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Jordan Spieth's the man to beat


At 11/2, World No 3 Jordan Spieth is the Bookmaker's clearcut favourite to win the Byron Nelson Classic which, for the first time, will tee-off at the Trinity Forest Golf Club in Texas on Thursday.

The 24-year Dallas-born young gun is also the sentimental favourite, not so much because he remains a resident of Dallas and is a standing member of the Trinity Forest Club, but perhaps more so because of the impassioned letter he wrote to the Classic's organisers when he was 16 asking to be given an exemption to play in it because it was an event he had greatly admired ever since he first watched the tournament with his father when he was eight years old.

The letter, which also laid out his many achievements as an amateur, including the fact that he had twice won the Junior US Open, earned him the exemption he sought and without any hesitation, he went out, made the cut and finished in a tie for 16th.

Since then, the Byron Nelson Classic organisers will proudly tell you, he has become one of the finest golfers on the planet, having already captured three majors and 11 PGA Tour events, the most recent of them being the Open Championship in July last year, and right now he is ranked the No 3 golfer in the World.

But getting away from sentiment and back to why Spieth looks the man to beat this week, we should note that - along with all his other credentials and his need to win again after nearly a year without a victory - he and fellow club members Hunter Mahan and Beau Hossler are among the very few who have played on or even have any course knowledge of Trinity Forest.

Before now each and every Byron Nelson Classic since 1983 had been hosted by TPC Four Seasons.

Trinity Forest is like no other on the PGA Tour. Built on a landfill of inorganic material, it's 7,380-yard par 71 track is totally devoid of any trees or water hazards, but has been given its teeth through 88 bunkers and a host of bumps and undulations that have had many comparing it with Scottish links lacking only the traditional out and back nines.

Spieth, in a recent interview, insisted that despite its classic look, it was actually an 'American links' on which, he said, "You've kind of got to play it from the air because it's not really a bounce-the-ball-up kind of links.

"You get maybe four or five, six holes where you can bounce the ball up, but the way to get balls close is to come in with a higher shot."

"It’s a second shot course, where you’ve really got to think about where you’re leaving the ball because everything looks very spacious. There are no trees, you can work different flights, but it’s very challenging if you’re not really focused."

Trinity Zoysia grass covers everything on the course except the greens and because it is universal at around about an inch, there is basically no rough inside the bordering native vegetation. That doesn't mean it's a pushover - with or without the famed Texas winds which once again will blow, although not too strongly this time.

That's because, as Australian Geoff Ogilvy has observed, "Trinity Forest is a course that will make us use our brains."

"You have to work out where your best angles are… One side of the fairway is easy, the other side is going to be difficult. And your mistakes are magnified, but your good stuff is magnified as well. Sometimes here at Trinity, the pin isn’t necessarily the target."

If the 2017 Green Jacket winner Sergio Garcia can whisk up some of his old confidence and find his missing putting touch he may finally be able to break the winless drought that has dogged him since the Masters, stop Spieth and win his third Byron Nelson event, his earlier victories having come in 20o4 and 2016.

His game is certainly a good fit Trinity Forest just as is South Africa's Brandon Grace who at one stage in the final round was tied with Spieth when the American won the 2015 US Open on a similar treeless American Links-type course at Chamber Bay in Washington State.

You might also want to keep an eye on this week's defending champion Billy Horschel whose switch of putters has brought with it a month of excellent performances that included a Zurich title.

Beau Hossler, who lives near and practices at Trinity Forest, is another possible threat. His close miss in Houston recently showed he has the form. Put that together with his local knowledge and it sets him up as perhaps the most dangerous seeker of a maiden win in the field.

Without an inch of shade and with temperatures expected to soar into the 90s, Trinity Forest won't exactly be a caddies paradise this week, but it may suit the sunburnt Australians, notably Marc Leishman a renowned master of wind, any wind, and Adam Scott, now that he has gone back to his long putter which he no longer anchors and so keeps himself within the laws of the game.

And there are more like back-in-form Jimmy Walker, fellow American Matt Kuchar and Japan's Hideki Matsuyama who have what it takes to carry off a title named for one of the all-time greats of the game, but in the end, all of them may have to get past the strong local favourite Spieth to win the first Byron Nelson Classic to be played at Trinity Forest.

(Tuesday a.m. May 15, 2018)

Jordan Spieth 11/2
Matt Kuchar 14/1
Sergio Garcia 14/1
Hideki Matsuyama 18/1
Billy Horschel 20/1
Jimmy Walker 22/1
Adam Scott 22/1
Branden Grace 25/1
Marc Leishman 28/1
Beau Hossler 33/1
Aaron Wise 35/1
Charles Howell III 40/1
Brandt Snedeker 40/1
Martin Laird 45/1
Chez Reavie 50/1
Grayson Murray 55/1
Ryan Palmer 55/1
Kevin Na 55/1
Graeme McDowell 55/1
Peter Uihlein 60/1.

NOTE: For all the latest odds go to

To place a bet visit BetWay.  

Neville Leck

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