Ben Coley looks ahead to the AT&T Byron Nelson, where Jordan Spieth is the man to beat but the each-way value lies elsewhere.
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The AT&T Byron Nelson heads to Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas for the first time, leaving behind its maligned former home in search of something unique.
Trinity Forest, designed by Coore & Crenshaw, is considered by many to be a modern masterpiece. Opened in 2016, this 7,380-yard par 71 has no trees, no rough and no water hazards, and is a US-style links course which will ask question after question while frustrating those who are unable to find the right answers.
Andy Johnson, otherwise known as @the_fried_egg, writes: "At a typical Tour stop, the line between good and bad is black and white. Trinity Forest is filled with grey. The center of the fairway isn't always ideal. Some approach shots require players to aim away from the hole to get it close. It's a course that brings the artistic nature of the sport to the forefront.
"The PGA Tour should be commended for selecting a golf course that contrasts the status quo. "
Approached with an open mind, Trinity Forest seems sure to be a success for a design team whose work in restoring Pinehurst No.2 to its former glories was roundly applauded after Martin Kaymer's success there in the 2014 US Open, and it's Pinehurst which may provide the best guide as to what to expect along with fellow major venues Chambers Bay and Erin Hills.
Scoring-wise, Erin Hills seems more likely to provide a guide than its more demanding predecessors, especially with reports suggesting that PGA Tour officials have watered the course to avoid complaints from less-than-accepting players. If that is the case, one of the major defences of this layout is taken away and with just light winds forecast, low numbers are out there.
A handful of players in this field boast an advantage as members of the course and one of them, Jordan Spieth, looks very much like the man to beat in a field lacking in depth, packed with out-of-form players and whose next best is the winless-in-years Matt Kuchar.
Spieth, for whom this is every inch a home game, was in bullish mood despite walking off TPC Sawgrass with a closing eight last week and that's usually a sign that he's ready to strike. Some will no doubt focus on his wayward drive on the last hole of the PLAYERS or some more missed putts, but this is a player whose two previous starts resulted in third in Houston and third at Augusta and he's plainly not far away from his best.
"I feel as good about my golf game right now as I have in two plus years," he said on Sunday night, adding: "I'm going to a few places in a row that I really love. I have a significant advantage next week, an advantage over anybody else in the field... I'm ready to win golf tournaments."
Rewind just over a year, and Spieth walked off Erin Hills feeling that he should've been close to winning, despite finishing outside the top 30. He told reporters as much, and it was therefore no surprise when he turned up for his next event, the Travelers Championship, and won. Then he won again, this time at the Open Championship; when he says he's close, he's close.
Spieth is at his best when a degree of thought is required - the way he plots a route to success at Augusta has been a joy to watch over the last five years - and he has form at all the right courses, winning at Chambers Bay and Birkdale, going close at St Andrews, playing better than his finishing positions at Pinehurst and Erin Hills. Any improvement with the putter from last week and, on familiar terrain, he will be very difficult to beat.
None of this has been missed in the market, however, with even quotes of 6/1 snapped up. When Spieth won the Travelers it was at 10/1, when he won the Open it was at 16/1, and while this week's field is weak, he also has to beat the golf course. The idea of backing any player at a new venue when they're not at their absolute best is difficult to countenance and for that reason, he's left out of the staking plan.
With Kuchar failing to truly convince, Sergio Garcia in fairly desperate form, Hideki Matsuyama yet to flourish since his return from injury and Jimmy Walker no sure thing to back-up last week's impressive PLAYERS run, this looks a very difficult market to get a firm grip on and the two who are perhaps entitled to most respect are links specialists Branden Grace and Adam Scott.
Grace ought perhaps to have won at Chambers Bay and has been playing well for a while now, while Scott's decision to revert to the long putter again last week paid immediate dividends. The latter has always gone particularly well in Texas, Grace's sole PGA Tour success so far came on a coastal track where working out angles is a key part of the puzzle, and I wouldn't put anyone off either but for the fact their prices just don't set the pulse racing.
Instead, let's throw a dart in an event which justifies such an approach, with Aaron Baddeley chanced to rediscover his short-game.
Once the heir apparent to Greg Norman, ahead even of Scott in the new wave of Australian golfers, Baddeley has had to battle for his lengthy but frustrating PGA Tour career, with four titles a good return by most measures but still short of the forecasts made at the start of the century.
Still, those victories serve as a reminder of his class and since the last of them, in the summer of 2016, Baddeley appears to have found more confidence in his troublesome long-game than he ever had before. Golf being golf, this has coincided with a fairly sizeable regression in what once was one of the most admired putting strokes on the planet.
Baddeley isn't putting badly, except that he used to be consistently among the best on the circuit and it's unfortunate that his consistently strong iron play this season just isn't enough. Had he struck the ball like this a decade ago, it seems certain he'd have won more events and better ones, too.
There's no real evidence to suggest the putter is about to warm up, but that negative is factored into three-figure quotes about a player with otherwise much to recommend him.
