We're in a stretch of weeks without a ton of prior course history to go off of, and the way that manifests this week is with TPC Craig Ranch, host of the AT&T Byron Nelson.
We first saw TPC Craig Ranch on the PGA Tour last year, so we've got a year's worth of data. We now need to figure out how much we can trust that information and what caveats and qualifiers we should try to make.
So, let's dig into the course, the key stats, the win simulations, and the best bets of the week.
You can jump ahead to any specific section of the piece you would like.
TPC Craig Ranch Course Info & Key Stats
Distance: 7,468 (long: ~90 yards shorter than the average par 72)
Fairway Acres/Yard: 4.7 (average-to-wide: PGA average is 4.1)
Average Green Size: 6,778 square feet (large: ~113% of PGA average)
Green Type: Bentgrass
Stimpmeter: 11.5 (PGA Average is ~12.0)
Past 5 Winning Scores: -25
Past 5 Cut Lines: -6
Key Stats (in Order of Importance): Strokes Gained: Approach, Strokes Gained: Off the Tee, Strokes Gained: Putting, Birdie or Better Rate
I'm keeping the key stats simple this week for reasons we'll get into, but TPC Craig Ranch -- off the bat -- didn't play tough last year despite its length. Kyoung-Hoon Lee won at -25, and five other golfers finished -20 or better. That means two things: we need birdies, and there's going to be volatility.
When courses play easy, lower-ranked golfers have an easier time getting in the mix. Making birdie on an easy hole isn't what separates the best from the rest: it's birdies and par saves on tougher holes that really separate.
With that in mind, we should feel a little freer with our picks this week.
Last year's top three (which included six total golfers with four finishing T3) ranked 2nd, 6th, 42nd, 7th, 5th, and 4th in strokes gained: approach. The outlier at 42nd, Scott Stallings, led the field in strokes gained: putting.
Speaking of putting, it's pretty easy here, and that should help the top-10 look more friendly to ball-strikers than strong putters, as it did last year.
The greens and fairways are pretty generous, and that allows driving distance (but really, strokes gained: off the tee) to become a key stat.
Basically: gain greens in regulation and make some makable birdie putts.
Golfers With Great Course/Event History
It's just one year of data, but these golfers finished top-10 last year and are in the field this year: Kyoung-Hoon Lee (winner), Sam Burns (2nd), Scott Stallings (T3), Patton Kizzire (T3), Charl Schwartzel (T3), Joseph Bramlett (T7), Seamus Power (T9), Jordan Spieth (T9), Jhonattan Vegas (T9), and Doc Redman (T9).
Here are the most likely winners this week, according to my win simulation model, as well as their FanDuel Sportsbook win odds.
Win Simulation Analysis and Best Bets
The betting favorite, Scottie Scheffler (+900) isn't the favorite in the win simulation model. Rather, it's Justin Thomas (+1400), and there's actual value on Thomas here. Putting is easy this week, so I'm fine going harder at Thomas than usual.
Both Sam Burns (+1800) and Hideki Matsuyama (+3100) also emerge with positive expected value. Thomas, Burns, and Will Zalatoris (+2200, who was T17 here last year and should benefit from a de-emphasis on putting) are my main targets at the top -- specifically Thomas and Burns.
Daily Fantasy Golfer Picks for the AT&T Byron Nelson
All stats cited below originate at FantasyNational. Strokes gained data includes stats from the past calendar year and is adjusted based on my field strength and recency tweaks. Putting surface splits also come from FantasyNational and include the past 50 rounds when possible -- unless noted. All ranks and percentile ranks are among the field. References to my combo model refer to a combination of long-term, field-adjusted form, key stat performance, and hole-by-hole-level strokes gained data.
Best of the Best
Justin Thomas (FanDuel Salary: $11,900 | FanDuel Sportsbook Win Odds: +1400) - Thomas is my top guy this week because while there are a lot of good ball-strikers in the field, Thomas is truly elite (he ranks best in my adjusted strokes gained: ball-striking stat over the past year) and should benefit the most from a bit of a de-emphasis on putting. Now, I'm not totally ruling out putting, and even then, Thomas is still a plus putter anyway, but the floor is high, and so is the ceiling.
Sam Burns ($11,400 | +1800) - Burns makes for a strong second stud or even a bit of a discounted lineup starter. He ranks in the 93rd percentile in adjusted ball-striking and in the 99th percentile in adjusted short game. One thing that really separates Burns from some of the other studs is just how good the short game is, and that helped lead to a solo second here last year. While Burns' putting should take a step back, he still ranks in the 82nd percentile in expected putting.
Others to Consider:
Will Zalatoris ($11,200 | +2200) - T17 here last year; if we can bump down putting a bit, then Will Z is a superstar.
Hideki Matsuyama ($11,000 | +3100) - Just a great pivot play; hasn't played since Augusta but looks healthy.
Jhonattan Vegas ($10,200 | +4500) - 96th-percentile ball-striker and T9 here last year.
Aaron Wise ($9,700 | +5000) - I'm not hopping off the Wise train now. He's a 94th-percentile ball-striker due for legitimate putting regression (should be at a +0.27 rather than his -0.14). He finished T55 here last year, so he did play it, but he just didn't putt well. It's the right type of week to get back in on Wise at a reasonable salary.
Keith Mitchell ($9,300 | +6500) - You know the drill: great ball-striking (87th percentile). What else? Actually a solid short-game now (78th percentile). Admittedly, the putter is a bit too hot right now, but he still profiles as a positive putter from within 15 feet. Mitchell was T26 here last year, too.
Others to Consider:
Maverick McNealy ($9,700 | +5500) - Irons are on the rise (74th percentile) to make for a great all-around game.
Mito Pereira ($9,200 | +7500) - 89th-percentile or better in both ball-striking stats; due for big putting regression, too.
Luke List ($9,100 | +8000) - Putting is so bad that you never know, but we're downplaying it a bit this week; 97th-percentile ball-striking.
Tom Hoge ($8,600 | +10000) - Hoge is, by far, my favorite value play of the week. He's just under-salaried. He has missed two straight cuts (RBC Heritage and Zurich Classic), but Hoge has been plagued by some bad putting luck. He's losing 0.06 strokes per round but should be gaining 0.10 -- not the hugest gap but a substantial difference for sure. Hoge is in the 89th percentile in adjusted tee-to-green play in the field.
Patton Kizzire ($8,900 | +8000) - Kizzire finished T3 last year at this course and has no holes in his game right now: he's above the field median in all four adjusted strokes gained stats. Kizzire also, more specifically, ranks in the 84th percentile in adjusted iron play.
Others to Consider:
Sebastian Munoz ($8,800 | +9500) - Putter has been ice cold from key ranges but strong tee-to-green data regardless.
Martin Laird ($8,300 | +14000) - Best tee-to-green data below $9,000.
Ryan Palmer ($8,600 | +11000) - A risk/reward play if you're truly comfortable downplaying putting.