this week, but there is some (dated) course history results we can dig up from past Korn Ferry (Web.com at the time) contests held here. The 2012 “Korn Ferry” Championship was the last event held at TPC Craig Ranch. The winner, Justin Bolli, is not in the field this week, but we will see a return from several high finishers in that event again this week, notably James Hahn (2), Luke List (T13), and Ben Martin (T13). I don’t think it’s wise to put any stock behind performance at the 2008 Korn Ferry Championship, which was also held here, but for what it’s worth, Marc Leishman (T7) was the only other player in this week’s field who had a decent performance in that contest.
A stat I’m going to be making up this week is called SG: Texas. I targeted the University of Texas alumni for the WGC Match Play at Austin CC when we were limited on data to go off of, and each of the Longhorns in the field (Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler, Dylan Frittelli) advanced out of group play. This week, I looked for the Top 10 SG: TOT at Texas Courses since 2017, which includes TPC San Antonio, Trinity Forest, Colonial, GC of Houston, Memorial Park, and Austin CC. The Top 5 Players SG: Texas come as little surprise: Brooks Koepke, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler, and Jon Rahm. The next five names to round out the Top 10 however are an interesting mix: Rory Sabatini, Carlos Ortiz, Peter Uihlein, Sung Kang, and Sebastian Munoz. The dynamic UNT duo of Carlos Ortiz & Sebastian Munoz will definitely have my attention this week.
Sung Kang is your defending AT&T Byron Nelson champion, which is a disgusting sentence to type, and I was prepared to talk about how that means nothing for the 2021 AT&T Byron Nelson, since his win came at Trinity Forest, a vastly different course from TPC Craig Ranch. Coincidentally however, Kang is a resident of McKinney, Texas and a member at TPC Craig Ranch, so he actually will have a distinct advantage on the field coming into this week. As far as I could find across the Internet, Kang is the only player in the field this week who is a member here.
The decision to move the AT&T Byron Nelson from Trinity Forest to TPC Craig Ranch was twofold. The first was to make this a more fan-friendly viewing experience, as logistically, Trinity Forest struggled to attract mass crowds for past tournaments. TPC Craig Ranch, however, is a championship style, stadium course that can accommodate larger crowds (10,000 per day in attendance) and is set up for a loud closing stretch. It’s not quite TPC Scottsdale, but that is the vibe they’re going for with the new venue. The second reason for change was to get back to a more challenging layout. Aaron Wise and Sung Kang, mainstays at the bottom of leaderboards for years, broke the AT&T Byron Nelson scoring record in successive years at Trinity Forest, so the goal of the course shift is also to return to lower winning scores in the -10 to -14 range we’d been used to seeing at the Four Seasons Resort course.
- Recent Form (SG: TOT, T2G)
- SG: Ball Striking
- SG: OTT
- SG: APP
- P3 200-225
- P4 0-350, 450-500
- P5 550-600
- Texas Course History
- SG: Putting (Bent)
Stats To Avoid
- SG: ARG
- AT&T Byron Nelson Event History
It’s tough to have a very scientific approach to this week without the aid of any Strokes Gained data at TPC Craig Ranch from years past. A look through pictures and videos of the course would suggest that the rough is not incredibly thick/penal, and there are large collection areas around the greens which should in theory level the playing field for SG: ARG. Rowlett Creek is the centerpiece of this course, running right through the heart of it and in play on 13 holes. Because of this constantly threatening water hazard, players will need a solid game OTT to keep the ball in play.
Without much to go off of, I’m by default going to favor Recent Form, Ball Strikers and Approach Players. I’ll also be putting a more particular emphasis on the previously mentioned hole distances which seem to be funneled for this course, as well as SG: P on Bent greens and general performance in the state of Texas.
There are just 11 players in the Field this week to rank Top 50 in SG: T2G and Top 100 in each of the above Key Stats: Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Doug Ghim, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Jordan Spieth, Daniel Berger, Ryan Moore, Jason Day, Russell Knox, Hank Lebioda, and James Hahn.
Spotlight: Sebastian Munoz
I could have left the Spotlight as a one-off feature last week and retired it after Will Zalatoris let me down so flamboyantly. But then I saw my very favorite player to bet on Tour pop throughout the limited research that was available, and so that felt like a sign to keep the lights on and point them at Sebastian Munoz.
If you’re new to thepgatout.com, I have a longstanding tradition to place a Sebastian Munoz FRL bet every single week he plays. Munoz cashed as a FRL three times in 2020; I was there to cash two of them, and when the third hit, I vowed never to miss another one again.
In most week’s, my blind faith in Munoz stops on Thursdays, but in the rare moments where is a good fit with his form and/or Course History, I’m there, and this week I am going to be invested for 4 days.
The pride of the Mean Green, Sebastian Munoz gets a nice homecoming back to the surrounding University of North Texas area where he spent his collegiate career. And as previously mentioned, Munoz ranks 10th SG: TOT in the state of Texas, so we can expect a degree of familiarity this week at a track he has presumably seen before, even if not in a competitive or professional round. The last time Munoz entered the state of Texas the week before a Major, he left with a T9 at the Valero Texas Open, his best finish of 2021. He was also a T10 finisher at previous AT&T Byron Nelson event played at Trinity Forest.
The recent form has been a bit up and down lately, but he’s gained strokes OTT in 5 consecutive starts coming in to go along with three straight outings where he’s gained strokes Putting, so look for him to keep those streaks going this week.
What To Look Out For at the 2021 AT&T Byron Nelson
My biggest question I always ask myself for events that take place one week before a Major is “How much do the top players in this field actually care to win, or are they just tuning up their games for the following week?”. That speculation of mine led to a fade of Jordan Spieth at the 2021 Valero Texas Open, so I’m willing to be a little more open minded towards the top of the board in DFS, though they will continue to elude my betting card. Given the lack of good data out there on this course this week, I’ll likely take a conservative approach with a tight card and save my units for the PGA Championship (I say this now but have no self control and will probably end this week with a full card anyway).
Last week Will Zalatoris burned me pretty badly, but not bad enough for me to completely abandon him one week later. He’s yet again on my short list of players I’ll be eying before odds and procing drop on Monday.
- Tier 1 (<20/1, $10K+): Jordan Spieth, Bryson DeChambeau, John Rahm, Dustin Johnson
- Tier 2 (20-39/1, $9K): Daniel Berger, Will Zalatoris, Scottie Scheffler
- Tier 3 (40-69/1, $8K): Ryan Palmer, Matt Fitzpatrick, Marc Leishman, Jason Day
- Tier 4 (70-100/1, $7K): Sung Kang, Sebastian Munoz, Carlos Ortiz, Doug Ghim, Talor Gooch, James Hahn, Russell Knox
- Tier 5 (>100/1, $6K): Ben Martin, Kramer Hickock, Hank Lebioda, Luke List, Aaron Wise, Roger Sloan, Harry Higgs, Rory Sabatini, Peter Uihlein
The #1 player in my model this week, which includes all of the above Key Stats and a premium on Ball Striking, is Daniel Berger. He’s followed by Jon Rahm, Bryson DeChambeau, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepke, Matthew Fitzpatrick, Doug Ghim, Dustin Johnson, Scottie Scheffler, and Ryan Palmer.