Editor’s note: Marc Leishman withdrew from the AT&T Byron Nelson on Thursday morning.
When you hand over the tees of a course with no trees, no water, no rough and greens that average 13,500 square feet to talent on the PGA TOUR, the history books brace for revisions.
This was the reality when Trinity Forest Golf Club debuted as host of the AT&T Byron Nelson last year. After reviewing the ranking of those projected to contend for this week's title, continue reading for what transpired last year and much more.
Jordan Spieth, Henrik Stenson, Patrick Reed and Branden Grace will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
As noted at the top, Trinity Forest is a property of extremes. As a result, wind is the only true defense for the three-year-old par 71 south of downtown Dallas. Yet, when the Texas winds aren't howling, even the undulations on the massive Champion bermudagrass putting surfaces don't pose much of a challenge to the quality of skill taking aim on them because they're governed to run no longer than 11 feet on the Stimpmeter. That's to guard against the course getting out of control on a breezy day.
In its inaugural edition as host to the 156-man field last year, Trinity Forest surrendered a scoring average of 69.415. That landed as second-lowest among all par 71s played all season. Gigantic landing areas off tees yielded a fairways-hit percentage of 79.50 (or 11.13 of 14 per golfer per round), highest since SilverRock co-hosted the 2011 Desert Classic. The field also averaged 13.83 greens in regulation per round, second-highest of 51 courses last season.
Then-rookie Aaron Wise played it like a video game on beginner mode. En route to his breakthrough title, he missed only six (of 56) fairways and only six GIR, fewest for any PGA TOUR winner since Willie Wood missed only five when he prevailed at the 1996 Sanderson Farms Championship (then known as the Deposit Guaranty Golf Classic).
Wise also ranked ninth in distance of all drives, third in proximity to the hole, second in strokes gained: tee-to-green and seventh in strokes gained: putting.
Where Wise didn't make noise was on the set of four par 3s. Rolling over for an average of 2.96, they ranked as the second-easiest among all courses in 2017-18. The champ beat the field average, but he did the bulk of his work by leading the field on the par 4s.
The par-3 eighth hole averaged -0.354 strokes to par to establish the record for lowest scoring average among all par 3s since recordkeeping launched in earnest in 1983. However, expect aggregate scoring on the par 3s to rise this year. Thanks to new tees, No. 8 is 20 yards longer and capable of reaching 160 yards, while the par-3 12th can now stretch to 220 yards, an increase of 15 yards.
Overall course yardage is down nine yards to 7,371 as the par-4 16th will be prepped to tip at 385 yards, a reduction of 44 yards from last year.
As membership continues to learn how to further capitalize on the course – as of midday Monday, 77 from last year's field are committed this week – the weather will promote the extension of aggressive thinking. Moderate winds will all but disappear by the weekend and the persistent threat of rain will keep the track soft and gettable. Daytime highs in the 70s will help sustain physical energy in the humidity.
Bottom line, for all pros headed to next week's PGA Championship, the AT&T Byron Nelson presents as a terrific opportunity to build confidence while staying fresh.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
THURSDAY: Champions One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesdays.