It’s the last week of tuning up for the game’s best this week before we make our way over to the season’s second ,ajor championship at Southern Hills next week. In its shadow is the 2022 AT&T Byron Nelson, which will be hosted at TPC Craig Ranch for the second year in a row.
Thanks to a perfect storm of soft, wet conditions, this course played as easy as a PGA TOUR course can last year as 12 holes averaged under-par for the event and only two holes had a scoring average above 0.1 over par. Those birdie fest conditions have historically led to random winners, and it was no different in 2021 when a 150-1 KH Lee picked up his first career win a -25.
This year with near record-high temperatures in the low-90s and considerably less rain in the forecast, we may not expect the same walk in the park, but the course layout still remains the same and should yield ample birdie opportunities. If I had to guess, I’d still expect a winning score of about -22, and to see multiple players eclipse -20 this week.
2022 AT&T BYRON BELSON PICKS | DFS VALUE PLAYS & BETTING LONGSHOTS FOR TPC CRAIG RANCH
After a couple weeks of prohibitive favorites at the top of the board at the Mexico Open and Wells Fargo Championship, we see a bit more balance at the top of Draft Kings pricing, thanks to the presence of a few more elite names in this year’s AT&T Byron Nelson than usual.
Scottie Scheffler headlines as the hometown favorite, and he’s joined by Justin Thomas, Jordan Spieth, Sam Burns, Dustin Johnson, and Xander Schauffele who each enter in great form, so there’s plenty of ways to get creative from a lineup construction standpoint.
As this does have the outlook of a birdie fest, putting contest, that opens us up to more viable plays in the $6K DFS range and beyond the 100-1 outright range on the odds board. We’ll see time and time again that wide-open fairways and greens mitigate the ball-striking advantage from the elite names.
These events can be won by the player who can catch the hottest putter skill that all 152 players in this field can possess. Below is a look at my favorite value leverage plays and longshots for the 2022 AT&T Byron Nelson.
*Betting odds & DFS pricing from DraftKings are subject to change after writing. Stats pulled across Last 36 Rounds unless otherwise noted.
Ryan Palmer (, $7,400)
A year ago as we attempted to handicap TPC Craig Ranch for the first time, Ryan Palmer became a popular play, as word quickly got out that he was one of very few players in the field with on-course experience, and that he in fact owns the course record of 61 (11-under par).
This year, although not in the same form, the masses are no longer lining up to play the Texas lifer and course record holder, so it presents an appealing leverage opportunity.
Palmer is a Texan through and through, and rarely disappoints in front of the home crowd. He’s finished inside the top-50 in each of his last five events in Texas over the last two years. While the results more recently haven’t exactly manifested, the tee-to-green game has been just fine, having gained over 4 strokes T2G in four of his last eight measured rounds.
It’s the putter that’s held Palmer back, but a return home to familiar facilities should be a perfect remedy in that regard.
Aside from all the hometown narratives, Palmer managed to rate out no. 21 overall in my model this week, a credit to ranking above-average in every single key stat category I pulled for, and top-10 in Prox 200+ and Comp Course History. At depressed ownership, I like Palmer as a high floor top-40 play.
Kurt Kitayama (, $7,400)
On the other end of the leverage spectrum, we have Kurt Kitayama, who has officially blown his cover as an up-and-coming ball striker on the PGA TOUR and projects to be well over 10% owned on Draft Kings. It’s a daunting ask to play a chalk Kurt Kitayama, but one thing is for certain, he was the first player to make his way onto my betting card before odds corrected.
Kitayama has been on a tear over the last two months, gaining over 12 strokes on the field at both the Arnold Palmer Invitational (T3) and the Mexico Open (T2). He’s also shown solid outings at the Puerto Rico Open (T28) and Wells Fargo Championship (T15) over the same span, suggesting he can find success on a variety of different course layouts.
What we know for sure about Kurt Kitayama, is he’s at his best when he can freely pull the driver and rely on his distance to gain strokes off the tee.
TPC Craig Ranch has already been noted by players like Bryson DeChambeau as a bomber’s paradise, so Kitayama, a top-10 player in driving distance in this field, should be licking his chops. What’s made Kitayama so dangerous on his current heater, however, is his ability to pair up that elite distance with spike approach and putting weeks as well.
He’s gained over 7 strokes on approach and over 5 strokes putting twice over his last six starts, which is exactly the upside you want to chase in this range. Despite the ownership, it’s worth riding the hot hand with Kitayama who continues to find success on longer, driver-friendly courses.
Patrick Rodgers (, $7,000)
I’ve been playing Patrick Rodgers a lot lately, but that’s what happens when we find ourselves in the PGA TOUR’s stretch of wide-open, second-shot, birdie fests.
Vidanta Vallarta is a longer, and possibly windier version of TPC Craig Ranch, so if you can find success there two weeks ago, you should be able to channel the same skills to contend once more at the AT&T Byron Nelson. Like Kitayama, Rodgers looked sharp in Puerta Vallarta with a T10 finish, but hasn’t seen much movement in his price despite showing that promise.
Before the Mexico Open, Rodgers showed potential with T10 finishes at the Bermuda Championship, Fortinet Championship, and Barbasol Championship. All four of these events share in common their wide-open fairways and advantage to longer hitters in easy scoring conditions.
So Patrick Rodgers has a type, and TPC Craig Ranch fits it exactly. Always a FRL candidate, he may easily go overlooked on a course that should set up to channel all the same skills he just thrived in south of the border.
Hudson Swafford (, $6,800)
Hudson Swafford has three distinct skills. He can drive the ball far, he can strike his irons well with above-average consistency, and he has the ability to intermittently lead a field in putting.
He’s your quintessential boom or bust player, which makes for a risky DFS decision, but as we look around at the other options down this range of the board, he’s by far the most appealing to me, already winning once this season on a birdie fest putting contest that favored longer hitters regardless of their accuracy off the tee at the 2022 American Express.
Swafford found himself no. 23 overall in my model this week, ranking top-20 in SG: APP, Par-5 Scoring, and Birdie or Better Gained. I like Par 5 Scoring as a baseline requirement at this event, as players who can take advantage of the four reachable par-5s will be able to sustain momentum in their rounds and build an easier path through the cutline.
With Swafford, there’s a conceivable path to the weekend if he can simply capitalize on the Birdie and Eagle opportunities on the Par-5s alone.
Hayden Buckley (, $6,300)
All signs point toward this being a birdie fest, and if that’s the case, it seems to be a great time to look back for those who thrived most recently on the Korn Ferry Tour and carried that into the PGA TOUR’s Fall swing of birdie fests.
To me, that’s a perfect description of Hayden Buckley, who parlayed an excellent 2021 KFT season that included a win and four T10s, into a hot PGA TOUR debut that included a T4 at the Sanderson Farms, T8 at The Shriners, and T12 at the Sony Open in three of his first six starts.
He’s cooled off since then but showed some life again last month with a T13 at Corales, another wide-open golf course with very scoreable, yet windy conditions.
A string of starts on more challenging courses makes his SG stats look a bit less appetizing, but we can weed all those poor performances away on the notion that Hayden Buckley may simply be an easy course specialist.
He ranks top-20 in SG: TOT and Birdies or Better Gained when playing in easy scoring conditions, which is one of the most significant splits in this field compared to his overall baseline in both categories.
There are few other options this far down the board who can claim four top-15 finishes this season, and a return to easy scoring conditions should be enough reason to roll the dice on some salary relief with Buckley.