Gdula's Golf Simulations: AT&T Byron Nelson

The PGA Tour heads to a first-time course, TPC Craig Ranch. Who looks likely to win the inaugural iteration?

Volatility is the name of the game in golf, and picking winners isn't easy. With fields of 150-plus golfers sometimes being separated by how a putt or two falls each week, predicting golf can be absurdly tough.

We'll never be able to capture everything that goes into a golfer's expectations for a week, but we can try to account for that by simulating out the weekend and seeing what happens.

The Process

Over the years, I have made plenty of tweaks to my original golf model, which uses a combination of the OWGR's field strength numbers and datagolf's field strength numbers to adjust each golfer's score relative to the field (on the PGA Tour, the European Tour, and the Korn Ferry Tour).

The ultimate goal is to place a score from the Waste Management Open, the BMW International Open, and the Knoxville Open on level playing fields. This adjusted strokes metric lets me see how golfers are performing across all tours. From there, a golfer's adjusted stroke data is combined with their round-to-round variance to see how the field is likely to perform when playing out the event thousands of times.

In addition to that long-term adjusted form, I factor in course-level adjustments for course fit.

I run a second model that uses more granular strokes gained data, which allows me to very easily adjust for course fit. The results are averaged out.

I let the data do the talking and don't make many tweaks -- if any. Golfers with a small sample get regressed to a low-end PGA Tour player to round out their samples. Data points are weighted more heavily toward recent performance.

Here are the most likely winners for the AT&T Byron Nelson, according to the models.

Golfer Simulated
Made Cut%
Win Odds
Jon Rahm10.3%48.9%87.6%+850
Bryson DeChambeau8.1%40.6%83.8%+700
Daniel Berger6.5%37.6%82.8%+1400
Matthew Fitzpatrick5.1%31.4%79.8%+1800
Scottie Scheffler3.8%28.4%77.3%+2000
Brooks Koepka3.8%25.7%74.9%+1600
Will Zalatoris3.5%25.4%75.8%+2600
Hideki Matsuyama3.5%24.6%74.9%+1600
Jordan Spieth3.4%24.0%75.0%+1000
Harris English2.8%20.6%71.7%+5500
Ryan Palmer2.4%18.4%69.8%+3400
Si Woo Kim2.0%18.6%69.8%+3400
Sergio Garcia1.9%18.6%70.4%+3400
Sam Burns1.8%16.7%67.7%+2900
Jason Day1.8%17.5%69.2%+5500
Talor Gooch1.4%14.8%66.3%+7000
Doug Ghim1.2%12.7%63.4%+8000
Carlos Ortiz1.1%12.9%63.8%+7000
Matt Kuchar1.0%11.5%61.6%+6500
Charles Howell III0.9%11.9%62.9%+8000
Alex Noren0.9%10.6%61.5%+8000
Luke List0.9%10.5%60.1%+4100
Sebastian Munoz0.9%10.5%60.8%+12000
Thomas Pieters0.8%10.1%59.9%+6500
Aaron Wise0.8%10.9%61.0%+6500
Patton Kizzire0.8%9.3%57.8%+15000
Lee Westwood0.8%8.8%58.0%+6500
James Hahn0.8%9.2%58.8%+15000
Erik van Rooyen0.8%10.2%60.2%+15000
Antoine Rozner0.8%9.3%57.8%+10000
Tom Hoge0.7%9.7%59.9%+12000
Charl Schwartzel0.7%9.3%58.0%+4100
Rickie Fowler0.7%8.9%57.5%+7000
John Huh0.7%8.2%56.6%+32000
Marc Leishman0.7%8.5%56.4%+2600
Jhonattan Vegas0.7%9.7%58.9%+12000
Russell Knox0.6%8.8%58.2%+10000
Sepp Straka0.6%8.7%57.5%+15000
Wyndham Clark0.6%7.8%55.8%+15000
Cameron Champ0.6%8.4%57.1%+5500
Doc Redman0.6%6.5%53.0%+15000
Pat Perez0.5%6.8%54.2%+15000

One big thing to note this week: we're getting our first PGA Tour glimpse of TPC Craig Ranch, which hosted the (now) Korn Ferry Tour Championship in 2008 and 2012. Based on a pretty basic approach, it looks like distance and even scrambling could matter a bit this week. The course is heavily bunkered, so that sort of makes sense with the scrambling aspect.

Okay, so, Bryson DeChambeau (+700 on FanDuel Sportsbook) is the favorite to win this week and is playing Texas, where he lives and went to college. But my model, as always, likes Jon Rahm (+850) more. Rahm is coming off of a missed cut but really struggled with the short game rather than the ball-striking.

Rahm and Daniel Berger (+1400) are about equal in the value market, per my model, so I'd probably just rather start with Berger at nearly twice the odds.

I liked Scottie Scheffler (+2000) at longer odds initially; he's playing in Texas. But the Dustin Johnson withdrawal shortened his odds.

The top of the odds board is peppered with some fair values: Rahm, Berger, Matt Fitzpatrick (+1800), Will Zalatoris (+2600), and Ryan Palmer (+3400).

The model still likes Harris English (+5500), but I'll be getting action on Jason Day (+5500), Talor Gooch (+7000), and Doug Ghim (+9000) for sure.

The odds movement overall has affected my gameplan for the week, but I have action on Berger, Zalatoris, Day, Gooch, Ghim, and Wyndham Clark.