Baddeley played nicely at Pinehurst in 2014, finishing 23rd, while his strong overall record in the Lone Star State includes 16th in the Valero Texas Open two starts back, where he ranked 61st in putting but was very good off the tee and with his irons.
That effort followed on from last year's fifth in the same event, just after he'd finished 16th in Houston, so the hope is a return to Texas helps him overcome the disappointment of a missed cut at Quail Hollow, his first since the Farmers way back in January.
Consistency like that is rare for Baddeley and offers further evidence that from tee to green he's probably as good as he's ever been.
I also like the fact that he grew up playing and winning on some great Australian sandbelt courses such as Kingston Heath, the like of which definitely helped inspire Trinity Forest, and he's got some winning form on a Coore & Crenshaw restoration having won soon after they had worked on Riviera at the start of the decade.
Baddeley is also part of a small, closely-knit group of Christian golfers on the PGA Tour, who often attend prayer together on a Tuesday night, and another of them won the PLAYERS on Sunday. Indeed, Webb Simpson's improvement with the putter can be traced back to conversations he had with Baddeley, even if the real nugget which helped turn his form around evidently came from Tim Clark.
Anyway, if there is a spark courtesy of Simpson, Baddeley appears to be playing well enough to take advantage. His penultimate stroke play start resulted in a top-20 finish here in Texas and it's not asking much for him to take another step forward on a course where his approach play could reap rewards.
Hunter Mahan has been practicing here since the course opened and is a member at Trinity Forest, so watch for more improvement from the former Ryder Cup star whose driving and putting has been excellent of late, let down by some troubling approach play from one who was once so reliable with iron in hand.
Mahan has made three cuts on the spin and could step up again on familiar terrain in his adopted home town, but at a similar price I prefer the claims of Andrew Putnam.
A couple of weeks ago, Putnam and partner Michael Kim contended for the Zurich Classic of New Orleans and it was Putnam's performance which drove the team to what was ultimately a disappointing 15th.
Still, from a personal perspective it was another encouraging performance from the 29-year-old, who had earlier produced the best PGA Tour performance of his career to take eighth in the Texas Open, in turn building on fifth in the low-key event held in the Dominican Republic and a solid 32nd in Houston.
It was in Houston where Putnam once made his PGA Tour debut as a Monday qualifier and he has fond memories of Texas, having romped to a seven-shot breakthrough win in the now-defunct WNB Classic on the Web.com Tour, an event held just five hours west of Dallas at Midland Country Club.
Given the space afforded players off the tee here, his key weakness - driving - may be less of an issue and in turn allow the rest of his game to shine. At 41st in approaches and as a player who at his best is known for his work on the greens, that makes Putnam an interesting outsider in an event where plenty of guessworth is required.
If PGA Tour officials have softened this course up considerably, it's not inconceivable that bombers like the in-form Keith Mitchell are significantly advantaged so he's on the shortlist along with Brandt Snedeker, who has form at Pinehurst, Chambers Bay and Erin Hills, loves links golf and said last month that his game feels in really good shape.
The trouble with Snedeker is that he shot 82-72 last week and throughout his career, all his high-level victories have been telegraphed by strong recent form. While odds around the 50/1 mark do take into account concerns around the state of his game, history suggests that he's best backed when a rather more obvious candidate.
All these imponderables considered, this isn't an event I want to get too involved in as a punter even if I can't wait to see the golf course, and therefore my final selection is Beau Hossler.
Hossler, like Spieth and Mahan, plays out of Trinity Forest and as he's contended several times in an impressive rookie season, that makes him an obvious candidate - too obvious for some.
However, I didn't feel that prices in the 33-40/1 region were at all unreasonable given his potential and the lack of strength in this field - he's the same price as Charles Howell and not much shorter than Martin Laird, players who really don't look to hold the same credentials.
This 23-year-old is without doubt a star in the making and could yet force his name into the Ryder Cup conversation, even if in all likelihood he has to wait until 2020 to make his debut.
His form all year has been strong, and even last week's 46th at Sawgrass reads well given that he endured a rare poor week on the greens and was playing in the event for the first time; only a poor run at the start of round three cost him a chance to fight it out for minor honours behind the winner.
Hossler's game is one of all-round quality but his particular strength is on and around the greens, which looks a good match-up with this course given that so many of the fundamental questions asked by the designers appear to be near to the hole.
And what I particularly like is that there's substance to his play on home soil: Hossler now lives in Texas, where he attended college, and was second to Ian Poulter in the Shell Houston Open; he was, however, born in California, and first came to prominence when contending for the US Open in San Francisco at just 17 years of age.
In time, we'll be talking about Hossler as a likely major contender and with this looking an ideal test, one where he holds an advantage over the majority of the field who are seeing this unique venue for the first time, he looks a strong candidate to challenge Spieth for the title.
Posted at 1100 BST on 15/05/18.