Even marathons have speed slots. In the year-long race that is the 2021-22 PGA TOUR season, TPC Craig Ranch is one of them.
The second-year host of the AT&T Byron Nelson in McKinney, Texas, is prepped once again a field of 156 this week. For a brief recap of how vulnerable it was last year, the predictable path to victory that K.H. Lee followed and more, continue reading beneath the ranking of golfers projected to contend.
POWER RANKINGS: AT&T BYRON NELSON
Tuesday’s Draws and Fades will include reviews of Brooks Koepka, Tommy Fleetwood, Kevin Kisner, Matthew Wolff and defending champion K.H. Lee.
The old saying that everything is bigger in Texas does not apply to the scores at TPC Craig Ranch. It isn’t every week that a winner on a new venue hangs up 25-under 263, but that’s what Lee did on this racetrack a year ago.
With a scoring average of just 69.574, TPC Craig Ranch was the easiest par 72 among singular hosts of full-field tournaments since TPC Summerlin (69.070) played to that par for the Shriners Hospitals Open in 2008. (TPC Summerlin has been a par 71 since – you guessed it – 2009.)
The 36-hole cut here last year landed at 6-under 138, and 72 golfers survived. Of all scores in the first two rounds, there were only six 72s and one 73. All others were under par. Without question, the entire field needs to hit the ground running.
As is the case in every shootout, piling up the scoring opportunities and capitalizing on them is the simple formula for success. Last year’s field averaged 12.7 greens in regulation per round and 4.37 par breakers on that average. That conversion rate was seventh-easiest of the 51 courses played during the super season. Furthermore, with a scrambling clip of 65.67 percent, TPC Craig Ranch was fourth-easiest on which to save par. It’s a course on which guys can keep rallies rolling and find their games.
En route to his three-stroke, breakthrough PGA TOUR title, Lee ranked T5 in greens in regulation, fourth in proximity and second in putting: birdies-or-better. He also slotted ninth in Strokes Gained: Putting and T18 in scrambling. His red-hot performance is incredibly difficult to replicate, and it helps explain how another first-time winner could emerge this week.
While times in running races can be aided by wind, the omnipresent breezes of the Lone Star State help defend scoring, believe it or not. A steady, prevailing push of 15 mph or so from the south will challenge until it’s forecast to blow in from the north on Sunday. That’s after a chance of rain passes through. Gusts most certainly will be felt throughout the week. Daytime highs will eclipse 90 degrees. Totally Texas.
TPC Craig Ranch is unchanged and still tips at 7,468 yards. The bentgrass greens are governed to accommodate for wind, so they will run no longer than 11½ feet on the Stimpmeter. The tallest bermuda rough extends 2½ inches.
As of Monday afternoon, 53 commits are exempt into next week’s PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The last entry into that field of 156 is reserved for the winner of the AT&T Byron Nelson.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.