The PGA Championship is just around the corner. The world’s best golfers will have the entirety of their games tested when they visit Bethpage Black but it’s a very different story with this week’s major warm up event, the AT&T Byron Nelson.
Last year’s switch to Trinity Forest Golf Club saw record low scores at this long running PGA Tour event. More of the same is expected this time around which is music to the ears of Marc Leishman. He took Trinity Forest apart on the first three days but just couldn’t hack the pace on the Sunday. Leishman will be desperate to claim the win this time around and looks a great price to do just that.
There are any number of reasons why Trinity Forest proved to be little more than a pushover last season. The par 71 may not be particularly short at 7,380 yards but it can be very easy to score here, subject to weather conditions. There are no trees, no rough to speak of and no water hazards at the Dallas track so when the Texas winds don’t whip up, top class golfers can let loose and play aggressively.
If you were to walk the course at Trinity Forest the greens would stand out as the main defence. They are very undulating and have plenty of scope for tricky pin positions, however, the prevalence of the wind means the organisers are unable to let them play too fast which limits their danger significantly. The one thing the players will have to guard against is missing the putting surfaces as the runoff areas around the greens make getting up and down for par a big ask.
|Trinity Forest Golf Club||Dalls, Texas||7,380 Yards||$7,900,000|
Aaron Wise made the most of near perfect scoring conditions on an easy track by racking up a tournament record score of -23 en route to his maiden PGA Tour win at last year’s AT&T Byron Nelson. The young American was a relative long shot at 50/1 but he immediately showed that he had the approach play needed to score well at Trinity Forest and never let up during the weekend.
Sergio Garcia and Billy Horschel both showed excellent scoring power when winning this title at TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas but that was a venue that could throw up surprise winners too, such as Steven Bowditch, who won on a course that was shortened due to flooding.
|Year||Winner||Course||To Par||Winning Margin|
|2018||Aaron Wise||Trinity Forest GC||-23||3 Strokes|
|2017||Billy Horschel||TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas||-12||Playoff|
|2016||Sergio Garcia||TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas||-15||Playoff|
|2015||Steven Bowditch||TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas||-18||4 Stokes|
|2014||Brendon Todd||TPC Four Seasons Las Colinas||-14||2 Strokes|
Analysis: A Second Shot Golf Course
Players who don’t hit at least 70% of greens in regulation this week may as well have stayed at home. Trinity Forest is not a course to pass up scoring opportunities so those who are regularly one putting for par will not be able to compete. It will take more than just hitting greens to be successful this week though. Proximity to the hole and strokes gained into the greens will be key stats for deciding the winner.
Leishman Can Hold On This Time Around
Aaron Wise did not have things all his own last year. He had to overcome a spirited challenge from Marc Leishman who just faded away during the final round. Prior to Sunday the Australian had displayed all the skills required to tackle Trinity Forest and he’ll arrive back in Dallas confident of another crack at the title.
Leishman has been a little quiet of late but his results are nothing for his fans to be worried about. He’s missed just one cut this year and has five top 10 finishes so Leishman’s game is clearly there or thereabouts. Back at a course that suits his game and with unfinished business to fire him up, Leishman has every chance of a fifth PGA Tour win at odds of 33/1 with Ladbrokes.
Im’s Scoring Power Makes Him a Threat
Sungjae Im has enjoyed himself during his rookie season on the PGA Tour. The South Korean booked his place in the big leagues thanks to some excellent play and two wins on last year’s Web.com Tour and he’s taken the same aggressive approach that served him so well onto the PGA Tour.
The standard of competition and difficulty of the courses that he’s face have meant that Im has had some tough days on the course but he leads the PGA Tour for total birdies. That reflects on his busyness as much as his style of play but Im should find Trinity Forest to be a great fit for his game which makes him worthy of each way support at 40/1 with Betfred.
Can Aphibarnrat Handle the Pace?
Kiradech Aphibarnrat is another exciting player who prefers aggressive golf over defence and will therefore be looking forward to the chance to attack at Trinity Forest. The Thai star has found the going tough at times as he has concentrated his season more around the PGA Tour than ever before but he’s won a lot of fans for his swashbuckling style.
That style has produced wins around the world and can do so again in Texas where Aphibarnrat looks very tempting for a small stakes bet at 100/1 with bet365.
Final Verdict: Marc Leishman to Win
Trinity Forest is a unique golf course which is not to everybody’s taste but those players who get it will have been looking forward to this week for some time now. Marc Leishman has certainly had this circled in his diary for some months as he looks to overcome last year’s disappointing final round by winning at odds of 33/1 with Ladbrokes.
About the AT&T Byron Nelson
The Byron Nelson tournament, which has been sponsored by AT&T since 2015, has been around since way back in 1944, when it was named the Texas Victory Open. Since 2018, the competition moved to the new Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, Texas, though a new venue is expected for 2021 after the 2020 event sadly fell foul of the coronavirus outbreak.
Several big names have won this tournament over the years, with the likes of Ernie Els, Phil Mickelson, Tiger Woods and Sergio Garcia all lifting the famous trophy. There haven’t been a huge number of multiple champions over the years but the man who has lifted this trophy more times than any other won three in a row from 1978 to 1980. Tom Watson’s four Byron Nelson titles mean he is one clear of Sam Snead.
