Draws and Fades: AT&T Byron Nelson
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All-time shots from AT&T Byron Nelson
The Monday of the week before the PGA Championship always is especially active in the fantasy world. It also serves as an unofficial launch into a dizzying few weeks as the fields of the last three majors of the season take serious shape.
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It’s not that we can’t project a high percentage of the qualifiers in advance – many of you already do that – but until the top 70 in PGA Championship Points are official, even one last-minute stumble or surge can change the complexion of your short-range decision-making.
I write the weekly update to Qualifiers every Sunday night. It usually publishes soon after, but during weeks when there are so many moving parts, including a requirement to wait for the latest Official World Golf Ranking, you won’t read it until at least Monday morning. Then, because the PGA of America dished out the last set of special exemptions into the PGA Championship midday on Monday, the expected midweek update was necessary ASAP.
If you’ve ever wondered, yes, I use that one-stop shop for my own gaming. In fact, I already had been maintaining my own database prior to introducing it to the fantasy audience at Rotoworld when I started an eight-year run leading the golf content on that old website in 2008. It remains as invaluable to all kinds of fantasy formats with which bettors, DFSers and other newer weekly gamers are not familiar.
What Qualifiers doesn’t have is the list of alternates at Southern Hills Country Club. They consist of the golfers outside the top 70 in PGA Championship Points who are not yet exempt. So, Brendan Steele (78th), Beau Hossler (79th) and Kramer Hickok (80th) are the first three alternates. The last spot in the field of 156 is reserved for this week’s winner in Texas.
POWER RANKINGS WILD CARD
Tommy Fleetwood (+175 for a Top 20) … As likely as it is for relative unknowns to emerge as products of the equation that generates victory in shootouts, we shouldn’t look past familiar faces like the Englishman. We need him to gather more scoring opportunities, but he’s the kind of profile who could turn this into a putting contest. At the same time, he’s a better fit on more difficult venues.
Matthew Wolff (+350 for a Top 20) … Without perspective, what do you have? To paraphrase what my physics teacher in 11th grade said in his opening remarks on the first day, “Everything is optional.” He was referring to attending his class once we reached the age when physically going to school no longer was required by law. It varies by state, and no one bailed – why would we?; he’d open almost every class with 15 minutes of irreverent commentary reminiscent of the late P.J. O’Rourke before we started in on the material – but it’s a message that has rung loudly since. Last week, Wolff echoed it in his own way. He’s out to have fun because this is what he wants to do. Loyal readers know that my first rule of playing fantasy golf is to have fun, and that nothing else matters until you do. After opening with 65, Wolff held on for a T25. He led the field in distance of all drives, a can’t-teach superpower that will play up at TPC Craig Ranch.
K.H. Lee (+350 for a Top 20) … It’s rare for a defending champion to be “only” a Draw. Typically, I’ll push him into an extreme or highlight as the Wild Card, but I think you’d agree that this is where he belongs. Shootouts often yield surprise winners for whom the win is more of a spike than a shock. He’s been coasting along since, but he’s risen for only one top 10 since, and last week’s T25 at TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm was his first top 25 of 2022. He’ll be impossible to hide this week, but you won’t miss him in the rueful way if you refrain from holstering, either.
Jason Kokrak (+200 for a Top 20) … He’s missed only one cut in the last seven months, so he’ll fulfill even low expectations, but I’m more interested in how his game stacks up at Colonial in a couple of weeks. He’ll be defending what was his second PGA TOUR victory but it’s his first title defense on the same course.
Davis Riley (+250 for a Top 20) … Not only did he descend with consistently strong form, but he also was a late recipient of an exemption into next week’s PGA Championship. Lots and lots of validation early in the PGA TOUR career of this rookie.
Si Woo Kim
Odds sourced on Tuesday, May 10th at 6 p.m. ET. For live odds visit betmgm
Brooks Koepka (Editor's note: Koepka withdrew on Wednesday) … He missed the cut here last year, but even if he was the defending champion, he remains the most active moving target on the board. We can absorb that in the long-term, and I’ll never advise that any professional is looking ahead to a major, but we also can’t rule it out, either. When there are too many question marks, pass.
Kevin Kisner … TPC Craig Ranch is a big ballpark, so the nuance that contributes to his success doesn’t have the impact that it does on tracks like Waialae and TPC Sawgrass, sites of top-five finishes this year. No, the concern isn’t airtight, but this game we play already is tough enough. Accept the challenge, invest elsewhere and we’ll reevaluate the next time.
J.J. Spaun … Statistically a fine fit, but his breakthrough victory at TPC San Antonio presents as the aforementioned spike (see K.H. Lee’s capsule in Draws). He chased it with an impressive T23 in his Masters debut, but then missed the cut at Harbour Town at the tail end of that stressful, three-week stretch.
Tom Hoge … For the guy who leads the PGA TOUR with 34 sub-70s, and with the promise of probably four more this week, this slot would seem patently wrong. However, in his last six stroke-play starts, all of which on tough tracks, he failed to connect for a top 30, and his scores do not reflect difficulty relative to the challenge. In other words, he’s struggled more than his season-long data would project. I wrote in the Power Rankings that golfers can find their games at TPC Craig Ranch. He’s the perfect example to put that to the test but consider letting his go it alone.
