AT&T Byron Nelson 2021: Fantasy picks, power rankings and analysis

There’s plenty of value to be had picking Ryan Palmer in his home state of Texas this week, writes our Brian Mull. Credit: Daniel Dunn-USA TODAY Sports

The AT&T Byron Nelson has a new home again.

After two tournaments and one cancellation at Trinity Forest, the Salesmanship Club has shifted their party to North Dallas again, landing at TPC Craig Ranch, a Tom Weiskopf design that’s played host to Korn Ferry Tournaments and qualifying school.

The field will encounter bentgrass greens and zoysia fairways and from what we can gather light rough, calm winds and birdies galore on the par 72, 7,468-yard layout. Rowlett Creek winds through the course, coming into play on at least a dozen holes, so a reliable tee ball and hot putter will be necessary to make a run for the $1.458 million winner’s check.

These first-time host courses present a unique puzzle to solve. That it appears on the schedule the week before a major championship only compounds the dilemma. The approximately 12,500 fans on site each day this week can expect ample excitement. Early week rains should allow for pin seeking and all courses in Texas are built with the wind in mind.

RELATED: AT&T Byron Nelson course preview | The Caddie Line homepage

We looked at golfers who have performed well of late and those with a strong track record on courses measuring longer than 7,400 yards and in easy scoring conditions. For some reason, TPC Scottsdale keeps coming to mind, for better or worse, so we considered those recent results as well as players who hail from Texas or have a strong track record there.

Hideki Matsuyama is making his first start since winning the Masters. He had to quarantine back home in Japan for two weeks and is surely hoping to use the week to chip away the rust before he heads to Kiawah Island as one of the pre-tournament favorites.

The long-range forecast calls for temperatures in the upper 70s and low 80s with light winds (less than 10 mph) and a slight chance of rain on Sunday.

Last week’s Bargain Bin produced a pair of top-15 finishers (List and Schwartzel), so don’t be afraid to rummage around and find the key to fantasy success. Here are our top five low-priced options for the Byron Nelson:

The Bargain Bin

  • Bo Hoag, Hank Lebioda, Danny Lee, Cameron Percy, Andrew Putnam

Hope the boys enjoy some brisket and sausage this week. As always, good luck.

Golfer power rankings

25. Ryan Moore – The models keep favoring Moore and he keeps making cuts and finishing near the bottom-of-the-pack, offering little reward on any investment. Horrible chipping (-3.7 SG) crippled Moore last week and his iron play was just average. But he gained 3.6 strokes on the greens and that’s a good sign entering a likely birdie bonanza.

24. Tom Lewis – Missed his first cut in six starts at the Wells Fargo, but has gained strokes tee-to-green in seven consecutive tournaments. Top 25 in the field in birdies or better gained and 30th in the field in SG: Total over the last 24 tournaments.

23. Sepp Straka – Has found a way to play the weekend despite extraordinarily poor iron play in recent weeks, making seven of the last eight cuts overall. Strong on long par 3s like the ones he’ll face at Craig Ranch.

22. Thomas Pieters – As far as quantity, it’s been a quiet year for the combustible Belgian, yet when he’s shown up he’s delivered quality play, landing in the top 15 in his last four globetrotting starts (Punta Cana, Qatar, Puerto Rico, Saudi Arabia). Excels on long par 3s and par 4s in the 450-500 yard range.

21. Carlos Ortiz – Plummeted from the Wells Fargo leaderboard with a triple bogey on the 54th hole and abysmal Sunday. Those things happen in a season. Regardless, he should have good vibes at Craig Ranch, considering he attended college at nearby North Texas and his birdie making skills (23rd in field) combined with prowess on long par 4s make him an intriguing choice. Also won in Houston last fall.

20. Charl Schwartzel – Earlier this year, a savvy golf observer friend of mine told me to pay attention to the former Masters champion. His time was coming again, he said. Well, he’s made five cuts in a row and finished 26-21-14 the last three weeks, gaining 4.6 strokes on approach at Valspar and 6.8 at Wells Fargo. Better than field average putter on bentgrass.

19. Brandt Snedeker – Skipped last week to play host to the Korn Ferry Tour in his hometown of Nashville but expect him to continue building momentum in the Greater Dallas Area. Ballstriking numbers have been steadily improving over the last two months and has a sixth at San Antonio and 11th at Innisbrook as proof.

18. Pat Perez – Finished ninth in the Safeway, the first tournament on the 2020-21 schedule, and hasn’t landed in the top 10 since. Has made five of the last six cuts, though, and gained strokes on approach and on the greens the last two weeks. At 122nd in the FedEx Cup standings, he could use a solid finish.

