Sobel’s AT&T Byron Nelson Matchups: Expect a Motivated Brooks Koepka

Sobel’s AT&T Byron Nelson Matchups: Expect a Motivated Brooks Koepka article feature image

Stephen Lew, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Brooks Koepka

  • Brooks Koepka is the betting favorite to win this weekend's AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas, Texas.
  • Will Koepka be motivated at Trinity Forest? Or will he get caught looking ahead to next week's PGA Championship.

I’ve stayed away from commenting on the Brandel Chamblee-Brooks Koepka kerfuffle on social media, mostly because it’s a stupid argument between a player who seemingly can’t handle honest analysis of his game and an analyst who literally gets paid for such commentary.

In case you missed it, here are the liner notes: On a Golf Channel podcast, Chamblee stated that the greatest challengers to Tiger Woods being the best player in the world are Rory McIlroy and Dustin Johnson. That’s a fair assessment.

Though he wasn’t asked specifically about Koepka, Chamblee explained, “Irrespective of the world rankings, I think all of us know what we need to know without the world rankings telling us, and it’s Rory and it’s Dustin Johnson and it’s Tiger Woods, but Tiger’s simply not going to play enough to get the points that he needs to get.”

Whether you agree with that take or believe Chamblee should’ve included Koepka is almost beside the point in the aftermath, because his commentary quickly devolved into a witch hunt as to whether the one-time PGA Tour champion is “qualified” to offer his opinion.

That’s a laughable debate – of course he is – but it’s one that was purported on Twitter by Steve Elkington, who has parlayed a career of owning golf’s most syrupy swing into a post-career existence as the game’s most sour aftertaste, a goon who spews disrespectful takes first, then apologizes later.

Adding lighter fluid to this quickly burning fire was the fact that Koepka himself posted a picture of Chamblee’s face with a clown’s nose.

Keep in mind that Chamblee didn’t call Koepka a fluky three-time major champion or insist that he belongs somewhere outside the top-25 in the world. He simply suggested that his current skill-level is just a notch below that of three other proven superstars.

I often have a problem with those who don’t take issue with another person until their personal performance is questioned. Chamblee mirrored this opinion, telling SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio, “I think Brooks is a hell of a player. I’ve said so I don’t even know how many times. He certainly wasn’t putting a clown nose on my face when I was lauding him all these years.”

On a personal note, I worked in TV for a long time, both in front of the camera and behind it. I’ve always told anyone who asked that the two best analysts I ever worked with were Mark Schlereth, who’s a wiz at breaking down NFL game tape, and Chamblee, who does more homework than anyone else in the golf business.

You might not like his opinion. In fact, in this specific instance, I disagree with him. I believe that Koepka has accomplished enough to be considered part of this discussion.

That hardly means, though, that I don’t think Chamblee is qualified to have a take. The truth is, when he says something I disagree with, it makes me rethink my own opinion.

And that, my friends, is the truest mark of a great analyst.

Anyway, that was a fairly long-winded introduction to my tournament matchup bets for this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson event. But it wasn’t without reason. Let’s start out with the guy who should be playing with an even bigger chip on his shoulder than usual.

Brooks Koepka over Hideki Matsuyama (-130)

Normally, I try to avoid such big favorites in matchup bets, but we should have reason to believe Koepka will be a little extra motivated to show off this week – and if there’s one thing we know about Koepka, it’s that he plays his best golf when motivated.

There’s a reason why he owns three majors and just two other PGA Tour wins. The stakes need to be raised in order for Koepka to remain fully engaged. This week might have started as just as warmup before next week’s PGA Championship, but you’d better believe Koepka wants to jump at the chance to immediately prove Chamblee wrong (even if there’s nothing he can do at the Nelson to change that opinion of him).

If that is indeed the case, then Hideki might have a better chance of beating him in an arm-wrestling match – which is to say, not much of a chance at all.

Scottie Scheffler over Lucas Bjerregaard (-110)

This happens a lot in golf: A lesser-known player wins or seriously contends and immediately garners the attention of the betting public, lowering his price across the board for impending tournament starts. Such is the case for Bjerregaard, who defeated Tiger Woods en route to finishing in fourth place at the WGC-Dell Match Play Championship recently.

Since then, he missed the cut at the Valero Texas Open and finished an impressive T-21 at the Masters, but I don’t believe the lines have yet adjusted for him. This week, he’s a favorite over Scheffler, a University of Texas product who lost in a playoff on the Tour last week.

He’s already familiar with Trinity Forest, having played there in college tournaments and presumably while living in the Dallas area. This is a nice price for a guy who might go under the radar since he’s been playing on the minor-league circuit, but he owns a ton of game.

Abraham Ancer over Daniel Berger (-105)

Let’s take the Pepsi Challenge here, a blind taste test between two competitors. Player A has four results this year inside the top-30, including a 12th and 17th in his last four starts. Player B has only two results this year inside the top-30, his only top-10 in an opposite-field event and nothing better than 33rd in his last four starts.

Player A sounds like the guy to take, right? Well, consider this: He’s actually the underdog in this matchup. While Berger owns the rep as a better player over the years – and rightfully so – Ancer has fared better not just this year, but in recent performances, as well. Take the ‘dog and expect him to keep it going this week.