PGA Tour best bets: AT&T Byron Nelson

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Coming off last week’s Wells Fargo Championship (won by Rory McIlroy, who was picked by betting deputy editor David Bearman to win at 18-1), the PGA Tour heads to McKinney, Texas, for the AT&T Byron Nelson for a tuneup before the PGA Championship.

This year’s event is moving to TPC at Craig Ranch. Sung Kang won at Trinity Forest the last time the tournament was played, in 2019 (last year’s edition was canceled due to the pandemic).

Which players are the favorites this time around, who offers good odds and what props are worthwhile?

Sports betting analyst Chris “The Bear” Fallica, sports betting deputy editor David Bearman and fantasy analyst Anita Marks offer their best bets.

Odds courtesy of Caesars Sportsbook by William Hill unless otherwise noted.


Bets to win

Bryson DeChambeau 9-1; top-10 finish (-125)

Bearman: I know I went with Bryson last week and it didn’t work out, but it wasn’t a total loss. He struggled Thursday and Friday and flew to Dallas when he thought he missed the cut, only to have to return when the cut line moved, allowing him to get a nice backdoor top-10 and get us some cash back. I don’t want to be the guy who missed by one week, and I feel he did enough over the weekend to have me try this again. Plus, this new course is set up perfectly for him. It’s long and straight and is begging for someone to just hit it as far as possible. Enter DeChambeau, the tour’s leader in shots gained off the tee, tee to green, overall and driving distance. He also leads the tour in eagles, and this course features reachable par-5s and some possibly drivable par-4s.

Bryson’s downfall has always been accuracy off the tee (166th), as he is more of a pound-it-and-figure-it-out type hitter. He sprayed it all over the course last week in Charlotte, but TPC Craig Ranch is more forgiving than other courses, which should enable him to take advantage of his length off the tee. Despite hitting only four fairways Sunday at Wells Fargo, he still hit 16 of 18 greens. I don’t normally take players less than double-digits to win an event, but I think he should be the favorite, so there is some value with him not being at the top of the board. To me, his questions (accuracy) are less of a concern — especially at this course — than the issues the other top guys have (Brooks Koepka injury, Jon Rahm poor play last week, Jordan Spieth hasn’t played in a month).

Fallica: With a new course the week prior to a major, I’m going to keep the wagers to a minimum and go with class players. A pair of weekend 68s after the cut debacle at Quail Hollow should have the SMU alum set for a solid week here, as he and Rahm are the headliners after the WD of Dustin Johnson.

Marks: DeChambeau went from the cut line last week at the Wells Fargo to finishing T-9, shooting 68 each of his final two days. He gained 5 strokes on the field in ballstriking on Sunday, and I expect him to pick up where he left off this week. There will be a lot of drivable par-4s and wide-open fairways for Bryson to grip it and rip it this week without finding a lot of trouble. He is first in strokes gained off the tee and tee to green and 24th in strokes gained approaching the green, first in driving distance this season and top 5 in putting on bentgrass over his past 24 rounds.

Daniel Berger 17-1; top-10 finish (+150)

Fallica: Berger’s stroke play events that weren’t majors or WGCs have resulted in finishes of 10, T-7, MC, win, T-9, T-13. That’s a pretty strong run. He hasn’t played since the RBC, but this course looks like a nice fit to make a return ahead of the PGA Championship.

Scottie Scheffler 22-1; top-10 finish (+200)

Bearman: Last time we saw Scheffler as the hometown guy, the Texas native ran all the way to the WGC-Match Play finals in Austin before falling to Billy Horschel. This course sets up nicely for Scheffler, who is 36th in shots gained tee to green and 15th off the tee, while sitting 32nd in driving distance at an average of over 300 yards. Scheffler is also in the top 30 on tour in eagles, birdies and par-breakers, which are all important this week, as the board might be lit up this weekend.

He has done well recently with a T-5 at the Concession, top-20 finish at the Masters and 29th-place finish at Valspar despite a final-round 74. Scheffler’s biggest issue is his work around and on the greens (91st in putting, 129th in strokes gained on approach). If he can be middle of the pack here, he has a good chance of contending in another Texas event.

Marc Leishman 33-1; top-10 finish (+300)

Bearman: One of the better players on the Texas swing and among the best if the wind picks up, Leishman comes in hot, having finished T-5 at the Masters and then winning the Zurich Classic with fellow Aussie teammate Cam Smith. He has had success at the Byron Nelson, regardless of the course, with four top-10s, including a runner-up finish in 2018 at Trinity Forest and T-3 in 2012 and 2015 at TPC Las Colinas. Leishman has won $2.1 million at this event, most of any player without a win.

TPC Craig Ranch is a different course, but like Trinity Forest, it also has zoysia grass fairways, so it won’t be totally foreign. He isn’t among the top players on tour in driving distance, but he has won at “bombers-type” courses before, winning at Torrey Pines early last season.

