The First Tee – AT&T Byron Nelson

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly May 14, 2018 23:21

The First Tee – AT&T Byron Nelson

After anointing a new world number one (congrats to JT), seeing amazing rounds out of both Tiger and Brooks, and watching Webb Simpson decimate the field through 72 holes, the Tour rolls to a new course for the AT&T Byron Nelson: Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, Texas. New courses always need a long look, even with a fairly junk field this week.

The Course

Trinity Forest is a par 71 listed at 7,380 yards. It was designed by Ben Crenshaw and Bill Coore, and it’s very different from most PGA courses – or at least the vanilla TPC courses – in that it’s a links-style course (just without the ocean). The three par-5s sit between 552- and 630-yards, with the opening hole an excellent scoring hole right off the hop, while the much longer 14th is only reachable for those that can really bomb it. Seven of the eleven par-4s sit below 450 yards – including a driveable 315-yard 5th – while two of the remaining par-4s are above 500 yards, and three of the par-3s are above 200-yards with a tiny 140-yard par-3 being the outlier.

One of the cooler parts of this course is the incredibly large double green, with the long par-4 11th sharing a green with the par-4 3rd. To check out a video of that green, click here.

With T.F. being a links style course, the fairways are very wide with lots of undulation and rolling and no trees – it is a wide-open course which means wind can be a big factor. If tee shots get wild, they’ll be found in the blackland prairie “rough” which are basically just large pockets of wildflowers and grasses; getting caught in these sections means a chip to safety, don’t expect to see any long shots out of the native area this week. That being said, the fairways are wide enough that this shouldn’t happen too often – think Erin Hills – and shorter hitters will get the benefit of rolling fairways if the competition clubs down. Positioning from the tee shot will be more of a key than distance.

On approach, golfers will have tough lies thanks to the undulation in the fairways, and they’ll have to be pinpoint accurate to give themselves birdie chances thanks to the rolling and sloping greens. The course is set up almost to play bump-and-run, but expect a lot of 7-irons and 8-irons in. Missing the greens could be punitive, as the greenside bunkers are deep; missing the greens will happen fairly often here, as the greens are raised and slope away.

Although the entire course is L1F Zoysia grass (or “Trinity Zoysia” now), the greens were built with Champion’s Bermuda grass and will be slooooow – just a 10.5 on the stimpmeter is expected, which could mitigate the greens a bit for the worse putters on Tour. As mentioned, there will be lots of undulation and sloping, which will set up lots of lag putts as getting it close to the pin on approach will be tough. As well, the greens should be very firm.

The Stats

The Strokes Gained stats to focus on in order (not including Tee to Green):

  • Approach
  • Off-The-Tee
  • Putting
  • Around the Green

Counting stats to focus on in order:

  • Bogey Avoidance
  • Scrambling
  • Par-4 Scoring
  • Approaches from 175-200 Yards
  • Driving Accuracy
  • Three-Putt Avoidance

Top-Tier Golfer

Matt Kuchar ($10700): The nicest man on Tour isn’t having the most impressive year from a statistical perspective, but he’s been having a strong year with a perfect 13/13 cuts made, with three top-10s; his latest good showing comes at the PLAYERS last week where Kuch finished T17 after an opening round 66. This type of course should fit his eye very well, as Kuchar has performed well in Open Championships and on links-style courses in the past: T12 on Pinehurst #2, an amazing runner-up performance last year in the UK, and a string of six made cuts at the Open. Another reason this course should fit his game is that he’s a short-hitter with loads of experience, which means positioning himself properly off the tee and setting himself up for the approach.

As mentioned, he’s not a gem from a stats perspective, but there are some that show why he could have a good week:

  • 35th in Scrambling – with very tough up-and-downs on missed greens, this is crucial
  • 22nd in Proximity to the Hole / 29th in Fairway Proximity
  • 24th in Distance from Edge of Fairway (22’) – a better way to measure driving accuracy
  • 71% of Greens in Regulation

He’s not much of a birdie-maker, but the layout of the course should have the winning score in the -8 to -11 range, especially if the wind picks up. Kuchar is experienced and can work his way around Trinity Forest.

 

Other golfers to consider:

Marc Leishman ($9100)Pros: 27th in SG: Approach and 8th in SG: Around the Green, this Aussie-style course should fit his eye. Averaging 4.14 birdies per round (12th) and is fantastic on par-4s (11th Scoring, 16th Birdie or Better%). Bad putter BUT 50th in 3-Putt Avoidance. Three top-10s in Open Championships. Cons: Bad putter (125th in SG:Putting), only hitting 65% of greens in regulation (105th).

J.B. Holmes ($8300)Pros: Stud off the tee – long hitter that’s 31st in SG: Off the Tee. Finished T17 at Pinehurst in 2014 (a comp. course) and has found success on links courses in the past. For a horrible putter, he’s still strong around the greens. Cons: Having a very poor year on the PGA, with seven made cuts to five missed – horrible form so far. Absolute tire fire on the greens and can’t avoid three-putting. For a big hitter, scores at a terribly low rate (3.33 birdies/rd))

Branden Grace ($9400)Pros: Strong links golfer: no missed cuts at the Open (including T6 last year), AD Links Championship win in 2012. Low launch angle sets up for a wide-open course if winds pick up. 7th in Approach from 175-200 this year, excellent putter. Having a strong year on the PGA and finished 2nd at his home course (BMW South Africa). Cons: Short off the tee and not accurate enough to make up the difference – ranks 89th in SG: Off the Tee. Having a poor year with his irons.

 

Value Golfer (below $8000)

Aaron Baddeley ($7500): An Aussie who’s had some success in the past at links courses – T23 at Pinehurst in ’14, T27 at Royal Birkdale last year – should feel right at home at Trinity Forest. He’s one of the worst on Tour off the tee, but he’s incredibly strong with a wedge or putter in his hand; Baddeley is a top-5 golfer around the greens and although he’s having a poor year on the greens, historically it’s his best feature so expect that to come back to form – especially on slow greens. He’s good on par-4s, and on a par-71 with eleven par-4s, that should be a focus this week.

Russell Knox ($7900)Pros: Former Hooters Tour legend with four top-10s in 13 events this year. 51st in SG:T2G, hitting just under 70% of greens in regulation, and actually pretty consistent around the greens when he does miss. Great on par-4s. Cons: Had a T10 in Scotland followed by a T30 at the Open in 2016 but hasn’t had much links golf success since then, missing the cut of both in 2017. Very poor putter this year.

Corey Conners ($7200) – Pros: Has made eight cuts in twelve events (13 in 17 if looking at his entire rookie season including the fall), including two top-25s. Very good from tee to green thanks to strong play with his irons (29th in GIR%). Cons: Putting and scrambling could sewer his week if he misses too many greens. Not a big scoring golfer – 3.51 birdies/rd – and only hitting 60% of fairways.

You can follow me on Twitter @adalyfrey – my DMs are no longer open, sorry – and good luck this week!

Adam Daly
By Adam Daly May 14, 2018 23:21

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