2021 Byron Nelson
A welcome change of Sunday fortunes as Rory McIlroy avoided a final hole collapse to collect a third Wells Fargo title. Once again it was his putter he had to thank for a Quail Hollow victory, and though there was a massive improvement in his long game since Augusta, he will hope to eke out a bit more in that department prior to the season’s second Major. Personally, I would have preferred Keith Mitchell to take the honours as I had topped up on the machine at 290 before the off. I do feel his misfortune on the 5th hole, where his approach was about a foot out, may have been the difference between winning and losing. Such is golf.
I was a bit disappointed with the weekend showing of Matt Jones, who I expected to put up a sterner fight for our Top Rest of World wager. If there was a source of frustration last week, it was Stewart Cink. A very poor back 9 on Saturday derailed a Top 20 assault, and only for that triple bogey on the 18th on moving day, I feel we would have collected. A very good week could have been a great one, but they are still in the tank I hope.
Viktor Hovland collected Top Continental Euro by a landslide 12 strokes, and in all truth that bet was as good as banked once Jon Rahm failed to birdie his 36th hole. Rahm’s display struck of rust, plenty of good stuff, but a few too many silly errors. He won’t be one I will be looking to take on again in the near future. Indeed I wish he wasn’t playing this week, as I really like him at Kiawah next week, and going in off a first missed cut since Jesus was a lad would have artificially boosted his price.
We are already on the brink of the season’s second Major, and the AT&T Byron Nelson performs the roll of warm up event this year. Having made its home at Las Colinas, the event moved to Trinity Forest in 2018 for a short two year stint. Having been one of the events to miss out last year due the Covid cull, we are now headed to another new venue for the 2021 renewal, as TPC Craig Ranch makes its PGA Tour debut. With wide open fairways, and a lengthy enough 7470 yards, this Par 71 sets up favourably for those who can get it out there off the tee. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it suit a similar type to last week, though I would imagine it will play quite a bit easier than Quail Hollow. With that in mind, a few players prominent at the Wells Fargo will feature in my selections here. Water is a feature here, and if the wind does blow, they combined could keep the scoring honest. At present we look set for a soft opening, and I would expect the winner to require sub 20 under par to be victorious.
Players of Interest:
Quite frankly those at the head of the market really are of very little interest to me here. The approach play of Bryson DeChambeau on Sunday gone did catch the eye, and in a rare show of interest in the big man, he was on my short list this week. He left it fairly sharpish when quotes of 9/1 and shorter started appearing.
Dustin Johnson will be desperate to find something here ahead of the more important test ahead next week, and from a betting perspective he certainly comes with risks attached at this stage. Obviously with him only the 3rd favourite here, that is definitely somewhat factored into the market, but even still I couldn’t pull the trigger on him. **Now a Non Runner
Jon Rahm will go well I feel, I just hope he doesn’t go too well and scupper his price for next week, at a course I really like his chances on. The 18 available on Betfair for the USPGA is a far superior bet in my opinion than the 8/1 being bandied about for this. I don’t feel this is a course to be taking short prices about anyone. Whack it out there, and hope for a hot putter could well be the order of the day, and that brings fields much closer together. The cream is not as likely to rise to the top.
It is with that thought in mind that Jordan Spieth is also passed by. He could well have won The Masters but for a poor putting week, and will need his old ally to be back in business to contend here. His Texas form is superb in the main, and given his unerring consistency since that reincarnation at The Phoenix he is obviously deserving of much respect here. A watching brief for me though.
Brooks Koepka is another who comes with a health warning, though like DJ he is a bigger price than you would expect if fully fit. I imagine he is itching to play next week, he clearly wasn’t ready for Augusta, and will hope to manage a pain free 4 rounds here ahead of it. A win would be quite the feat.
One man who comes here with no worries about his most recent form, is Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama. I can’t begin to imagine the media demands that have been placed on him in the intervening weeks though, and this is probably a return to work week that will hopefully set him up for Kiawah. He’l be busy in the media centre.
It is a track I expect will suit Will Zalatoris, who can hit it as long as anyone, and is also pretty streaky with the putter. If he finds his touch on the dancefloor he will be a handful for anyone, but I thought he might have seen his odds push a little higher off last week’s misses cut.
All those listed above have chances of sorts, but at the prices none really appeal to me. I have gone south in the market this week, in the belief that this could well be won by anyone this week.
