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PGA Tour Picks: AT&T Byron Nelson

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By TOM LaMARRE

Masters champion Scottie Scheffler, who is playing a home game, leads the field this week in the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas, near Dallas a week before the 104th PGA Championship at Southern Hills Country Club in Tulsa, Okla.

Hometown favorite Scheffler, who has won four of his last six tournaments, apparently is ready for this week and next.

Cameron Chhim, an assistant pro at Southern Hills, caddied as Scheffler shot 6-under 64 in a recent practice round on the PGA Championship course at Southern Hills alongside Ryan Palmer, who recently teamed with Scheffler to tie for 18th in the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

“(Scheffler) played one ball the entire time, no practice putts, and made it look easy,” Chhim told Golf Oklahoma. “He’s No. 1 in the world and it was pretty easy to see why. It would be hard to say that he’s not going to win or at least be in contention.

“He hits it far enough and he has just incredible distance control with his irons. Ryan shot 2- or 3-par under and looked like he was standing still, based on how Scottie was playing.”

Scheffler, who has lived in Dallas since he was 6-years-old and won the U.S. Junior Amateur Championship before playing at the University of Texas, is playing in his hometown event for the fourth time and his best result was a tie for 22nd as a high school senior in 2014.

However, he managed only a tie for 35th in 2019 and a tie for 47th last season, but he is a different and much better player this season.

“I’m so excited to be playing back at home at such a special tournament,” Scheffler said of playing at TPC Craig Ranch. “It’s great being surrounded by friends and family. … You have to be really aggressive around this course.

“It’s awesome to play here at home, a lot of fun, It’s great to hear some noise from the fans. It’s just enjoyable for me to play here.”

Tournament director Jon Drago is looking forward to having Scheffler and other North Texas natives compete.

One of them is ninth-ranked Jordan Spieth, who also played at Texas and won the 2021 Texas Open, and his best result in 10 starts in the AT&T Byron Nelson was a tie for ninth last year after he took the first-round lead with a 63.

“It’s great to have all the local players here,” Drago said. “(Scheffler) has actually been a great supporter. He played with us when he was still in high school back in 2014. Every time he’s played, he’s been a great supporter as have all local players been a great supporter of ours.

“We are so excited to have full capacity this year (after the Coronavirus pandemic), to have everybody out and root for the hometown team.”

Also in the field are eighth-ranked Justin Thomas, 10th-ranked Sam Burns, 11th-ranked Dustin Johnson, Olympic Gold Medalist and 12th-ranked Xander Schauffele of La Jolla and San Diego State, 13th-ranked Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, 16th-ranked Brooks Koepka, 17th-ranked Joaquin Niemann of Chile, Adam Scott of Australia, Mackenzie Hughes of Canada, Si Woo Kim of South Korea and Jason Day of Australia.

However, the home fans will be rooting for Scheffler and Spieth.

For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

BEST BETS

1. Scottie Scheffler, United States – The top-ranked player in the world has won the Phoenix Open, the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the WGC-Dell Match Play and the Masters to lead the FedEx Cup standings by a mile. Scheffler, who played college golf at Texas, is playing a home game and his best result in four starts in the AT&T Byron Nelson was a tie for 22nd in 2014.

2. Justin Thomas, United States – The eighth-ranked Thomas, who hasn’t won since the 2021 Players Championship, has been close with six top-10 finishes this season, including a solo third at Mayakoba a tie for third in the Valspar Championship, and a tie for fifth in the Sentry TOC. In his only previous appearance in the AT&T Byron Nelson, he finished in a tied for 55th in 2015.

3. Hideki Matsuyama, Japan – The 2021 Masters champion won the Sony Open in Hawaii and the Zozo Championship among four top-10 finishes this season, and tied for 14th in his title defense at Augusta. Matsuyama recorded his best result in three starts in the AT&T Byron Nelson with a tie for 16th in 2018, tied for 23rd the following year and tied for 39th last season.

4. Xander Schauffele, United States – Having slid to No. 12 in the world despite teaming with Patrick Cantlay to win the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, Schauffele hopes to climb back into the top 10 this week. The 2021 Olympic Gold Medalist’s best finish this season was a tie for third in the Phoenix Open, and in his only AT&T Byron Nelson start he missed the cut by one shot in 2017.

5. Dustin Johnson, United States – Playing for the first time since being married, DJ is trying to win for the 15th straight season on the PGA Tour, his last win coming in the 2020 Masters. Johnson’s best results this season were fourth in the WGC-Match Play and a tie for ninth in the Players, and he tied for 12th in his Masters defense. He has four top-10s in the AT&T Byron Nelson.

6. Joaquin Niemann, Chile – Having climbed to No. 17 in the world, Niemann is looking to reach the top 10. He captured the Genesis Invitational earlier this season for his second PGA Tour victory and has five finishes in the top 25. The former No. 1-ranked amateur in the world shot 69-70 and missed the cut by one stroke in his only start in the AT&T Byron Nelson in 2018.

