Today's Free Picks for
Posted Wednesday, May 16 at 11:30 AM EST.
Cutoff time for this event is May 17 at 8:00 AM EST.
AT&T Byron Nelson
This Week's Course Preview
This week the Tour heads back to Texas for the AT&T Byron Nelson, which itself is on the move. After setting up residence at the TPC layout since the 1980s, this year the tournament heads to Trinity Forest GC for the first time and what an unusual test the players can expect. This is a full throttle Links course, which will be a PGA TOUR first for quite some time, that has been described as a ‘thinking player’s layout.
Incidentally, a Links is the oldest style of golf course, first developed in Scotland. The word "links" comes via the Scots language from the Old English word hlinc and it means "rising ground, ridge" and refers to an area of coastal sand dunes and sometimes to open parkland. The British Golf Museum says that links are coastal strips of land between beaches and inland agricultural areas. So links courses simply must be by the sea for a start. However that is not the only thing that makes a true links. Sir Walter Simpson, a 19th century Scottish philosopher who wrote the book “The Art of Golf” defines links as, “The grounds on which golf is played are called links, being the barren sandy soil from which the sea has retired in recent geological times. In their natural state links are covered with long, rank bent grass and gorse. In summarizing, links courses are situated in coastal areas of flat, sandy land where the only elevation changes are brought about by natural dunes and where trees and plant life struggle to grow.
Trinity Forest GC is surrounded by trees but the actually playing surface is almost wholly devoid of them; leaving the layout rather exposed to the traditional Texan winds. The course only opened in 2016, and is yet to host a professional event of any kind, but from the pictures alone we can see that the layout has been modeled on the famous Links courses in Scotland and England – a fact confirmed by the designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw. The fairways, which have been laid using the Zoysia grass commonly found in Asia and Australia, are undulating and rather winding – their main difference to traditional Links, and these are peppered with deep bunkers that resemble the ‘pot’ hazards found at St Andrews et al. The native grasses that make up the rough have been left to grow rather wild too. The greens are Bermuda and a number of these are elevated, adding to the complexity of the challenge, and protected by hazards.
If you head to the Trinity Forest GC website there is a whole bunch of information to read, including a walk-through with former US Open champion Geoff Ogilvy. Arguably the key takeaway point from the Australian is this: “Trinity Forest is going to make us use our brains a little bit. You have to work out where your best angles are; one side of the fairway is easy, the other side is going to be difficult. Your mistakes are magnified, but your good stuff is magnified as well. Sometimes here at Trinity, the pin isn’t necessarily the target, it will be severe with the wrong shot, but very friendly with the right shot and you’ll have fun all day if you hit the right shot.”
What we’re looking for this week:
This week we’re expecting the course to play as a Par 71, with three Par 5s, at around the 7,380 yard mark. This lack of familiarity has proven to be the event’s undoing, by all accounts. A thin field, as it was, has been further depleted by withdrawals, and the field is now rather sparse to say the very least. Jordan Spieth is a heavy favorite and that’s fair enough, as he loves playing Links golf and plays well in Texas every time he sets foot in his home state. Still, at +450, you would seriously have to be out of your mind to bet Spieth when guys that are 50-1 and higher have just as good a chance. Hopefully, one or more of our choices will be on the leaderboard on Sunday.
Unless otherwise stated, the following bets to win outright will be placed at BET365 because of their cash-out option during the event:
To win outright:
Aaron Baddeley 100-1
A player with an excellent short game who thrives in Texas, Baddeley has banked top-20s in both the Houston and Texas Opens, cashing a top-five in the former. A four-time PGA TOUR winner, we can at least bank on the fact that the Aussie knows how to get the job done when in the mix; an attribute that many in this field are lacking. Baddeley ranks second for Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green this season, should be familiar with the Zoysa grass as an Australian and has a top-30 to his name on the Links in the British Open. He also ranks 20th on Tour in Scrambling and at these odds, he is most certainly worthy of a wager (Risking 0.2 units to win 20 units).
