AT&T Byron Nelson Championship betting preview and tips

Brooks Koepka at the 2019 Masters at Augusta
Brooks Koepka at the 2019 Masters at Augusta

Ben Coley fancies Brooks Koepka to warm up for his PGA Championship defence by winning the AT&T Byron Nelson Championship in Texas.

Recommended bets

5pts win Brooks Koepka at 8/1

2pts e.w. Henrik Stenson at 28/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Kevin Tway at 100/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)

1pt e.w. Trey Mullinax at 90/1 (1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6)


If you're the type of person who tweets @Jack when the favourite icon changes from a star to a heart because you can't possibly imagine clicking a LOVE HEART when you just want to bookmark the latest Guardian blind date (poor old Marcin) then there's a decent chance you're on board with Matt Kuchar.

Change, you see, isn't for everyone, so when the PGA Tour left behind the creature comforts of Las Colinas for Trinity Forest, there was always going to be dissent somewhere. To think, at the time it felt like a surprise that it came from Golly Matty and not some villain like Slovakia's Rory Sabbatini.

"I really, really liked Las Colinas," said Kuchar as he waved goodbye to a streak of 30 cuts made and ended his relationship with Trinity Forest, which evidently failed to woo him and was given no second chance. Oddly, it's a course which ought to suit a player who so nearly won a Claret Jug at Royal Birkdale, but that's his loss.

Kuchar might have been the most vocal, but he probably wasn't alone in wishing that things had stayed as they were. That's partly because Trinity Forest's post-modernity, all wide fairways, limited rough, large greens, requires more thought than your typical TPC layout. But it's also because players liked the hotel better at the other place. How the other half live.

Aaron Wise had never tasted what I'm sure is an excellent Four Seasons menu from executive chef Christof Syré, and perhaps that helped as he sauntered to an impressive breakthrough. Long touted as a future star, Wise held off Marc Leishman in what amounted to a Sunday duel, his approach play too good for Leishman's putting, and that small piece of evidence might well reveal plenty.

Episode four of Not Another Golf Podcast previews the British Masters, hosted by Tommy Fleetwood
CLICK HERE to download episode four of Not Another Golf Podcast, previewing the British Masters and Byron Nelson

Ask a bunch of experts on golf course design just what makes a good golf course, and an overriding theme will be its openness to myriad methods of attack. Trinity Forest passed that test: Wise led the field on approach shots, Leishman with the putter, Branden Grace around the greens, Keith Mitchell off the tee. That's four of the first five home and the other, J.J. Spaun, simply did everything quite well.

All of this is in spite of the fact that Trinity Forest did not play as designers Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw would've liked. A layout like this one, propped up on what was previously an illegal dumping site, exacerbating its vulnerability to the elements, needs bounce and a breeze to flourish. Last year, watering both natural and unnatural combined with relatively tranquil conditions denied it both.

Unfortunately, a wet spell in Dallas coupled with the PGA Tour's player-first approach to course set-up means we'll likely get something similar, but whatever happens this is a welcome change of pace from rank-and-file tournaments.

Sitting one week in front of the PGA Championship might deny us a great field, but we are presented with a potentially great golf course, and we may well get a great winner, because I think Brooks Koepka is going to love it here.

Admittedly, it's not the course which has attracted the three-time major champion. Koepka is one of those who likes to play the week before a major and with his PGA defence brought forward from August to May, that means a debut at Trinity Forest.

Whether it plays firm or soft, whether the wind blows or not, Koepka has the tools to dismantle it and while it's been an up-and-down 2019, his last stroke play start was second place at The Masters. Wise arrived on the back of a narrow runner-up finish and Koepka can follow his lead.

Certainly, power and aggression are talents which marry the two but what I really like about the favourite is the fact that he's done his major winning around courses which appear similar to this one.

First there was Erin Hills, the sort of wide, low-scoring test allowed him to flex his muscles and confirm himself a member of the elite.

A year later, there was Shinnecock - a design masterpiece, one which forces thought on every shot, and one Koepka overcame despite being on the back foot early and then asked a seriously tough question by Tommy Fleetwood's final-round charge.