7. Brooks Koepka, United States – The former No. 1 player in the world has slipped to No. 16 and is trying to work his way back up. Koepka’s best finishes this season were a tie for third in the Phoenix Open and a tie for fifth in the WGC-Match Play, but he missed the cut in the Masters. He has two top-10 finishes in the AT&T Byron Nelson, second in 2016 and fourth in 2019.

8. Adam Scott, Australia – Played well earlier this season with a tie for fourth in the Genesis Invitational, a tie for fifth in the CJ Cup and a tie for ninth in the WGC-Match Play, but then tied for 48th in the Masters, which he won in 2013. Scott captured the AT&T Byron Nelson in 2008 for one of his 14 victories on the PGA Tour, tied for third in 2007 and tied for ninth in 2018.

9. Mackenzie Hughes, Canada – Coming off a tie for ninth in the Wells Fargo Championship last week, Hughes also finished solo second in the RSM Classic and tied for fourth in the Zozo Championship among his six top-25 finishes on the PGA Tour this season. He shot 67-74—141 and missed to the cut by one stroke in his only appearance in the AT&T Byron Nelson in 2019.

10. Si Woo Kim, South Korea – The 2017 Players Champion, who has three victories on the PGA Tour including The American Express earlier this season, also tied for second in the Wyndham and tied for ninth in the Players and the Memorial among nine results in the top 25. Kim opened with a 66 in his only start in the AT&T Byron Nelson last year, but eventually tied 55th.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jordan Spieth, United States; Jason Day, Australia; Sam Burns, United States; Danny Willett, England; Francesco Molinari, Italy; Jason Day, Australia; Cameron Champ, United States; Jhonattan Vegas, Venezuela;  Bubba Watson, United States; Matt Kuchar, United States; Marc Leishman, Australia; Sebastian Munoz, Colombia; Will Zalatoris, United States.

SLEEPERS:

1. Matthew Wolff, United States – Claimed his only PGA Tour victory in 2019 3M Open, finished second in the Shriners and T-5 at Mayakoba this season. Making his AT&T Byron Nelson debut.

2. Rasmus Hojgaard, Denmark – Has won once in each of the last three seasons on the DP World Tour. Had a T-6 at Mayakoba earlier  this season and was T-16 in Betfred British Masters last week.

3. Maverick McNealy, United States – Former Stanford star was second in the Fortinet, T-7 in Genesis and T-11 at Mayakoba this season. Opened with 68-67 and was T-42 in 2018 Byron Nelson.

4. Matthew NeSmith, United States – Winner of 2019 Albertson Boise Open on Korn Ferry Tour, NeSmith was T-3 on Valspar, T-4 in Zurich, T-12 in RBC and T-14 in the Shriner’s this season.

5. Stephan Jaeger, Germany – Six-time winner on the Korn Ferry Tour finished T-6 in Wells Fargo last week after a T-15 a week before in Mexico Championship. T-17 in 2018 Byron Nelson.

For first-round tee times, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html



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Lee Beats Spieth by 1 Stroke to Repeat as Champion in 68th AT&T Byron Nelson

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K.H. Lee simply repeated himself in the AT&T Byron Nelson.

The 30-year-old Lee fired a bogey-free, 8-under-par 63 to win the 68th version of the tournament by one stroke over local favorite Jordan Spieth at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas.

Lee joined Tom Watson, Jack Nicklaus and Sam Snead as back-to-back winners of the AT&T Byron Nelson, which was first played in 1944, when Nelson was the winner.

“Last year I missed the cut at the PGA Championship,” said Lee, who claimed his sixth victory as a pro and second on the PGA Tour. “So my first goal is next week play well (in the PGA at Southern Hills), hopefully make the cut. This helps. This is really good. Hopefully, the rest of this season will be better than last year.

“This feels like a dream again, like last year. I’ve struggled with my game the past couple of months and I’ve had no top-10s this year, but when I’m here I’m more comfortable and more confident. I’ve tried my best and maybe being here has helped me.

“It’s an amazing feeling, with my family and my wife and my daughter (here), it’s amazing, really.”

Lee, who won four times in Asia and beat Sam Burns by three strokes in the 2021 AT&T Byron Nelson, collected seven birdies including four on the first six holes and hit a brilliant 240-yard approach shot to set up a five-foot eagle putt at No. 12 while recording a score of 26-under 262.

His tap-in birdie on the last hole gave him a two-shot lead and clinched the victory.

The eight-ranked Spieth, who won the RBC Heritage in his last start for his 15th PGA Tour victory, made his eighth birdie on the last hole in a 67, but it was too little and too late, in part because of a three-putt bogey at No. 10.

“It was a good week, good momentum into (the PGA) next week, my last two starts being a win and a second,” said Spieth, who has won the other three majors and will make his fifth attempt to complete the Career Grand Slam at Southern Hills.

“But this one will sting just a little bit just looking back on the day. But I played the holes from (No. 10)  exactly how they were supposed to be played, grabbed three more birdies and it just wasn’t quite good enough.”