17. Brooks Koepka – The models rank him a touch higher this week, but they are not aware of the knee surgery he endured in early March. When we saw him last in Augusta, it wasn’t pretty. Still, gotta imagine he’s recovered enough to prep for the PGA. He’s fifth in the field in birdies or better gained (23.6 percent) and proximity.

16. Peter Uihlein – In the last month or so, he’s teamed with Richy Werenski to finish third at the Zurich, won and tied for seventh on the Korn Ferry Tour and made the cut at the Valspar. The stats are spotty because of the team format and bouncing between Tours but the results speak for themselves.

15. Si Woo Kim – Ballstriking has been beautiful most of the season (seventh SG: Tee-to-Green last 50 rounds), short game is elite and bentgrass is his best putting surface. Has finished 33rd or better in his last four tournaments with a pair of top 15s.

14. Talor Gooch – Slightly undervalued in most fantasy formats based on my models and his current form (T-26 at Wells Fargo). Has averaged 2.9 strokes gained on approach over the last five tournaments and is 23rd in the field in SG: Putting on Bentgrass.

13. Patton Kizzire – Over the last 50 rounds, Kizzire is 29th in the field in SG: Approach and second in SG: Putting. His short game is also among the Tour’s best. His tee ball has been the killer, which is a little concerning considering the creek that meanders through this golf course, but we’re going to rely on a top-30 birdie maker in a week of low scoring.

12. Doug Ghim – The first of three Texas Longhorns mentioned in the Power Rankings, he’s gained strokes on approach in his last nine starts and been better than the field average off the tee in the last four. Looking for first top 10 since the American Express.

11. Sam Burns – It’s always interesting to watch a young player after his first victory. Be warned, his price has never been higher, but after how he dismantled Innisbrook and the field two weeks ago, expect him to deliver. He has the swagger and game to go on a sizzling streak.

10. Jon Rahm – A slightly puzzling choice as the Vegas favorite this week. Then again, it’s unwise to ever overlook a world-class talent. Short game showed rust in Charlotte and he’s looking for positive results entering Kiawah. Leads the field in SG: Ballstriking over the last 50 rounds.

9. Matt Fitzpatrick – Nobody has putted better over the last 50 rounds. He’s also 12th in SG: OTT and 31st in SG: Approach in that span and has strong numbers in good scoring conditions. Top 11 in five of his last six tournaments.

8. Aaron Wise – Shot 68-69 on the weekend at the Wells Fargo to cash a top-10 ticket. Scored his only PGA Tour win in this tournament at Trinity Forest. Ballstriking is excellent but you’re gonna have to be willing to sweat some suspect putting (134th in field over last 50 rounds).

7. Will Zalatoris – Plugged the young sensation from Dallas into my fantasy lineup last week and he was the only one of the six to miss the cut. He’s forgiven. Would love to perform in front of the home folks. Can he make enough putts?

6. Bryson DeChambeau – Feels like a good course for the enigmatic superstar. While it’s difficult to say what parts of his game will appear this week (he lost more than five shots on approach at Quail Hollow) he’s consistently near the top of the leaderboard because he’s first in SG: OTT and second in SG: Putting over the last 50 rounds.

5. Marc Leishman – Finished fifth at the Masters and teamed with Cameron Smith to win the Zurich in his last two starts. Fourth in the field in par-3 scoring on holes measuring 200-225 yards.

4. Daniel Berger – After a hot start on the West Coast, he’s been sidetracked by injuries of late and is flying under-the-radar. One of only four players to rank in the top 10 in our three models this week, however, and gained 5.5 strokes on approach in a T-13 at Harbour Town.

3. Scottie Scheffler – Another former Texas Longhorn finished as the runner-up earlier this year in the WGC-Match Play in Austin. One of the Tour’s most dependable iron players should thrive on the 550-600 yard parb5s (seventh in the field).

2. Jordan Spieth – In the tournament prior to the last major, also held in Texas, Spieth ended a nearly four-year victory drought. Hasn’t had much success in his hometown event since he contended as a teenager, yet he’s top 5 in the field in SG: Approach and putts his best on bentgrass. Making first start since the Masters.

1. Ryan Palmer – Love the value here. After three top 5s in his first four starts of 2021, he’s cooled, which is understandable, but hasn’t missed a cut. Leads the field in par-5 scoring, makes plenty of birdies and handles the long par 3s. The 44-year-old Texan hasn’t won an individual tournament since the 2010 Sony Open. He’d love to claim his fifth Tour title in his home state.

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