I am very surprised at the price available on CAMERON CHAMP. There is a lot of guesswork involved as to what type of player this week’s test will suit best, but my penny’s worth is that someone of Champ’s length and improved wedge play is entitled to more respect from the market. It was the Texas Open that signalled a return to form for Champ, an opening 77 put behind him over an excellent closing 54 holes, which preceded another top effort at Augusta. The fairways here at Craig Ranch are generous, and the two time Tour winner will be very aggressive off the tee, setting up some favourable looks into the greens. He really should take the Par 5’s apart here, and given his recent improvement in his approach game, he should be facing birdie putts on more holes than most this week. A few silly 3 putts apart, he actually putted quite well at Augusta. Though you could never call him a good putter, he can be streaky with the flat stick and that is what will be required here. With his style of game, when he is a little off with the driver it can mean big trouble, and for that reason he will always have periods where he appears to be in very poor form. But it is never far away, just exaggerated, and at his best he is nowhere near an 80/1 shot here. Given his display in Texas, how he contended for much of the week at Augusta, and again threatened alongside Finau in New Orleans I feel Champ is operating at a level that warrants him the utmost of respect here. In all honesty, I would rate him a 40-45/1 shot, and as such have had a slightly larger than normal bet for an 80/1 poke.
As said earlier it’s not an event I want to be wading in at short odds in the outright market, but at 40/1 RYAN PALMER makes it onto the team sheet. Without a missed cut since last year’s US Open, Palmer has some excellent finishes in that time span. Runner up at the Farmers Insurance, he has also revelled in some low scoring contests such as this is likely to be. He shot -19 to be 4th in a good quality Zozo, -23 to be also 4th against all the previous years winners in the Tournament of Champions, and found birdies aplenty alongside Jon Rahm to be 7th in the recent Zurich Classic. That team event display came after promising showings at both Augusta and here in Texas, and though Palmer doesn’t win too often he does look highly likely to contend here. Very competitive for distance off the tee, he will also be well equipped to whatever the Texas winds may throw at them this week, and as indicated above, can go low with the best of them. 14th for birdie average this term, and 7th for eagles per hole, I feel this test sets up ideally for Palmer and am keen to have him on board. A local, living less than an hour away, he also owns the course record of 61 around here. He generally over performs in his Texas outings, and on a course the majority will be seeing for the first time, Palmer ticks plenty of boxes this week.
Craig Ranch isn’t Quail Hollow, but as was the case last week, length will likely be a prerequisite. As such those that excelled there may bounce straight back out with another good showing here. For much of the first 3 rounds CARLOS ORTIZ threatened to take a hand in the destination of the Wells Fargo title, and but for playing his final 19 holes in 11 over par, I don’t think we would be seeing quotes of 80/1 this week. That 7 on the 18th on Saturday, followed by the horror show on Sunday was reminiscent of how Keith Mitchell finished up at the Valspar prior to Quail, and as ever I am more than amenable to forgiving one bad round. Especially at an inflated price. Having been in the doldrums it is even more understandable that he backed out of contention, but those first 53 holes suggested that the form of his Phoenix Open 4th back in February wasn’t very far away at all. His showing at the Zozo back in late September was another such revival performance after a poor spell, and he duly won the Houston Open on his next outing. I quite like the chances of the Mexican doing similar here, and at 80/1 we don’t have to pay too much to find out.
AARON WISE is a golfer I have followed quite closely over the past couple of years. Certainly a talent beyond what he has achieved, signs are that consistency may be creeping back into his game. Since finishing runner up at the Mayakoba, he has missed only 3 cuts in 9 appearances. They all came in tougher than average scoring conditions, and it is no surprise that that close shave in Mexico came on an attackers course where birdies are paramount. His sole win on Tour came in this event, at Trinity Forest, where he went as low as -23. Aggressive golf was required there, it is always required for the Mayakoba, and I fully expect that to be what is needed here. Aaron’s putting is where he is typically let down, and as ever that will be a worry here. Though showing a slightly negative strokes gained total on the greens last week, it was very marginal, and a hell of a lot better than some recent efforts. After a horror show with the putter on Thursday, he was actually pretty good from there in, and that will give him confidence coming here. It may be a different venue to 2018, but being a former champ will add some extra pep to his step here, and all told he is fully entitled to fancy his chances once again. Back on a course built for birdies, Aaron now has ideal conditions for the first time in a while. Coming in off that 9th place finish last week, 66/1 is certainly worthy of support here.
