This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
AT&T BYRON NELSON
Winner's Share: $1,638M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: McKinney, Texas
Course: TPC Craig Ranch
2021 champion: K.H. Lee
After a tumultuous few years for a tournament that bears the name of one of the greatest golfers and greatest gentlemen in PGA Tour history, there is some stability. The AT&T Byron Nelson is back at TPC Craig Ranch for a second straight year, after a pandemic-canceled 2020 tournament preceded by two editions at ill-fated Trinity Forest. The five-year agreement for Craig Ranch to be the host course not only brings consistency for the Tour, tournament organizers and the golfers, it does so for us, the gamers, too.
Nelson, who won six majors and more than 50 Tour events mostly in the 1930s and '40s, passed in 2006 at 94. Now, his tournament is approaching that lofty age. The inaugural 1944 Texas Victory Open was won by none other than Nelson himself, followed the next two years by Sam Snead and Ben Hogan. Through the years, other winners have been Jack Nicklaus, Tom Watson, Fred Couples, Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and so many more greats of the game.
Another big name could be added to that list as this year's field is flat-out loaded in the final tuneup for next week's PGA Championship at somewhat nearby Southern Hills in Tulsa, Okla. Dallas residents Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth head the 156-man list, followed in quick order by Dustin Johnson, Justin Thomas, Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Hideki Matsuyama, Sam Burns, Joaquin Niemann and Will Zalatoris. That's a pretty sweet collection, especially after the past three weeks in between the Masters and PGA have been one of the deadest spots on the PGA Tour calendar.
Other bold-face names include Jason Day, Tommy Fleetwood, Bubba Watson, Kevin Kisner, Jason Kokrak, Matt Kuchar, Sahith Theegala and defending champion K.H. Lee, who chased down 54-hole leader Burns on Sunday to become the second straight Nelson winner from South Korea, after Sung Kang in 2019. This year's field is far stronger than the past two, though more than 70 golfers are back from last year and should have a little edge in familiarity with Craig Ranch.
We'd like to point out one other player of note: Justin Leonard will be making his first start in five years, since the 2017 Valero Texas Open. Leonard, who has been exceptional as an analyst on Golf Channel, turns 50 next month and is no doubt gearing for his Champions Tour debut.
While there is a lot of star power on hand, it wasn't that long ago that the Nelson was floundering. Just three years ago in 2019 the headliner at this tournament was none other than ... Tony Romo. He missed the cut by a mere nine strokes, though that was actually better than four other real golfers who completed 36 holes.
TPC Craig Ranch is a 2004 Tom Weiskopf design located about 35 miles north of the city of Dallas. Before last year's Nelson tournament, the course's claim to fame was playing host to the 2008 and 2012 Korn Ferry Tour Championships. The winning scores were 16- and 17-under, though it played as a par-71. Early indications last year were that the pros could chew up this course and they were borne out, when Lee took the trophy at a whopping 25-under. Yes, rain greatly softened the track, but in hot and dry condition this year still expect the winning score to be at least 20-under.
The track is not especially long for a par-72. In fact, all four par-5s are reachable in two by a good chunk of field, as the longest is 569 yards on the scorecard. No. 18 is a par-5 at 552 yards, so a final-hole eagle is in play. Last year, Lee played the par-5s in 11-under, all on birdies, while Burns tore them up to the tune of 15-under, with one eagle on 18. Three of the par-3s surpass 200 yards and six par-4s exceed 450 yards. But there are also short par-4s, including two that are semi-drivable, the 361-yard 6th and the 330-yard 14th. Length off the tee was unimportant last year. The course features tree-lined but fairly generous fairways leading to large bentgrass greens (averaging almost 7,000 square feet). There is prominent water all along the course, mainly in the name of Rowlett Creek, and it will come into play on 13 of the 18 holes.
Weather-wise, the golfers will be dealing with steamy conditions all week, with highs in the 90s every day, little chance of rain and rather light winds forecast. But as we've seen before, the wind can get going pretty god in Texas.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC Craig Ranch
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Par-5 Scoring
• Birdie Average/Birdie-or-Better Percentage (BOB%)
2021 - K.H. Lee (TPC Craig Ranch)
2020 - None
2019 - Sung Kang (Trinity Forest)
2018 - Aaron Wise (Trinity Forest)
2017 - Billy Horschel (TPC Four Seasons)
2016 - Sergio Garcia (TPC Four Seasons)
2015 - Steven Bowditch (TPC Four Seasons)
2014 - Brendon Todd (TPC Four Seasons)
2013 - Sangmoon Bae (TPC Four Seasons)
2012 - Jason Dufner (TPC Four Seasons)
2011 - Keegan Bradley (TPC Four Seasons)
Last year's Craig Ranch debut turned into a Wild West shootout, with Lee winning at 25-under by three strokes over Sam Burns, who was bidding for two in a row after his maiden Valspar triumph. Neither guy was long or especially straight off the tee, but it obviously didn't hurt them one bit. Both golfers tied for fifth in the field in greens in regulation and ranked 1-2 (Lee-Burns) in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. The difference wound up being on the greens, with Lee ranking ninth in SG: Putting while Burns was 45th. Another stroke back of Burns in four-way tie for third were Patton Kizzire and Scott Stallings at 21-under-par, and they both ranked in the top-4 in SG: Putting. Amazingly, Stallings ranked first. So it was clear you had to make putts to win. Lee made only three bogeys all tournament. It is possible that the course could be slightly harder this year. Usually, the Tour errs on the side of forgiveness when introducing a new track, so as not scare off the golfers for future years. Golfodds.com puts the over/under on the winning score at 265.5 – 22.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Justin Thomas - $10,600 (+900)
Thomas does everything but win. Which is good and bad. And in a putting contest, you're gonna need your guy to make some putts. That's clearly Thomas' worst stat. But he's middle of the pack in SG: Putting (106th), which is not terrible. Thomas also is second on Tour in birdie or better percentage (BOB%) and third in par-5 scoring, which might be THE two stats this week.