As said, originally this tournament was called the Texas Victory Open, and it’s had a number of name changes over the years. However, since 1968, it’s been named after legendary golfer Byron Nelson, who won the first edition of this tournament way back in 1944 (although the name has still changed several times since then for sponsorship purposes).
The Byron Nelson is currently the ninth longest running stop on the PGA Tour calendar. The most recent tournament (2019) was won by South Korean Kang Sung-hoon by 2 strokes, which was his first PGA Tour title in what was his 159th start.
Why it Became the Byron Nelson
Byron Nelson is without doubt one of the true greats of the sport, the Texas native landing five majors. Nelson sadly passed away in 2006, but he made a huge impact on golf after turning professional back in 1932. In 1945, Nelson finished with 18 victories, including a staggering 11 in a row, surely the finest season ever recorded. He was subsequently inducted into the World Golf Hall of Fame and received the PGA Tour Lifetime Achievement Award, the latter in 1997.
All the way back in 1944 in the first edition of this tournament, the Roanoke-born legend won the then Texas Victory Open by 10 strokes at Lakewood Country Club. Since then, the event has been called the Dallas Open, Dallas Invitational, Dallas Centennial Open, Texas International Open and Dallas Open Invitational before Byron Nelson’s name was added in 1968.
Nelson, a contemporary of Snead and Ben Hogan in a golden era for US golf, was the first golfer to have a PGA Tour tournament named in his honour. In a surprisingly short golfing career, he picked up 52 PGA victories, including two Masters (1937, 1942), two PGA Championships (1940, 1945) and the U.S Open in 1939.
Nelson remained a great ambassador to golf after his playing career, becoming the inaugural recipient of the Payne Stewart Award in 2000 due to his professionalism and commitments to charity. He was also a very popular commentator.
Nicklaus v Palmer
This tournament has thrown up several memorable moments over the years, but the battle between Jack Nicklaus and Arnold Palmer – who are unquestionably two greats of the sport – in 1970 will always be remembered. The pair went head-to-head in a thrilling Byron Nelson Golf Classic, with Nicklaus not just going up against Palmer, but also his fans, the legendary Arnie’s Army, and seemingly the entire golfing world.
In a spectacular 36-hole Sunday finish, they were tied on 274 before Nicklaus won the playoff to claim the first of back-to-back Byron Nelson Golf Classic triumphs. As for Palmer, he never won this tournament, also finishing as runner-up in 1961.
Verplank’s Memorable Moment in 2007
Being born in Dallas, the Byron Nelson tournament meant more to Scott Verplank than most. Also, Verplank got to know Nelson while growing up as a teenager in Texas. Suffice to say, his win in 2007 in the EDS Byron Nelson Championship is one of the most emotional victories of Verplank’s career.
Coincidently, it was the first Byron Nelson Championship played after the great man’s death. Verplank said, “There’s no question in my mind that the stars lined up and I got a little help from upstairs,” after his unforgettable victory.
Watson’s Hat-trick of Wins
As said, no player has won the Byron Nelson more times than Tom Watson. The Kansas-born star, who is a septuagenarian these days, made a massive impact on this tournament from 1975 to 1980, winning four of six while it was the Byron Nelson Golf Classic. The British Open legend was runner-up in 1974 and then picked up his first win in 1975, shooting -15 to win by two. He then managed to secure a remarkable three in a row in 1978, 1979 and 1980, only missing out on a fourth consecutive win in a play-off in 1981.
We think it is very safe to say that Watson rather liked the Preston Trail Golf Club where the event was held for all of his golden period. Sadly, for him at least, it moved to Irving in 1983, or who knows how many wins he might have racked up. The only other golfers to win this event more than once are Sam Snead, who won back-to-back Dallas Open Invitationals in 1957 and 1958, Jack Nicklaus, Bruce Lietzke and Sergio Garcia.
Watson’s Byron Nelson Streak
|1974||Joint runner-up to Buddy Allin|
|1975||Wins by two|
|1978||Beats Lee Trevino by one|
|1979||Beats Bill Rogers in a play-off|
|1980||Beats Rogers again, this time by one stroke|
|1981||Runner-up after losing play-off to Bruce Lietzke|
Breaks in Play
Whilst this event has a long history, for various reasons it has not been held every year and has on some occasions been foreshortened. There was no tournament between 1947 and 1955, although it came back with a strange bang by being held twice in 1956! In May, Don January (!) won, and then in June Aussie great Peter Thomson lifted the trophy.
There is little information about exactly why this happened but we do know that the 1963 edition was skipped due to Dallas hosting that year’s US PGA Championship. Mysteriously there was no tournament in 1965, whilst in 1990 and 1992 bad weather meant the event was reduced to 54 holes. Two years later only 36 holes could be completed and given the event is held in Texas storm season, future issues are always a possibility.
No Longer Held at Trinity
The AT&T Byron Nelson has taken place on various golf courses across Texas over the years. The first tournament was held at Lakewood Country Club before swiftly moving to Dallas Country Club and Brook Hollow Golf Club. It was also held at Oak Cliff Country Club from 1958 to 1967.
In 2018, the Byron Nelson tournament moved to the new Trinity Golf Club. The club was founded in 2014 and opened up for play two years later. However, the 2020 version, which was cancelled due to the 2019-20 coronavirus outbreak, was scheduled to be the last played at Trinity. At the time of writing, the new venue for the 2021 Byron Nelson has yet to be confirmed.