PGA Tour Picks: AT&T Byron Nelson

By Tom LaMarre

Most of the favorites for next week’s 119th PGA Championship are headed for Bethpage Black, if not already there, to prepare for the second major of the season—which has been moved from its traditional spot on the schedule in August.

Even players who have won the Byron Nelson in recent years—Sergio Garcia (twice), Jason Day, Billy Horschel, Steven Bowditch, Jason Dufner and Keegan Bradley—won’t be at Trinity Forest Golf Club in Dallas, where the tournament was played for the first time last year.

One player who will be there is Brooks Koepka, who in a week will defend the PGA title he won last August at Bellerive, and next month at Pebble Beach he will defend the U.S. Open crown he claimed the last two years at Erin Hills and Shinnecock Hills.

Koepka (pictured) skipped the AT&T Byron Nelson last year.

“(Koepka) told me he really liked how the course played on TV (last year),” said AT&T Byron Nelson tournament director Jon Drago. “He said it looked like a lot of fun.”

Although Koepka is the only player in the Byron Nelson field ranked in the top 10 of the World Golf Rankings at No. 3, Drago is pleased with those who are playing, considering the circumstances.

“We are excited about how the field came together this year,” Drago said in a release. “All in all, it’s a deep field of diverse players and should produce a lot of storylines next week. (It’s a) great group of highly ranked International players.”

Included are Texans Jordan Spieth, Patrick Reed and Ryan Palmer, who recently won the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with Jon Rahm; Henrik Stenson, Marc Leishman, Rory Sabbatini, Thomas Pieters, Thorbjorn Olesen, recent PGA Tour winner C.T. Pan of Taiwan, Branden Grace, Ernie Els, Pat Perez, and defending champion Aaron Wise, the 2018 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year.

Another player missing is Matt Kuchar, who is skipping the Byron Nelson after playing in it 11 times previously, apparently because he was unhappy with the move from Las Colinas Country Club to Trinity Forest.

After finishing in the top 10 in three of the previous four seasons, Kooch missed the cut in the tournament for the first time.

“I think best said under the lesson, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all,” said Kuchar, who then started talking about it. “I really liked Las Colinas. I really, really liked Las Colinas.

“ … I’m mostly disappointed with myself that I probably let my dislike of the golf course affect my performance. As a professional, if they put 18 holes in a field and tell you this is where the tournament is, you go figure out how to play it. And I did not do a good job of that yesterday. I’m pretty disappointed in myself.”

When asked by reporters if he would ever return to Trinity Forest, Kuchar wouldn’t say.

His no-show this week might be the answer.


  1. Brooks Koepka, United States – Before defending his PGA Championship title next week at Bethpage Black, Koepka will try to improve on the win and two runner-up finishes he has had this season, including a victory in the CJ Cup and a tie for second in the Masters. He lost in a playoff to Sergio Garcia in the 2016 AT&T Byron Nelson.
  2. Marc Leishman, Australia – After leading much of the way last year at Trinity Forest following an opening 61, Leishman wound up second to Aaron Wise. It was his fourth top-10 finish in 10 appearances in the AT&T Byron Nelson, including two ties for third. The Aussie has five top-10 finishes this season, including a victory in the CIMB Classic.
  3. Branden Grace, South Africa – In his first appearance in the AT&T Byron Nelson last year, Grace closed with a 62 to finish four strokes behind winner Aaron Wise in a tie for third. His best result this year was second, two shots behind Rickie Fowler in the Waste Management Phoenix Open, and he also tied for ninth in the WGC-Match Play.
  4. Aaron Wise, United States – The 2018 PGA Tour Rookie of the Year makes his first title defense this week in the AT&T Byron Nelson after shooting 65 in the final round to overtake Marc Leishman last year. A tie for 10th in the Mayakoba is Wise’s best result this year, but he recently was 17th in the Masters and tied for 18th in the Wells Fargo.
  5. Ryan Palmer, United States – Playing for the first time since winning the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with Jon Rahm, Palmer’s fourth top-10 finish of the season. He will tee it up in the AT&T Byron Nelson for the 15th consecutive year and lost in a playoff to Keegan Bradley in 2011, one of the Texan’s three top-10s results in the event. 6. C.T. Pan, Taiwan – Playing as an individual for the first time since claiming his first PGA Tour victory three weeks ago in the RBC Heritage, Pan will try to keep it rolling in his third start in the AT&T Byron Nelson. He tied for 32nd last year after missing the cut in 2017. Pan’s second-best result this season was a tie for 16th in the Mayakoba Classic.
  6. Patrick Reed, United States – Until closing with a 74 to wind up in a tie for 28th last week in the Wells Fargo, Reed seemed to be finding his way out of a slump. A tie for seventh in the WGC-HSBC Champions is his best result this season, but he has seven finishes in the top 25. Reed is making his third start in Nelson and tied for 20th last year.
  7. Thomas Pieters, Belgium – Playing in the AT&T Byron Nelson for the first time on a sponsor’s exemption a week before the PGA Championship. Pieters teamed with Thomas Detry to win the ISPS Handa World Cup of Golf for Belgium earlier this season. He also tied for sixth in the Oman Open and tied for fifth in the ISPS Handa World Super 6 Perth.
  8. Thorbjorn Olesen, Denmark – Another Euro playing in the AT&T Byron Nelson for the first time on a sponsor’s exemption, Olesen was in the hunt in the Masters last month until a closing 73 dropped him to a tie for 21st. His best results this season were a tie for seventh in the WGC-HSBC and a tie for fourth in the World Cup with Soren Kjeldsen.
  9. Jordan Spieth, United States – Although he shows signs of turning things around, Spieth needs to put four good rounds together. His best result this season was a tie for 21st in the Masters last month after an opening 75, and he’s too good for this to continue. His best finish in the Nelson was a tie for 16th in 2010 and he tied for 21st last year.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH – Rory Sabbatini, Slovakia; Keith Mitchell, United States; Pat Perez, United States; Henrik Stenson, Sweden; Kevin Na, United States.


  1. Seamus Power, Ireland – Coming off a T-13 last week in the Wells Fargo after a T-5 in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans with David Hearn, and a T-5 in the RBC Heritage.
  2. Adam Schenk, United States – Playing his best golf lately, Schenk posted a T-7 in the Valero Texas Open and a T-13 in the Wells Fargo. Also had T-7 in Sanderson Farms.
  3. Jim Knous, United States – Posted a T-13 last week in the Wells Fargo after another T-13 a week earlier with Adam Hadwin in the Zurich Classic. Also had T-10 in Safeway.
  4. Scottie Scheffler, United States – Former Texas All-American steps up to the big tour after two recent runner-up finishes among four straight top-10s on the Tour.
  5. Sangmoon Bae, South Korea – Two-time winner on the PGA Tour, including the 2013 Byron Nelson, Bae is working his way back after two years of military service.

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