Dustin Johnson - $10,200 (+1800)
Even though hitting the ball far isn't a prerequisite this week, it's not a detriment like it is on some tracks. Johnson has shown flashes of his old self in recent months with top-10s at THE PLAYERS and the Masters. He's top-25 in birdie average and in total eagles, and he should be able to tear up these par-5s.
Sam Burns - $9,500 (+2000)
Burns has a slight edge that the three guys above him don't: He played the course last year. He was runner-up, and what prevented a win was some terrible putting. That could happen again, but Burns is pretty darn good on the greens this season, ranked 34th in SG: Putting. It's hard to be top-10 in BOB% and par-5 scoring without good putting, as Burns is.
Tier 2 Values
Will Zalatoris - $9,400 (+1400)
Some might think it odd to bring Zalatoris to a putting contest. But the rest of his game is so good, he should be able to make it on to the first page of the leaderboard regardless.
Joaquin Niemann - $9,300 (+3500)
Here's another guy who's not a great putter but the rest of his game is lights-out. Niemann is ranked 23rd in SG: Approach, 12th in Around-the-Green and ninth in Tee-to-Green. Plus he's 15th in BOB%. He's hasn't fallen off much since winning at Riviera, with a top-25 at THE PLAYERS and a tie for 12th at Harbour Town.
Tommy Fleetwood - $9,000 (+4000)
There's no denying how well Fleetwood is playing. He has has five straight top-25s in stroke-play events, including THE PLAYERS and the Masters. And perhaps most surprising, he's added a 14th club to his bag, something they call a "putter." Yes, Fleetwood is ranked eighth on Tour in SG: Putting. He's an even-better fourth in SG: Around-the-Green, which may not be paramount this week but keep it in your back pocket for Southern Hills. Fleetwood is ranked 21st in par-5 scoring.
Talor Gooch - $8,600 (+4500)
Perhaps the biggest hindrance to Gooch doing even better than he has been is driving distance. That won't hurt him this week. He's 18th on Tour in SG: Approach. He's also first in total eagles and 23rd in birdie average.
Tier 3 Values
Adam Hadwin - $8,000 (+5500)
Hadwin likely will be a popular pick. When you have three top-10 and two more top-25s in nine starts (with two other T26s) – and cost only $8,000 – that tends to happen. Especially on a track where the distance-challenged Canadian can still excel. Even starting farther back in the fairway than most others, Hadwin is ranked seventh on Tour in greens in regulation. And he's top-40 on Tour in both par-5 scoring and BOB%.
Maverick McNealy - $7,800 (+5500)
The first thing we'd like to point out is that McNealy hasn't missed a cut in six months. Then we'd like to say he's ranked sixth on Tour in total eagles, 18th in birdie average and 10th in par-5 scoring. His biggest trouble spot is accuracy off the tee – again, that won't kill him this week.
Sebastian Munoz - $7,600 (+7500)
Munoz has been uber-consistent of late, finishing his past seven tournaments somewhere between 21st and 39th. His putting has been abysmal (ranked 180th in SG: Putting) but we can live with that at $7,600. Besides, he's been figuring things out rather nicely even with that trouble on the greens. He's ranked top-50 on Tour in both par-5 scoring and BOB%.
Patton Kizzire - $7,100 (+10000)
Kizzire played well here last year, tying for third. The field is far stronger this time around, but he's playing pretty well coming in. He's made six of his past seven cuts. And Kizzire is doing that without great putting, which normally is the hallmark of his game. He's top-50 on Tour in SG: Approach, just outside the top-50 in BOB% and 33rd in par-5 scoring.
Greyson Sigg - $6,900 (+15000)
Sigg had made five straight cuts and nine of 10 before missing last week at the Wells Fargo. His only misses in 2022 have been at PGA National and TPC Potomac – two tough tracks that are nothing like Craig Ranch. Sigg is not long off the tee but he is ranked inside the top-100 in greens in regulation and just outside in both par-5 scoring and BOB%.
Hudson Swafford - $6,700 (+25000)
Swafford won a shootout at the Amex in January and then went into a bit of a funk. But he's rebounded to make four straight cuts, including at a major for the first time – an impressive T30 at the Masters. His big trouble spot is wedge play around the greens, but that could be avoided this week on the very large greens. Swafford is ranked 31st in BOB% and 40th in par-5 scoring. He loves his birdie-fests.
Pat Perez - $6,700 (+25000)
Perez has made eight of his past 10 cuts on different kinds of course and in different field strengths. Really, with 156 guys, our first mission down here is to make the cut, then hope for a little good fortune on the weekend. Perez doesn't have great stats, but that starts off the tee, where he is very short. Last year, he was able to survive here and a little bit more with a tie for 39th.
Luke Donald - $6,400 (+30000)
We know what you're thinking. And, yeah, we can't believe we're picking Luke Donald, either. But there is a ray of sunshine here – okay, a crack, maybe a sliver. Donald has actually made four of his past five cuts, and we're not talking opposite-field events. Valspar, Valero, RBC Heritage, Wells Fargo. Two of those were top-25s. Donald is woefully short off the tee; he largely has been technologied out of today's game. But driving distance isn't mandatory this week and it wasn't last year, when Donald tied for 13th here. He's also, get this, ranked 14th on tour in SG: Approach.