The Byron Nelson is usually a weaker field that produces some unique champions. But this season, we do have some headliners, including Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Sergio Garcia, Patrick Reed, and Brooks Koepka. The venue is TPC Four Seasons, which went through a course redesign in 2008 (don't use any course history prior to that). A very wide range of player type / caliber has won this event, including studs like Jason Day and Adam Scott, and journeymen like Steven Bowditch, Sang-Moon Bae, and Brendan Todd. Weather can play a major factor, and rain is in the forecast this week, which could soften the course to favor the bombers. TPC Four Seasons is a 7,166 yard par-70 course, which features only two par 5s. Eagles are very rare here, and par 4 scoring is going to likely determine the winner. The fairways are tight and tree lined, and all players will struggle to keep the ball in the short grass. This is another reason I'm favoring bombers… It's easier to hit wedges and short irons out of the rough than long to mid irons. This is a strange course layout, with the PGA Tour pros often ranking TPC Four Seasons as their least favorite course on Tour. Take that however you'd like, but for me that means more variance than usual. The last note about the golf course is that we have bentgrass greens, not bermuda which we've seen in most recent weeks. There's some useful data out there about putting splits on certain grass types. With that being said, let's get on to the sleeper picks of the week.
Birdie or Better % (BoB%): There are really not many weeks where we aren't going to target birdie or better percentage, because that's what fantasy golf scoring is all about. There's going to be plenty of bogeys this week, so we need birdies to offset the damages. Guys like Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Brooks Koepka, Scott Piercy, and Anirban Lahiri top this field in birdie or better percentage on Tour. It's possible to have a player finish top-10 in fantasy points while not finishing anywhere close to the top-10 in the actual event.
Par-4 Scoring (P4): Each week, the winner is decided by par-3s, par-4s, or par-5s. Because we have a par-70 with only two par-5s this week, par-4 scoring will be at a premium. Players who can make the most birdies and avoid big numbers on these holes will have an edge come Sunday afternoon. Some names that stand out in the field are Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth, Jason Dufner, Tony Finau, and Zac Blair.
Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee (SG:OTT): I'm going to target elite drivers of the golf ball as well this week. You could look at good drive percentage, but I'm going to remain focused on strokes gained metrics. Driving the ball well will be key to scoring this week, and past leaderboards suggest that bombers have the edge. We're going to target our usual bombers – Dustin Johnson, Tony Finau, JB Holmes, and Gary Woodland – but can also look at Sergio Garcia, Graham DeLaet, and Ryan Palmer.
1. DUSTIN JOHNSON [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #1
For about the 100th week in a row, DJ top my rankings. He's the hottest golfer in the world right now, and posted his best career finish at TPC Sawgrass last week. Before that, he'd finished 2nd, 1st, 1st, 1st, and 3rd in his previous five events. At TPC Four Seasons, he's finished 12th or better five of his past six appearances, so something about this course fits his eye. He bombs it off the tee, makes birdies, dominates par-4s, and is firing on all cylinders.
2. BROOKS KOEPKA [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #19
I have a feeling Koepka will gain some steam this week, but hopefully this high price tag keeps his ownership reasonable. Koepka has found his form since a revelation at Bay Hill, finishing 16th, 11th, 2nd, and 16th in his last four starts. He's also finished 2nd and 16th here the past two seasons (I love these coincidences). Koepka is a bomber and birdie-maker who clearly loves this track, and is rounding back into the world-class form we expect from him each week.
3. JASON DAY [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #3
Day hasn't played here in a few years, but his record at TPC Four Season reads 1st, 5th, 9th, and 27th. The Aussie loves playing in Texas, and looks to shake off some of the rust he's shown over the past month. It's been awhile since we've even seen Day inside the top-20, but I think this is the perfect bounce back week. He's been dealing with family issues off-the-course, but things are trending up for the Day family.
4. JORDAN SPIETH [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #5
There's clearly something going on with Spieth, both in his golf swing and in his mind. He's been known as a bit of a hot head over the years, and seems to struggle when dealing with adversity. With that being said, his MC last week makes him a great contrarian play this week. Although the course doesn't suit him very well, he's never missed a cut here, and always shows up to honor the event that gave him his first sponsor's exemption. If you can get the 6th ranked player in the world at under 10% owned, it's a sound GPP strategy.
5. SERGIO GARCIA [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #7
Sergio managed to get himself into the mix at TPC Sawgrass after a slow start, mostly thanks to his ace on the Island Green. He had taken a month off after his Masters win, so there was bound to be some rust. Garcia returns to the Byron Nelson where he beat Brooks Koepka in a playoff a year ago. He's a multiple time winner of this event and has shown a propensity to play some of his best golf in the Lone Star state.
6. PATRICK REED [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #15
Patrick Reed loves playing in his home state, and he's finally starting to find that form again. He's really been struggling with his game this season, specifically his irons, but his recent strokes gained statistics are showing a better trend. He was the 54-hole leader at Wells Fargo before faltering on Sunday, and posted a decent finish last week at TPC Sawgrass. If he can make some putts, I wouldn't be surprised to see Reed near the lead this weekend. He's missed the cut in both of his appearances at TPC Four Seasons.
7. LOUIS OOSTHUIZEN [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #32
Once again, Louis pops up in a big event. Last week, the South African finished 2nd at The Players Championship. He was right there all week, but just couldn't get enough putts to drop. The sweet swinging veteran has always been close to multiple titles, but never seems to have the firepower to get over the hump. But he is a major champion, and the pedigree is there. Louis has been very consistent this year, with his other top-5 finish coming in his last stroke play event in Texas: the Shell Houston Open.
8. TONY FINAU [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #66
Tony Finau chalk weeks never end well, but this course should suit his game perfectly. He's an elite driver of the ball, and has really improved his iron play this season. Finau also loves putting on bentgrass greens, which we'll have this week at TPC Four Seasons. Finau has finished 12th and 10th here the past two seasons. That 2nd career win is coming soon.
9. JASON DUFNER [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #64
Dufner seems to have found his game this season, as he's been consistently ratting off top-20 finishes in 2017. He made the cut last week at The Players, but floundered on Sunday. He comes back to one of his favorite courses on Tour, where he's won (2012) and posted two other top-10 finishes. Dufner hasn't missed a cut here in nearly a decade, and should continue the strong form he's shown this season. He's priming himself for a run to the President's Cup team this Fall.
10. MATT KUCHAR [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #17
Mr. Consistency let us down with a MC at The Players last week, which was really surprising given his affinity for Pete Dye designs. It's just another example of the unpredictability of golf tournaments. Kuchar comes back to TPC Four Seasons where he's made nine consecutive cuts, including a 3rd last year, a 7th in 2014, and a 6th in 2011. I'm a little worried that Kuchar is burned out, given how much golf he's played this season, but I wouldn't be afraid to use him in cash games this week.