The second major of the season is already at our doorstep but first, we have the AT&T Byron Nelson as the final prep event.
As usual, you have some golfers who will skip the week before a major, no matter what, and others will do their best to play the week before.
Overall, that gives us a relatively weak field this week with just a few elite names like Brooks Koepka and Hideki Matsuyama shining at the top.
The field is full at 156 golfers and the cut-line rules are the normal Top 70 and ties.
Trinity Forest will play host to the Nelson for a second straight year. It's a Coore & Crenshaw design that is classified as an American-Links style of course. It was built on an old landfill.
Last year we saw them ease into the course set up which led to slightly softer conditions and plenty of low numbers. The idea is you don't want to trick up the course and scare players off the first year at a new venue. The winds were also relatively calm for most of the weeks which is always going to be one of the primary defense mechanisms at an exposed, links-style course like Trinity Forest.
The first year of hosting saw them play the course as a par 71 that read 7,380 yards on the scorecard for all four days but there are some minor tweaks for 2019. The par-3 8th will now play at 160 yards instead of 140. The par-3 12th also received some lengthening (220 yards instead of 205). Finally, the par-4 16th got reduced to a 385-yard challenge instead of 429 yards. In all, the course is now listed at 7,371 yards.
On paper, the course looks like it has some moderate length. However, the wide fairways and firm soil base add plenty of roll to drives and even approach shots. That's why last year we saw a huge correlation to less-than-driver performance. There are plenty of chances to just poke it out there and let it roll. You would think with wide fairways and huge greens it'd become a bomb-and-gouge fest but that wasn't really the case in year one.
Will that change this year due to the weather? It's certainly possible, the Director of Grounds Kasey Kauff had this to say last week, "1.5” rain last night and more forecasted!! We certainly won’t be brown this year, now it will be a longer test of golf!!"
What statistics proved relevant to success at Trinity Forest last year? The one that popped most compared to usual was strokes gained around-the-green. That stat is generally attributed to course management and/or creativity. It makes sense that both of those skills would prove worthy on a links-style course that is so different from the week-to-week stop on TOUR.
For grasses, we see zoysia fairways, nativegrasses in the rough, and champion bermuda on the putting surfaces. The greens are only prepped to run at 10.5 to 11 feet on the stimp which is on the slow side for PGA TOUR standards.
Sifting through some past quotes over at the Fantasy Golfanac, let's try to break down the course to see how it will play.
Keith Mitchell: "There’s a lot of different types or different styles of players that are at the top of the leaderboard. That shows a lot about the golf course. It doesn’t favor any one person. I think it’s a great test. "
Adam Scott: "Even though the yardage looks long, you really only carrying it 30 yards short sometimes and let it feed, and be able to play those shots is a lot of fun and takes some adjusting in the brain to do that and I think I’ve done that nice this week."
Aaron Wise: "I love playing really firm golf courses because it brings a lot of thinking in and today I didn’t have quite as many drivers as I had the last couple of days because it was firmer. This course has enough teeth where you can’t just bomb driver everywhere."
Brian Gay: "I mean it’s all about the second shot. There’s also a few tee balls to get some angles and it depends on where the wind is blowing. It’s generous off the tee, gives you options. "
Marc Leishman: "How far the ball was rolling on the fairways. We’re not used to that at all playing on the Tour over here. Normally it’s all through the air, trying to bomb it high and fly it as far as you can.
Today, you know, I was hitting 3-wood over 300 yards, which I’ll never do, rolling out really good. When I hit my driver, hit 6-iron in the practice round on a hole and sand wedge today. Hopefully they keep it dry and it plays like a links course all week and I think it will make for a good tournament."
Overview: There was plenty of talk about strategy off the tee, heat, and rollout on the fairways. The overall consensus in year one seemed to be that Trinity Forest does not suit one particular style of golf.
Looking at grass types, geography, course attributes, and past performance, here are a few courses/events that I think could prove to be a good pointer this week:
El Camaleon GC
Kapalua's Plantation Course
TPC Deere Run
We have just one year of data to work with but again we see lots of strategy-based courses show up on the list.
Looking for the fairway width angle? TPC Deere Run and Kapalua definitely fit that bill. Kapalua is also a Coore/Crenshaw design so give that a double check.
How about slow greens? El Camaleon checks that box.
A course that requires proper position on the fairway? Waialae and Colonial both qualify.
Thursday: A small chance (20%) of storms. Partly sunny with a high near 78 degrees. Winds around 8 to 14 MPH.
Friday: A 40% chance of showers/storms. Mostly cloudy with a high near 73 degrees. Winds at 10 to 15 MPH with potential for gusts at 20+ MPH.
Weekend: Before the cut, it looks like Thursday may be the best day for scoring but it will all depend on where the weather forecast falls come over the next few days.
This is a pretty dramatic change in air temperature versus last year when golfers had to deal with temps in the mid-90s all week.