Kelly Kraft 125-1
For DFS players, this could be one of those ‘high risk, high reward’ plays that pays off. For bettors, this one is absolutely worth a wager for a small risk and high reward. Kelly Kraft studied at Southern Methodist University (SMU) which uses Trinity Forest as one of their host courses. In that sense, he should have a huge advantage over the rest of the field. There have been little glimpses of excellence this season too, which suggest the 29-year-old could prosper on his home soil. Tied for eighth in the classy Honda Classic, Kraft opened up at the tough Valspar Championship 68-70-70 and in his next outing finished solo third in the Corales Puntacana Championship. Cast your mind back a bit further and you might recall Kraft chasing Jordan Spieth home in the AT&T Pebble Beach, which is played on a Links-style layout. Kraft ranks 40th ON TOUR in putting and so for all the above those reasons, along with the price tag, we’re happy to roll with KK this week (Risking 0.2 units to win 25 units).
Kevin Na 60-1
Sometimes you pick a player on price alone, and there is simply no way that somebody with Kevin Na’s magic around the greens should be priced in the same range as others that are in this range that are clearly inferior to him. There is always the worry that the wind could blow his short drives off course, but he has a habit of making things happen nonetheless; as evidenced by his second place finish at the Genesis Open. A little out of form prior to last week, Na served up three rounds under par at TPC Sawgrass to suggest he is trending in the right direction again. He’s also made the cut in each of his last four starts in the British Open, and last year carded a pair of 68s. Na ranks 1st ON TOUR in SG: Around-the-Green, 11th ON TOUR in Scrambling and 53rd in Putting (Risking 0.2 units to win 12 units).
Head-to-head Matchups for AT&T Byron Nelson
HEAD-TO-HEAD MATCHUPS for AT&T Byron Nelson
The H2H wagers below are for 72 holes:
Jimmy Walker came second at the Players Championship last week so he comes into this week with his stock soaring and that’s a good enough angle to try and take advantage of. What’s so interesting is that in the H2H matchups at Pinnacle Sports, Hideki Matsuyama is matched up against them both. However, Matsuyama is -132 over Walker and just -117 over Branden Grace, which gives us a little insight and makes Grace the value here simply by “reading between the lines”. While Jimmy Walker is good, he’s not nearly as consistent as Grace. Walker can lose it at any time, as he did last August when he missed five cuts in a row and them missed the cut at the Genesis Open in February. You may hear or read about Walker’s good form lately but when expectation are high, Walker usually shoots high.
Be under no illusions that Jordan Spieth is a worthy favorite but not worth betting on at 4½-1 to win it. However, Branden Grace, the supremely talented South African has just as good a shot. When you hit the ball as hard and as low as Grace does, the wind is almost taken out of the equation. There’s no secret why he has won on the Links at Harbour Town and posted the lowest ever round in the British Open just last summer. The 29-year-old even has an Alfred Dunhill Links Championship title to his name over on the European Tour, and in his penultimate start, he posted a supremely good final round of 67 to ensure a top-25 finish in The Masters. Grace ranks 1st ON TOUR in Scrambling from 20-30 yards – 6th in SG: Putting and 27th SG: Total and is an absolute steal heads up against Jimmy Walker -- win or lose (Risking 2.14 units to win 2).
Over his last 16 events, Seamus Power has missed the cut eight times. In his last four events played in Texas, Power has missed the cut once and finished 57t, 58th and 60th respectively in the other three. The last Texas event he played was the Texas Open on April 22 and he missed the cut. Prior, he also played in the Houston open the week before and finished 60th. Power does not have pedigree on Links course that we could find but we do see that he missed the cut in two of three tries in his career in Ireland and finished 60th in the other.
A couple of weeks ago, Andrew Putnam and partner Michael Kim contended for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and it was Putnam's performance which drove the team to what was ultimately a disappointing 15th. Still, from a personal perspective it was another encouraging performance from the 29-year-old, who had earlier produced the best PGA Tour performance of his career to take eighth in the Texas Open, in turn building on fifth in the low-key event held in the Dominican Republic and a solid 32nd in Houston. It was in Houston where Putnam once made his PGA Tour debut as a Monday qualifier and he has fond memories of Texas, having romped to a seven-shot breakthrough win in the now-defunct WNB Classic on the http://Web.com Tour, an event held just five hours west of Dallas at Midland Country Club. Given the space afforded players off the tee here, his key weakness - driving - may be less of an issue and in turn allow the rest of his game to shine. At 41st in approaches and as a player who at his best is known for his work on the greens, that makes Putnam a great choice to beat Seamus Power (Risking 2.12 units to win 2).
