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HP Byron Nelson Championship preview


After being at TPC Sawgrass for the Players last week, a lot of players will be opting for a week off, rather than playing here in Texas, at the HP Byron Nelson.

This is not one of the more popular tournaments on the PGA Tour, but looking back at the winners list, there are some very good players, some of whom got their first wins here.

Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley both kick-started their career here, as the latter lost out to another first-time winner in this event 12 months ago.

After shooting an opening round of 60, Bradley looked good for another HP Byron Nelson trophy, but a lacklustre performance over the weekend, meant Sang-Moon Bae could take advantage and get his first win on American soil.

That opening round of 60, was a new course record, here at TPC Four Seasons, and after a win in 2011, and his runner-up finish, Bradley will know doubt like his chances again this week.

TPC Four Seasons is a 7,166 yard, Par 70, and has a few distinctive features that can effect the outcome this week. The large undulating greens require the players to hit the ball in the correct part of the green, and if you don’t the run-offs around the green may cause some bother.

Good Greens in Regulation stats will be as vital as always, and a good week scrambling and putting should be rewarded here. Course form is not as important as it is most weeks, as three of the last five winners have won here on their first visit.

Jason Day, Keegan Bradley and Sang-Moon Bae all won here on their first look, and it would be no surprise to see another player continue that feat.

Of course, if a player has got solid form here, then it would be naive to rule them out, but it’s worth checking how their form has been since 2008.

There are two courses in the Las Colinas complex, and from 2008 onwards, TPC Four Seasons became the sole host of the event, so results before that may be a bit misleading, as the players could have done well on the other course.

All in all, this isn’t the strongest event, despite the likes of Jordan Spieth, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner and Matt Kuchar teeing it up this week,so if you like an outsider’s chances, this may be the week to back them.

Here are my picks for the 2014 HP Byron Nelson Championship.

Martin Kaymer 25/1 (BetVictor, Coral) 2.5pts e/w: Martin Kaymer returned to form last week, winning the much coveted Players Championship, in great fashion, going wire-to-wire.

He tied the course record in the first round, shooting 63, and also became the only player in the tournament history to shoot below 30 on the front or back nine, at TPC Sawgrass, when he shot 29 on the front nine in round 1.

For most of the week, he looked like he was returning to somewhere close to his best, and the way he held on to the lead, despite pressure from players such as Jim Furyk and Jordan Spieth, was a reminder of just how good he is, especially in contention.

Now, his price this week is dramatically shorter than it has been on the PGA Tour for quite some time, but not without good reason.

He has now been in good form since the Masters, last month, where he finished a career-best T31, and the win last week was just the icing on the cake.

In addition to his good play, and the win, he also has a good showing at this course, when in 2013 he finished in 5th place, despite finishing no better than 35th in his previous five starts, heading into the week.

The German is in a rich vein of form, and history tell us, that he tends to keep a run going, even after getting a win. When he won the Alstrom De France in 2010, he teed it up a week later at the Barclays Scottish Open, and won there too. He did this again, this time when he won his one and only major championship the PGA Championship. After having to fend off Bubba Watson in a play-off, Kaymer went on to win the KLM Open back in Europe, once again proving he can stay in the winning mindset.

He is not one to go off the boil, after getting the job done a week earlier, and if, as suspected he’s returning to his best, he is one of the best players in this field. Many will make the case for favourites Jordan Spieth and Matt Kuchar in that regard, but for me on his day Kaymer is just as good as both. Spieth looks to have the potential to far exceed Kaymer’s ability, but time will tell and for now Kaymer’s record speaks for itself.

His 5th place finish here last year, plus his current form suggests this is a week Kaymer will be looking forward to, and he will be determined to return to his best, especially heading into the major championships this summer. In addition to that, he will be looking for a spot at Gleaneagles for the Ryder Cup, and should be in a much better place mentally than he was in Medinah, and even then he holed the clutch putt for Europe!

I really do like Kaymer, and he’s one of the very best players to watch when on form. He looks to of found his familiar fade off the tee once again, the shot that brought him all the success, before he made the swing changes and although he’s now confident he can hit any shape he wants, it’s good to see that his go-to shot is there, if that’s how he needs to get it done.

Morgan Hoffmann 80/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Morgan Hoffmann, like Kaymer is enjoying a good run of form at the moment, and whilst he has not managed to get the win, like Kaymer did last week, I do think he’ll have a great chance of doing that here.

Hoffmann finished T17 last week, at the Players and that is pretty good going for someone who’s still trying to find his feet on Tour. Add to that his T34 at the Zurich Classic three weeks ago and it looks like he is starting to find some decent form, at the right time heading into this week, here at TPC Four Seasons.

He made his debut here in 2013, and like many others, he impressed on his first visit, finishing in a tie for 5th with the aforementioned Martin Kaymer and Scott Piercy.