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, the 2021 Masters champion who is ranked 11th, made six birdies on the front nine and sank a six-foot eagle putt on the last hole to cap a 62 and was two shots back in a tie for third with Sebastian Munoz, who led for much of the first three rounds before closing with a 69.

Tenth-ranked Xander Schauffele of la Jolla and San Diego State, the Olympic Gold Medalist, carded a career-best, bogey-free 61 that included a 97-yard hole-out for eagle on the sixth hole and nine birdies to wind up three down in a tie for fifth with ninth-ranked Justin Thomas, who had three birdies on each nine in a 67, and Ryan Palmer, who had seven birdies in a 67.

Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, the 2011 Masters champion, closed with a 67 to finish four strokes behind in solo eighth, while Peter Malnati had four birdies down the stretch to complete a 66 and was five back in a tie for ninth with Davis Riley, who birdied the last hole for a 67, and James Hahn of Alameda and Cal, who also birdied the last hole for a 69.

Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler shot 69 to tie for 15th, 16th-ranked Joaquin Niemann of Chile stumbled to a 74 and tied for 25th, and 12th-ranked Dustin Johnson tied for 59th following a 73.

For complete results, visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html 



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Bad Alignment Changes Your Swing

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Christina Ricci

Christina Ricci is a PGA and LPGA Class A Member and Titleist Performance Institute: Golf Level 3, Power Level 2 & Fitness Level 2 Performance Coach + CrossFit Level 2 Trainer and a Best-Selling Golf Author of More Pars golf instructional books and pocket guides. She hosts national More Pars Camps at top resorts across the US and posts great tips for your game weekly. For more information on Christina’s Books & Pocket Guides visit misspar.com, and for Christina’s More Pars Camps and Coaching Programs, visit ChristinaRicciGolf.com.

We recommend that you don’t miss Christina’s Tip of the Week, watch lessons on her popular Youtube Channel, and follow Christina on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

NOW’S YOUR CHANCE TO GET PERSONAL COACHING FROM CHRISTINA
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Munoz Leads Spieth by 1 Shot Going to Final Round of 68th AT&T Byron Nelson

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Sebastian Munoz of Colombia didn’t lose his place atop the leaderboard.

The 29-year-old Munoz, who has been in the lead most of the way since opening with a tournament record 12-under-par 60, shot 66 and will take a one-stroke lead over ninth-ranked Jordan Spieth into the final round of the 68th AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Craig Ranch in McKinney, Texas.

Munoz, who holed a 57-foot bunker shot for an eagle on the sixth hole, added five birdies and took his only bogey at No. 16 while recording a 54-hole total of 21-under 195.

Spieth, a native of Dallas who played at the University of Texas, made five birdies on the front nine and added four more coming home against a single bogey on the 15th hole in a 64.

“It’s great to have a chance to win in  my hometown because my Dad was taking me out to this tournament since I was about 5-years-old,” said Spieth, who claimed the 15th PGA Tour victory of his career in his last start in the RBC Heritage. “Playing at home certainly is exciting and gets my blood flowing.

“It’s weird to shoot 67-65-64 and be behind, but that’s what this course is giving us this week. After taking a few weeks off, you never know how long it’s going to take to get your game back on track, but it’s nice to be in the mix and have a chance to win  tomorrow.”  

Joaquin Niemann of Chile carded a second straight 65 that included eight birdies and is two shots back in solo third, while James Hahn of Alameda and Cal sank a seven-foot eagle putt on the 12th hole, added 10 birdies in a bogey-free 61 and is three behind in a tie for fourth with eight-ranked Justin Thomas, who carded a bogey-free 64.

“I was just having fun out there,” said Hahn, who has won twice on the PGA Tour, but not since the 2018 Wells Fargo Championship. “I hit the ball well the first two days, but didn’t make any putts, and then today everything was going in.

“It feels good and I’m happy about the way I’m playing, but I’m not taking it for granted because it’s been a bit of a struggle for me the last couple of years. I’m just trying to stay in the moment and enjoy it without thinking too much.”

Defending champion K.H. Lee of South Korea birdied the last hole for a 67 and is four strokes behind in a tie for sixth with Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, who birdied the last hole to cap a 68, and 36-hole co-leader Ryan Palmer, who finished at 70.

Top-ranked Scottie Scheffler, another Texan who has won four times this season including the Masters, made seven birdies in a 65 and is five shots behind in a tie for ninth with Davis Riley, who put up a second straight 64, and Beau Hossler of Rancho Santa Margarita, who had three birdies on each nine in a 67.

Hideki Matsuyama of Japan, the 2021 Masters champion who is ranked 13th, is tied for 18th after a 69, 11th-ranked Dustin Johnson shot 66 and is tied for 21st, and 12th-ranked Xander Schauffele, the Olympic Gold Medalist from La Jolla and San Diego State, is tied for 30th following a bogey-free 65.

For complete results, https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html  



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