We absolutely love that Pinnacle Sports has Keith Mitchell listed in the H2H’s because it is only recognizable names that usually make the H2H board. JB Holmes is a recognizable name that everyone knows while Keith Mitchell is an unknown that only hardcores and a few casuals know about. The point is that you do not see H2H matchups like this very often. One might see Mitchell matched up against another unknown, like Joaquin Niemann for instance in a slim field but not an unknown v a known unless the unknown has a great chance to win.
JB Holmes may have a good event because he can come alive without notice but the more likely scenario is that he misses the cut or makes the cut and finishes outside the top 40 or 50. In 2018, J.B. Holmes has played 11 events, has missed the cut in five of them and his best finish is 32nd. In the other five events that he’s played in, Holmes has finished 60th, 49th, 46th, 41st, and 42nd. J.B Holmes is in a massive decline and may never get it back. Out of shape and now 37 years old, Holmes’ best days are behind him.
Meanwhile, Keith Mitchell is an outstanding young talent that you will hearing lots more about in the near future. He’s even worth betting at 90-1 this week because he’s going to pop one day soon. Mitchell finished T-11 at the Valspar Championship in his PGA Tour debut last year. He also finished 2nd at Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship in the Dominican Republic in March, not to mention a 6th place finish at the Houston Open and 26th at the Texas Open. Keith Mitchell is a focused, determined and talented golfer that takes his craft very seriously. He is supremely motivated in everything he does and has even added working out daily to his routine in an attempt to get better. Mitchell has been seen on the first page of the leaderboard at some point in three of his six events and it’s only a matter of time until he remains there and finishes the deal. We don’t need him to win this week, as we’re only asking him to finish ahead of J.B. and we’re confident that he will (Risking 2 units to win 2.30 units).
Others to consider to win outright or for DFS (Daily Fantasy):
Horse for the Course is
Marc Leishman is an outstanding player who makes our board as HORSE this week because he looks like such an attractive proposition indeed at this (DFS) price. The Aussie nearly won the British Open in 2015, and he has two other top-10s on the UK Links. And in a field of such low standards, the fact he won two high-quality events in 2017 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and the BMW Championship seals the deal for us. In the past six or seven weeks, Leishman has banked top-10s in the Arnie P and at the Masters, and so really his selection as Horse is as good as it gets. Leishman ranks 8th ON TOUR in SG: Around-the-Green, 16th in Par 4 Birdie or Better Leaders and 27th in SG: Approach.
Others to consider:
A tournament winner in penultimate start, it is not beyond crazy that Piercy could double-up in Dallas. It would be fair to say that Billy Horschel did much of the heavy lifting in that Zurich Classic triumph, but Piercy certainly played his part courtesy of some sublime ball-striking from tee-to-green. He can’t putt for toffee, we know that, but perhaps seeing his good friend Horschel offer up a masterclass a couple of weeks ago may just spur him on. Ranking first on Tour for SG: Approach, nobody is better placed to find these tricky greens than Piercy, and if they are as complex as has been suggested, then the advantage that the supreme putters have over the mere mortals will be tempered somewhat anyway. If he putts adequately, Piercy could steal this event.
In a field as lacking in proven PGA TOUR winners as this, it pays to back those that have been there, done it and gotten the trophies to prove it. James Hahn is a two-time PGA TOUR champion who could well have made it three had he not lipped out on the 18th in this event 12 months ago; that ultimately prevented him from entering into the playoff against Horschel and Day. In total, Hahn has racked up 14 top-10 finishes, so quotes of 100/1+ are more than fair here. The 36-year-old has a strong all-round game and seems to prosper in the wind; he was solo second in the Sony Open earlier this season, and T11 at the Phoenix Open too.
Charles Howell III
If Charles Howell III is ever going to win again, you suspect it will come in a low-grade affair in Texas….and here we are. With top-fives to his name in Dallas and Houston, Chucky Three-Sticks loves it in this neck of the woods, and he’s such a consistent performer that his game tends to travel across states too. He’s banked T21 or better returns in three of his last four starts – and in better company than this, it must be added – and if you want to ensure a good run for your money how about this: CHIII has made the cut in 15/17 appearances this season. A nice DFS guy that almost always makes the cut.
Total units wagered is 6.86 units and we'll update the results at the completion of this event.
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AT&T Byron Nelson (Risking 6.86 units - To Win: 0.00)