After making the cut, Hoffmann shot -8 over the weekend, three shots better than next best Sang-Moon Bae (eventual winner) and Ryo Ishikawa. He really came to life, and climbed the leaderboard in a big way over the weekend, and if he can do that again this weekend, after hopefully a quicker start, he could easily contend again.

I have picked Hoffmann a few times over the last year or so, and although he’s yet to reward me for my patience, he has shown signs, so I am willing to keep the faith.

He has the ability to play in tough conditions, and has previously played well in a U.S Open (T29 in 2012) so if the 24-year old is faced with adverse conditions, which is a possibility here, I do think he can deal with them.

Although his missed his fair share of cuts this season, he has finished in the top-20 on three occasions, last week and back-to-back at the Farmers Insurance and Phoenix Open, so hopefully he can build on his showing at TPC Sawgrass last week.

I strongly believe Hoffmann is a winner in the making, and if he can get the monkey off his back, sooner rather than later, I believe he can develop in to a very consistent player.

At 80/1 I was happy to chance a repeat performance from last year, and hope he can go better than his impressive display last week, when playing amongst the Tour’s best. There will be a lot less pressure and attention this week, so this may be the time for Hoffmann to really make a name for himself.

Bud Cauley 125/1 (BetVictor) 0.5pt e/w: My last two picks are slightly more speculative, based on the fact that debutants have gone well here in the past, and Bud Cauley will be hoping to join that list of players who have enjoyed success at TPC Four Seasons, at the first time of asking.

When Cauley first joined the Tour, there a buzz about him, and he was tipped to be one of America’s next brightest stars, so although it hasn’t quite panned out that way so far, it proves just what sort of potential the golfing world believes Cauley had.

He struggled for the best part of the 2013 season, but this year he is starting to trend in the right direction, and with a couple of decent finishes under his belt in recent weeks, I am happy to take a chance on him again, in an event like this.

Cauley has not played at the HP Byron Nelson before, but that has not proved much of stumbling block for players before him, and if he is going to start fulfilling his potential, contending in this level of event will be vital.

At a three-figure price, I thought it was worth chancing Cauley, who has finished T38 and T11 in his last two starts, both of which promised more. He looked on more on one occasion like he was going to contend last time out at the Wells Fargo, and started very quickly in round one.

Confidence should be building for Cauley who is still only 24, and time is still well on his side. If he can starting putting together a string of performances, the belief will come, but I am hoping it’s there this week, whilst a decent price is still available. At 125/1 he has shown enough for me, in his last two starts to take chance on him here.

John Peterson 250/1 (Coral, SkyBet, SportingBet, SpreadEx) 0.5pt e/w: Much like Cauley, a lot was expected from John Peterson early on in his career, and after performing well on the Web.com last year, he got the chance he wanted, to showcase his talents on the main stage.

It hasn’t however gone plain sailing so far, for the Tour rookie. Peterson has made just 6/16 cuts, and for a player who many tipped to be PGA Tour Rookie of the Year at the start of the season, that will be a bitter pill to swallow.

No one really knew why Peterson was struggling so much this year, and questions were asked, but it has come out in recent weeks that he has had a lot on his plate this year.

His home in Baton Rouge, LA had flooded in February, whilst he was competing in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and since then he has had to live out of a single suitcase and jumped from one hotel to the other.

Peterson did purchase a house in Forth Worth, Texas, which is not far from the course this week, but that too did not go to plan, and between that and his flooding at home he really hasn’t had time to practice.

Putting that behind him, Peterson said in a recent interview that he’s starting to feel a lot better about his game, despite confidence being low, after looking at his early season statistics. Since that interview though, he managed to make the cut at the Players last week, and play some pretty good stuff in the process.

He didn’t ever really get going last week, despite shooting 69 in round 2, but there were glimpses that his game was on the ascendency, and it may just be a matter of time, before he starts playing at the level everyone expected from him at the start of the year.

Like both Cauley and Hoffmann, who I have already picked, Peterson still has plenty of ability and time, and hopefully he can jump-start his season, with a good finish at this course. TPC Four Seasons is a much easier course than TPC Sawgrass, if the conditions are right, and I can see him taking advantage of that.

Even after showing something last week, he is still available at a big price (250/1) and those sort of odds won’t be around for long, if he starts playing better, as both he and I expect. It’s easy to forget that he finished T4 at the U.S Open, back in 2012, which he had to go through sectional qualifying to get into, so he’s not always had it easy.

Like Cauley, I am taking a chance on him, at what I consider a big price, hoping that he can start to fulfil his potential.

Total points staked this week on the PGA Tour: 9

Total points staked this week (inc. European Tour): 17

Profit/Loss for 2014: + 96.91

Apart from Martin Kaymer, I have opted to take a chance this week, on some bigger priced players, as I believe this is an event that can throw up a surprise winner. As aforementioned, players have got their breakthrough win, at this event in the past and with a lot of the big players on Tour missing, others may gain the confidence they need to get the job done.

If you have any feedback or questions, it would be great to hear from you on Twitter @TJacobsGolf

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