I feel compelled to stick with KEITH MITCHELL here. His performance last week was top notch for 90% of the time, and I am fairly confident he would have got the job done but for the misfortune on the 5th hole. He was taking it all in his stride until then, looking confident in all areas, but just seemed to be spooked by his bogey there, and how it came about. His driving once again was superb. Second in strokes gained off the tee, he was also very efficient from the fairways. Knocking in more putts than in recent times, he will have taken plenty of confidence from that outing. His game around the greens left a bit to be desired, but I would expect that to be less of a factor this week. Hit it long, attack pins, hole putts. That will be the order of the day here, and given how Mitchell looked in all those departments only a few short days ago, the 66/1 on offer on him going two places better is worth availing of.
It is very rare I have over 5 outright selections, but I do like the shape of this event for taking on those at the head of the market with a bit of value further down. I have two further recommendations, but all told our points staked outright will be only 10% more than what we staked on JT alone last week. If one of our selections hit the frame, we will be in profit, and I wouldn’t be keen on leaving any of them out.
I mentioned the Mayakoba above, and when PAT PEREZ won that title in 2017 I was on at a juicy price. That was one of 3 wins on Tour for the affable American, with his winning scores to par being -33, -21 and -24. The -33 total came in the Bob Hope when it was a 90 hole event, but it is clear to see when there is a need to attack and go low, Pat excels. His recent form also suggests that peak Perez isn’t far away. Though missing the cut at the RBC Heritage, his Friday 69 there was a turning of the tide. A decent showing with Jason Kokrak followed at the Zurich, and then back to back Top 30’s at the Valspar and Wells Fargo. On both the latter occasions he opened very promisingly, but neither set up would have suited him as well as this week will. At 150/1 (and quite a bit bigger on the exchanges) he is one of the best bets this week in my opinion.
I had considered Scott Stallings this week after a fine effort at Quail, and though not putting anyone off him, I just preferred the others. The 33/1 to 8 places on Marc Leishman would be one of the more tempting back towards the head of the market, but not quite enough to get involved.
As such the last man in for me is PATRICK RODGERS. Erratic no doubt, but also supremely talented, Rodgers should have more to his CV than he does. Very long off the tee, and a typically strong putter, if he is as dialed in here with his approaches as he was last Friday at Quail he will be a match for anyone. Obviously that was an above average display with his irons, but it shows that his best isn’t far away in my opinion, and at 200/1 he has enough else going for him on a track that should really suit. A shocker on Saturday was the polar opposite of that round two display, but at the prices we are playing at those sparks of brilliance are worth clinging to. It’s worth remembering his 61-62 birdie barrage over the weekend at the 2018 RSM Classic to force a playoff there. When he’s on song he is capable of going consistently low, and with last weeks promise fresh in the mind, I am more than happy to take my chances here.
Matt Fitzpatrick is building a name for himself on the PGA Tour, but the basis of that reputation is an ability to tame tough layouts. When Par is King, Fitzy is more likely to wear the crown. This season’s best performances have been on courses such as Sawgrass, Bay Hill and Riviera. When birdies are flying Matt can sometimes be left behind, and at odds on to land this section, I feel he is a terrible price. Yes his overall consistency of late has to count for plenty in these sub markets, but on his 2nd last start he started a bigger price than LEE WESTWOOD for this very section. How one can now be 4-5 and the other 11/4 is beyond me, and I rate Westwood a cracking bet at the price. I didn’t think much for the price of Westwood ahead of The Masters, an over reaction to his excellent run of form prior to it. There was also the worry that a 47 year old may have gone to the well one too many times in the weeks leading into Augusta, and his below par showing there and the RBC Heritage the week after pretty much backed that up. But the memories of those runner up spots at Sawgrass and Bay Hill are still very much to the fore, and off a break it’s perfectly plausible Westwood once again goes close. It’s a layoff I wouldn’t worry about. Lee knows he hasn’t many realistic shots at Major glory left, and with next week setting up very well for Europeans he will be keen to be at concert pitch for that. He won’t be arriving here half baked.
As was the case with the Top Cont Euro market last week, I see this as very much a match, with the course set up not looking ideal for the short priced market leader. Tom Lewis was poor last week, and with this his 9th outing in 10 weeks, he could well be suffering from burnout. Luke Donald again has next to no chance, and Ben Taylor similar. I couldn’t have Westwood bigger than 7/4 here, and 11/4 is a superb bet.
Masters winner Hideki Matsuyama deservedly heads this market, but is one I simply have to take on. He will have been through all sorts since that momentous win, and seeing a golf course will probably have been a rarity over the last 3 weeks. He mentioned during his win that he was enjoying the lack of media there, that he could simply get on with the job at hand. Well, he will have done very little other than entertain the media since, and back on American soil now, that lot will be all over him this week too. A lot to be dealing with, and on a course which may not best suit him anyway, I am very happy to swerve him here.