Stephen Jaeger … OK, this is backwards. After lighting stages on fire through the 2020-21 Korn Ferry Tour season en route to his return to the PGA TOUR and with status north of the reshuffle, he did virtually nothing until the last two weeks, and only what are not the easiest courses to tackle, for different reasons. Rather, he would have been projected to hang up deeply numbers on a track like TPC Craig Ranch. He gets credit for current form and a rush of momentum, but I’m still skeptical no matter what analytics you want to cite.
RETURNING TO COMPETITION
Mito Pereira … Let’s try this again. A sore back prevented him from playing on after just on round of the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, and he decommitted from last week’s Wells Fargo Championship before his R1 tee time. Given the test and the conditions, that was a sensible call. This week’s track is worthy of giving it a go. Warm weather and the ease for scoring will give him a fair understanding of his progress with the lights on. He’ll likely come cheap, too, so go ahead and reach.
Nate Lashley … An injured toe thwarted the shot at another top 20. That’s what he cited for the reason he walked off TPC Potomac at Avenel Farm during his second round last week. Can’t imagine the problem would linger this long, but only DFSers should consider, and fractionally at that.
Curtis Thompson … A back injury knocked him out of the Wells Fargo Championship during his first round. It was a shame considering his brother, Nicholas, had open-qualified. Alas, Nitro missed the cut.
Martin Trainer … Wanna talk about the grind? Here’s a guy who tumbled to 1,310th in the Official World Golf Ranking seven events into this season during which he’s fully exempt by virtue of his victory at the 2019 Puerto Rico Open (and subsequent extension of status triggered by the pandemic), but now he’s 410th in the OWGR and 126th in the FedExCup thanks primarily to a pair of top 10s and a T11 (two weeks ago in Mexico). He had to withdraw after opening the Wells Fargo Championship with a 76 due to an injured thumb, but slot him as a flier in this shootout.
Brian Harman … This is odd because he was a late entry. It doesn’t happen often, but it’s not unprecedented. Given the variables, I loved the commitment so much that I slotted him at No. 9 in my Power Rankings. Instead, we won’t see the lefty until Southern Hills Country Club next week.
Erik van Rooyen … He’s opted for four weeks of rest and prep ahead of next week’s PGA Championship. The South African is equipped with exemptions into the U.S. Open and The Open Championship as well, so a midseason break is as valuable as it is important.
Doug Ghim … He’s 12-for-18 on the season with a T6 at THE PLAYERS, but that’s his only top 25, so he’s 127th in the FedExCup.
Danny Lee … No stranger to mid-tournament WDs, the 31-year-old opened his current 0-for-5 skid with one at TPC San Antonio, citing an illness. He’s 74th in the FedExCup and virtually safe to return to the Playoffs after falling short for the first time in eight consecutive seasons since reclaiming his card in 2013-14. However, he’s been unownable in every format since the T2-T7 blast last fall.
Morgan Hoffmann … With just one start remaining on his Major Medical Extension, he needs to be choosy. TPC Craig Ranch would seem to be a good fit in that it’s in the kind of climes with which he was familiar for his successful run at Oklahoma State University, but this is fixin’ to be a shootout, just as it was last year. Even if he truly believes that he could clear the hurdle, his game hasn’t returned well enough to contend. To fulfill the terms of his medical, he needs 238.420 FedExCup points for which no worse than a two-way T2 worth 245 would cover. For conditional status as the secondary objective, he’d need 127.098 FedExCup for which a solo fourth worth 135 points is the lowest target. Short of that and he’d lose his card. His next goal would be to qualify for the Korn Ferry Tour Finals via the KFT or non-member FedExCup points.
Nick Hardy … This is the third consecutive tournament from which he’s pulled out early due to an injured wrist. The PGA TOUR rookie is 193rd in the FedExCup.
Rasmus Højgaard … He also was an early withdrawal from the Puerto Rico Open, and he’s not exempt into next week’s PGA Championship, so his scheduling is as fluid as anyone’s. His non-member equivalent of FedExCup points (104) would slot him 184th among members, so he’s angling at eligibility for the KFT Finals; that is, if he’s pursuing a PGA TOUR card in 2022-23. Whatever the case, the 21-year-old Dane is an exciting talent, but he’s still useful only in spot starts.
RECAP – WELLS FARGO CHAMPIONSHIP
Power Ranking Golfer Result
1 Marc Leishman MC
2 Corey Conners T21
3 Rory McIlroy 5th
4 Matt Fitzpatrick T2
5 Tyrrell Hatton T37
6 Matt Kuchar T49
7 Keegan Bradley T2
8 Cameron Young T2
9 Gary Woodland MC
10 Russell Henley T41
11 Seamus Power MC
12 Anirban Lahiri T6
13 Brian Harman T9
14 Sergio Garcia T21
15 Abraham Ancer T56
Wild Card Tony Finau T41
Golfer (Bet) Result
Joel Dahmen (+250 for a Top 20) T51
Cam Davis (+333 for a Top 20) MC
Martin Laird (+300 for a Top 20) 61st
Matthias Schwab (+400 for a Top 20) MC
Jhonattan Vegas (+225 for a Top 20) T15
Bet: Seamus Power, Max Homa and Marc Leishman all to make the cut (+210)
BIRTHDAYS AMONG ACTIVE MEMBERS OF THE PGA TOUR
May 10 … Parker McLachlin (43)
May 11 … Briny Baird (50)
May 12 … Jim Furyk (52); Mike Weir (52); Garrick Higgo (23)
May 13 … none
May 14 … none
May 15 … Roger Sloan (35)
May 16 … Bo Van Pelt (47); Derek Ernst (32)