The PGA Tour is making a change this week and we're all hoping it works out well. The AT&T Byron Nelson has become in recent years, one of the least popular tournaments on the Tour schedule. Only seven of the Top 50 players in the world are here this week and only nineteen of the Top 100. Much of this had to do with the golf course at TPC Four Seasons in Las Colinas as it was consistently voted as one of the least favorite by the players. And so this year, we get a new venue - Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, Texas.
Trinity Forest is a links-style course. It is a Par 71 and stretches to nearly 7400-yards in length. Bill Coore and Ben Crenshaw designed the property and describe it as "American-Links," meaning not purely a traditional links-style course like we see on many occasion for The British Open, but something more like Erin Hills, the site of last year's U.S. Open, or Chambers Bay, home to the 2015 U.S. Open. Coore and Crenshaw compare it to Pinehurst No. 2 in North Carolina.
There is not a single tree or water hazard on the course. It has 88-sand bunkers, Zoysia grass fairways, and very large, relatively slow, Bermuda grass greens. It certainly has a wide-open, Texas wind-swept, links look and should play quite interesting this week. Jordan Spieth, who won The British - or The Open Championship, at Royal Birkdale last summer, is a member at Trinity Forest.
"Birkdale was kind of the closest comparison I've found to a links course that you kind of have to attack from the air. You get maybe four or five, six holes where you can bounce the ball up, but the way to get balls close is to come in with a higher shot. That's not necessarily true links. It's (Trinity Forest) not very difficult off the tee. It's about where you position the tee ball, which half of the fairway, to be able to hold the greens on approach shots. It's a second shot course, where you've got to really think about where you're leaving the ball, because everything looks very spacious. There are no trees, you can work different (ball) flights, but it's very challenging if you're not really focused," Spieth told reporters.
From the sound of what we are hearing and the images we are seeing, it looks like this will be a very exciting new face on the Tour rotation. For our handicap, obviously it is difficult when we have no course history to go off of but we can use some of the comparisons to Royal Birkdale, Erin Hills, Chambers Bay, and Pinehurst. With wide-open fairways and the notion that Trinity Forest is a second-shot golf course, Strokes Gained: Tee to Green looks to be a statistic we can apply along with Strokes Gained: Approach the Green. Scrambling too ought to be important.
With a bump and run approach coming into play on several holes and the run-off areas around the greens, creativity from 100-yards and in should prove to be a factor this week. The forecast calls for a very hot week with temperatures in the mid-90’s. The wind is supposed to be calm on Thursday and Sunday with it picking on Friday and Saturday into the 15-20 MPH range. These are pretty typical conditions for golf in the area, so we can also look at how players have performed at other tournaments in Texas.
Jordan Spieth (+5.82 Pinnacle): Nobody in the field will know this course better than Spieth, who is a member at Trinity Forest. His victory at both the 2015 U.S. Open at Chambers Bay and at Royal Birkdale last July, shows his knowledge for how to play these types of courses. He is No. 1 on Tour in Scrambling.
Matt Kuchar (+18.26 Bookmaker): Kuchar was second to Spieth at Birkdale, 14th at Chambers Bay and 16th last year at The U.S. Open at Erin Hills. His affinity for Texas golf and his excellent short game ought to fare well this week.
Sergio Garcia (+20.26 Bookmaker): Sergio’s first Major Championship coming at The Masters rather than at The British Open was a bit of a surprise given his tremendous ability to play links golf. He is a former Byron Nelson Champion and should be able to flourish against a weak field.
Jimmy Walker (+2200 5Dimes): Walker lives in Texas and went to school at Baylor. He is coming off of a second place finish last week at The PLAYERS, his fourth Top 25 finish since The Masters.
Marc Leishman (+2500 5Dimes): Leishman took ninth at The Masters and has an excellent track record at The British Open, including a sixth place finish last year at Royal Birkdale. He was 27th at Erin Hills prior to this.
Branden Grace (+2500 5Dimes): Grace was sixth at Birkdale last year and fourth at Chambers Bay in 2015. He hasn’t missed a cut all season on Tour.
The Long Shots
Brandt Snedeker (+47.50 Bookmaker): Snedeker finished eighth at Chambers Bay and ninth at Erin Hills. He took 15th at The Valero Texas Open less than a month ago. His ability around the greens should give him an advantage here this week.
Martin Laird (+41.55 Pinnacle): The Scotsman will know how to play this type of course and is in excellent form coming in with four Top 11 finishes in the last three months. He was 32nd at Erin Hills last June.
Maverick McNealy (+98.50 Bookmaker): McNealy is a relative unknown in the big leagues but has been playing very well on The Web.com Tour. He is a three-time First Team All-American at Stanford and winner of the 2017 Byron Nelson Award.
Adam Scott (+2200 5Dimes): Adam Scott’s current form is beginning to heat up. He finished Top 15 in all three Florida events he entered this season, most recently taking 11th last week at The PLAYERS at which he led the field in Scrambling. He has a tremendous history in Texas and at The British Open. He also took 4th at The U.S Open in 2015 at Chambers Bay. I expect him to be comfortable in this setting and should make a run at the title.