Even Bellerive, scene of his third major win, offers some sort of clue given how soft it played and should things happen to firm up markedly, don't forget that he was a factor for much of that Open Championship in which Kuchar eventually gave best to Jordan Spieth.

Confidence is further enhanced by the fact that Koepka is reportedly much more interested in golf course architecture than you might think. I learned that speaking to Andy Johnson of Fried Egg fame, very much a leading voice in the field of course design. He told me that Koepka is the PGA Tour consultant on a project here in Texas and that Tom Doak had been taken by his enthusiasm.

Since returning to the United States from Europe, Koepka has invariably teed up the week before a stateside major and with top-six finishes in four of his last eight such starts, it's a formula which is working for him. And, in the absence of world-class opposition, this is an opportunity I fancy him to take.

But for a price which looks short enough, Spieth might've made the staking plan. While Mitchell did place here because of what he did from the tee, there's no doubt you can get away with waywardness - last year, every player in the field bar one hit more than 60 per cent of fairways. They are simply enormous.

Of course, the whole point of the design is that hitting the wrong part of the fairway can prove troublesome, but from a comfort perspective Spieth may feel more at ease in what's his hometown event and that could make all the difference. I maintain that he's not as far away as many appear to think.

But while the 2017 Open champion is tempting, it's his predecessor in that event who I prefer with Henrik Stenson also fancied to enjoy Trinity Forest on his first visit.

Henrik Stenson
Henrik Stenson is considered an each-way play

The Swede hasn't been at his best this season, but a field-leading display of iron play at the Valspar followed by something not far short of that at Quail Hollow suggest he's getting there in time for three majors which suit his game.

With Leishman second, Grace third and Adam Scott not far behind, it strikes me that this course still favoured Open specialists last year, regardless of conditions, and there aren't many who you'd put ahead of Stenson on that score.

Fourth at Pinehurst and sixth at Shinnecock read well here and while 36th place at Augusta might not scream winner-in-waiting, he's rarely been a factor there and it probably came a little too soon after a stuttering start to 2019.

Given that his form at Quail Hollow prior to last week showed seven starts, four missed cuts and one top-50 finish, the fact that he improved after a poor start to finish 28th is encouraging and another step forward would make him a big player in these calmer waters.

Stenson barely missed a green over the final 54 holes of the Wells Fargo and while he's going to need to putt better to win here, slower greens should help.

Hideki Matsuyama has a not dissimilar profile but to complete the staking plan I'll take two players who are certain to welcome every single drop of rain to have fallen here.

First is Kevin Tway, who might be ready to recapture the form which saw him win the first event of the season now that his long-awaited Masters debut is in the bag.

Tway fared well at Augusta, popping up on the leaderboard on the first day and comfortably making the cut, and since then a share of 13th in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans alongside Kelly Kraft offers further encouragement.

In 13 starts in Texas he's been third at TPC San Antonio, fifth at Colonial and ninth here last year, which was his first top-10 finish in almost exactly a year.

It's true that his form this time doesn't read all that much better, but he's going to find this far more suitable than the likes of Sawgrass, PGA National and Innisbrook, and it's significant that he's fared best at the more big-hitter-friendly courses he's played since that California win.

As mentioned, Trinity Forest can be taken apart any number of ways, but having licence to go about the job with his customary big-hitting can make all the difference for a player who is edging back towards his best.

Finally, Trey Mullinax came closest to his breakthrough win in last year's Texas Open and could well go one better here.

Top-10 finishes in Florida, Texas and Tennessee since ninth place behind Koepka at Erin Hills suggest the Alabama man is most likely to knock the door down in the south east - and so does his Web.com Tour win in North Carolina.

Trey Mullinax
Trey Mullinax is backed to play well

Last week's mid-pack finish in the Wells Fargo doesn't tell the full story as his iron play was world-class, and that's a continuation of the promise he'd shown at Harbour Town where those tight corridors undermine his explosive power.

Here at Trinity Forest, where most will hit a lot of greens, it may well be the case again that the player who consistently hits the ball close ends up on top and Mullinax looks an ideal candidate at a big price.

Posted at 1630 BST on 06/05/19

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