Aaron Wise 66-1; top-20 finish (+200)

Bearman: I always like to take one flier each week. Last week, it was Emiliano Grillo, who paid us off with a top-20 finish and flirted with the top 5 on Saturday. Wise won this event at Trinity Forest in 2018. It’s a different course, but as noted above, it has the same zoysia fairways. Wise snuck into the top 10 last week with a 68-69 weekend and is seventh on tour in greens in regulation at 71.2%. He is not incredibly long off the tee, but he is 38th in shots gained off the tee and 26th in tee to green, which should keep him in play this week. At 66-1, he’s worth a look and pays 2-to-1 for a top-20 finish.


Props

Scheffler top-5 finish (4-1)

Marks: Scheffler knows this track well, having played it since he was 9 years old and growing up in the area. This course is the perfect fit for him. Scheffler is 15th in strokes gained off the tee and top 5 in putting on bentgrass over his past 24 rounds.

Jordan Spieth top-10 finish (+100)

Marks: Spieth was 16 the first time he teed it up at this event. He is top 5 in strokes gained on approach and birdies or better over his past 24 rounds. Spieth (-125) over Hideki Matsuyama in the tournament matchup is my best bet on the board, considering Matsuyama has not played since the Masters, and I’m certain he has been in a media whirlwind since Augusta.

Will Zalatoris top-10 finish (+210)

Marks: Will Zalatoris missed the cut last week, but that just means he had more time to practice and prepare for this week. Zalatoris is another Dallas-area golfer I’m riding this week. He will have an opportunity to play in front of friends, family and his fiancé3. He is fourth in strokes gained on approach and 10th in strokes gained tee to green this season.

Matthew Fitzpatrick top-20 finish (-120)

Marks: Fitzpatrick has made the cut in seven straight tournaments, finishing in the top 11 in five of them, and his putter has been a big part of his success. He is 18th in strokes gained off the tee, 28th in tee to green and 17th in par-3 scoring this season. I also have Fitzpatrick (-137 at DraftKings) in matchups over Koepka and as the top finisher from Great Britain/Ireland at +130.

Sam Burns top-20 finish (+138)

Marks: Burns comes into Texas with a lot of swag, having won the Valspar a few weeks ago. TPC Craig Ranch is a great track for Burns, and his distance off the tee will be a huge advantage. He is 17th in strokes gained on approach, 22nd in putting and 14th in birdies or better this season. I also have Burns (-114) over Harris English in matchups.

Ryan Palmer top-20 finish (+150)

Bearman: His game won’t wow you, but you have to give Palmer credit for his consistency, as he has made the cut in each of his past 14 events. The 44-year old from Amarillo has pretty good metrics for this “bombers” course, ranking 38th in driving distance, 32nd in shots gained off the tee, and he is in the top 15 in both birdies and eagles made. He has three top-10s in the event, albeit at different courses, but overall he plays well in his home state.

Palmer played well in his title defense at the Zurich two weeks ago, finishing seventh, while also recording top-20s at the Players and in two previous Texas events (Match Play and Valero). In addition, he finished runner-up at Torrey Pines back in January, another course that rewards you handsomely for driving it long.

Charl Schwartzel top-20 finish (+188)

Bearman: With limited to no course history to go on this week, I am also looking for players who come in in good form. Schwartzel, who got off to a terrible start to the 2021 season, has turned it around since the Masters. He finished T-26 at Augusta, site of his 2011 major win, and followed that up with a playoff loss with fellow South African Louis Oosthuizen at the Zurich Classic. He followed with a T-21 at Valspar and T-14 at Wells Fargo, giving you the sense that he might be back in form. I am not ready to go all-in on him, as he is still among the tour’s worst on the greens (129th in strokes gained putting), but I am willing to try to get 2-to-1 on my money for him to continue playing well.

Sung Kang top-20 finish (8-1)

Bearman: At first, I was planning on taking Kang to win at 350-1 since he did win this event in 2019 and is a member of TPC Craig Ranch, a course not many others have seen or played. Those facts alone put him in the picture, making me want to bet him on course history. However, anyone looking at his recent form or shots gained metrics will quickly hit the pause button. He has missed the cut in nine of his past 13 events, with no finish better than 37th, which came at a B-field event in Mexico in December. His best finish in 21 events this year is a T-29 at the 2020 Masters last November. No top-25s, along with being ranked no higher than 176th in any shots gained metric, does not leave a lot of promise. He has been downright awful this season.

But if there was an event in which he could score his first top-25 of the season, it would be at a course he is a member at and an event he won last time around. McIlroy won the ultimate course history vs. recent form battle last week, but he at least had five top-10s the weeks before hitting his bad play, along with having previously been one of the top players in the world. Kang isn’t close to that at all, so let’s hope he really, really knows this course well and can get us a nice 8-to-1 payout.

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