With apologies to William Shakespeare: “To play or not to play, that is the question.”
See, this week’s PGA Tour stop, the AT&T Byron Nelson, is one week before the second major of the year, the PGA Championship. The AT&T will be played at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, TX.
With that in mind, the Tour players have to decide whether to play this week or take the week off and work on their game in preparation for the PGA Championship.
In 2021, with the AT&T coming back after the pandemic, it appears more players than usual have opted to tee it up here.
In fact, it’s a mixed bag of those playing and those taking the week off.
World No. 1 Dustin Johnson? Yep, he’s in the field. World No. 2 Justin Thomas? Nope. World No. 3 Jon Rahm? Absolutely. World No. 4 Xander Schauffele? Not this week. No. 5 Bryson DeChambeau? Ready to go. No. 6 Collin Morikawa? Not in the field.
So it’s half and half with the guys at the top opting to fine-tune their games in tournament action rather than in the comfort of a practice facility at home.
Odds To Win The AT&T Byron Nelson From BetMGM
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That Brings Us To An Obvious Point
A victory here is huge. It’s not just the purse, an impressive $7.9 million overall payout. It’s not just the FedEx Cup points, 500 of them. What brings this all together is the winner will get the chance to make plans for next week’s PGA Championship (if they haven’t already qualified).
Sung Kang, the winner in 2019 and the defending champ as last year’s event was canceled, knows all about this fact. His victory in 2019 got him into the field at the PGA Championship last year and he wound up seventh.
But he has struggled in the early going in 2021 with six missed cuts and a 2021 best of T-59 so we’re going to look elsewhere for our winner this week.
Aussie, Aussie, Aussie This Week
Australia’s Marc Leishman, +3300 at BetMGM is having one of those years he’s likely been dreaming about since the first time he picked up a golf club.
Leishman was solo second here in 2018 with four rounds in the 60s. And in 2021 he’s been solid and is coming off a team win at the Zurich Classic with fellow Aussie Cam Smith.
He also has six top 25s in 11 made cuts to go along with that recent win so his form is right where it needs to be.
And we’re going to add another Australian into the mix this week, Jason Day at +5000, just to keep the Aussie theme going.
For Day, it’s been a struggle with his game lately as he’s posted only two top 10s this season. But he won here in 2010 and was second in 2017 so we’re hoping his good memories of the event as well as his work on his game pay off this week.
We hoped to add a third Aussie into the mix to go along with the Aussie, Aussie, Aussie theme, but none of the others in the field piqued our interest. We’ll do better next time, we promise.
Look For That Hometown Edge
We’ve also got a guy who has put together a solid season, coming back from a downward spiral that stretched over three years: Jordan Spieth at +1100.
Spieth is trending in the right direction in the 2021 portion of the season.
He’s already got a victory in Texas this year, the Valero Texas Open, so he’s right at home in his old stomping grounds. He was T-29 here in 2019 despite being in the middle of his playing funk.
A win here would give him a leg up heading into the PGA Championship next week. And a win there would give him the fourth leg of the career grand slam. He’s got the Masters, the U.S. Open and the Open Championship on the resume. (We’ll go ahead and spoil the surprise and let you know he will be one of our picks next week at the year’s third major).
It’s also important to point out that once he gets hot, he tends to get really hot. He’s won tournaments in five seasons since turning pro in 2013. And in three of those seasons (not counting this season), he’s won multiple times.
Like we said, this guy gets hot. There’s no reason to doubt he can’t keep it up…especially with a key major for him coming right up next week.