Si Woo Kim also deserves his spot as second favourite here, but 5/2 I don’t view him as being the one over priced on the back of Hideki taking up too much of the market. This looks ripe for an each way play, and CT PAN fits the bill for me.
Pan has proven he has what it takes to win on Tour, having taken the 2019 edition of the RBC Heritage, and his display in overcoming an opening 74 last week at Quail suggests that winning form may not be far off again. Ultimately just inside the Top 20 there, he was denied a better finish by a couple of double bogeys on the short holes. All facets of his game seemed in good nick here, and in a relatively weak section for Top Asian with serious question marks over the readiness of the short priced favourite, he is an appealing price here. **NON RUNNER)
C.T. Pan is a late withdrawal from this week’s tournament, and that’s a shame as the head of th Top Asian market is taking up too much of a chunk of that market. I had toyed with backing two in it initially, but came down on the side of going it alone with Pan.
I will now add Kyoung-Hoon Lee at 12/1.
Lee has made his last 5 cuts, and has shown much improved form of late. True it was a ridiculously hot putter which saw him lead after 18 holes last week, but in previous events he scored very well despite the putter. Top 30s at the Texas Open and Valspar came with negative strokes gained putting figures, and hopefully last week’s success on the greens can continue here. I really want to take Hideki on here, and Pan aside, it was only Lee that interested me. He is still 12/1 as bookies haven’t reacted to the withdrawal. I would be prepared to take 10/1 in the morning for those that can’t get on tonight.
Top 20 Finish:
BRANDT SNEDEKER may lack the length to be considered a potential winner here, but his recent upturn in form suggests he still has to be taken very seriously. His last 4 starts have seen him 6th in Texas, 4th in Zurich and 11th at the Valspar. Sned has got his mojo back, and if this does turn into a crap shot on the greens, there won’t be many better equipped to take advantage. Very strong on the greens in that most recent event at Innisbrook, he was also proficient form the fairways there. The Texas 4th was fuelled by some standard Snedeker flag hunting, and with every part of his game now operating at a level near it’s best, I would have expected him to be further up the market pecking order here. 3/1 that he banks a 4th Top 20 in his last 5 outings is more than big enough for me to get involved.
PAT PEREZ is worth going to the well with a second time at the 6/1 that is available in this market. As said above he is a player who has consistently thrived on attack style golf courses, and comes here off the back of some highly encouraging recent outings. He is far too big a price on all fronts for me, and I would rather get him on board here also than just rely on him hitting a top 8 for us.
.8pt ew Ryan Palmer 40/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB) **Recommended yesterday *Still 40/1 with 365/Unibet/Betvictor to less places
.5pt ew Cameron Champ 80/1 (⅕ odds 8 places WH/Coral/Lad-100/1 with Skybet) **Recommended yesterday *Still 70/1 with WH/Skybet to 8 places, is more than acceptable especially with DJ now out)
.4pt ew Carlos Ortiz 80/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB) **Recommended yesterday *66/1+ now acceptable, available with plenty
.5pt ew Keith Mitchell 60/1 (⅕ odds 5 places, WH) **66/1 8 places with Skybet, 66/1 6 places with BV *60/1 min price I would take
.5pt ew Aaron Wise 66/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/Betfred) *60/1 upwards acceptable
.3pt ew Pat Perez 150/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB/Betfred) *120/1 upwards acceptable
.3pt ew Patrick Rodgers 200/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, PP/BFSB/Betfred) *150/1 upwards acceptable, and available everywhere
8pts Lee Westwood 11/4 (PP/BFSB/365/Coral/Lads/Vbet) *9/4 upwards acceptable
1.6pts ew Kyoung-Hoon Lee 12/1 (1/5 odds 3 places, 365/WH/Betway/888/Boyles) 11/1 with PP/BFSB – 10/1 elsewhere
Top 20 Finish:
5pts Brandt Snedeker 3/1 (Betvictor/PP/BFSB/365/Betway) *11/4 upwards acceptable, currently 3/1+on exchange
3pts Pat Perez 11/2 (Betvictor) **PP/BFSB 6/1 so use them if you can. I will go back to quoting them stand alone top price when all shops are back open from next week *9/2 upwards acceptable
2021 Running Totals:
Best of luck all, I will be back at the same time next week with the second Major of the season, the US PGA.