Sobel’s AT&T Byron Nelson Preview: Is Now the Time to Buy Back on Jordan Spieth?

May 09, 2019 09:00 PM EDT

Michael Madrid, USA Today Sports. Pictured: Jordan Spieth

  • Brooks Koepka is the betting favorite to win this weekend's AT&T Byron Nelson in Dallas, Texas.
  • Trinity Forest is a links-style golf course, so Jason Sobel believes European players may have an edge.

Congratulations to Max Homa and all Max Homa backers after his Wells Fargo Championship victory this past weekend.

I say that in jest — well, the second part of it — because if you were all-in on the Homa train, then you’re clearly seeing such matters from an enlightened perspective.

I’m not talking about rooting for the guy, who’s a #GolfTwitter fave and enjoys making the rounds on the podcast circuit; I’m talking about putting your hard-earned cash on a player who was ranked 417th entering last week, without any surefire warning signals of turning it around.

After his win, Homa spoke about all the things first-time winners always speak about. He spoke about the need to believe in himself more, about the butterfly effect of some of his past performances, about the inner fortitude which kept him from ever giving up on a chance to pursue his dreams, even when it seemed most dire.

Sometimes golfers just need more opportunities in order to fulfill those dreams. The more “reps” as Tiger Woods calls ‘em, the more chances to hit the proverbial jackpot.

All of which serves as a nice segue into this week’s AT&T Byron Nelson, where quarterback-turned-broadcaster Tony Romo will make his third career PGA Tour start.

You might think it’s just a coy PR move to let Romo play in this week’s event – and you might not be wrong. This is business. Title sponsors pay a lot of money to put their names on tournaments and they should have the right to make a few decisions of their own. If an athlete or celebrity happens to bring more non-golf fans to an event and gets them engaged with what’s taking place, then it’s hard to argue against this decision.

I guarantee you’ll see plenty of spectators walking around in Cowboys jersey this week. For a game which so often preaches the need to grow from outside, this is a way to bring in potential new fans at a very low-risk price.

The truth is, I’m surprised it doesn’t happen more often.

Instead of tournaments giving that last exemption to a Tour grad who’s only made seven starts this season, I’m surprised that spot doesn’t more often go to the scratch-handicap actor who lives nearby or the local athlete who thinks he can hang with the world’s best players.

They’re not “stealing” anything. Other professional golfers aren’t more “deserving.”

On the heels of Homa’s fairytale story, we can understand that players make their own luck, that opportunities will come and chances to live out dreams will happen.

They can easily coexist with the rare exemption to someone whose main pursuit isn’t professional golf. This doesn’t have to be a one-or-the-other situation.

Let’s move on to picks for this week’s festivities at Trinity Forest, which will serve as the host venue for the second consecutive year. Without much course history to work with, don’t be surprised if this winds up being yet another tourney where the improbable becomes probable on Sunday evening.


Jordan Spieth (+1800)

Betting on Spieth right now is like going swimming in cold ocean water. Some people like to jump right in and get it over with; I prefer to dip a toe and stand there for a while deciding if I want to go any further.

The three-time major champion had his best finish of the year in his most recent start at the Masters, but still doesn’t have a top-20. For those inclined to dip a toe, the good news is that he’s a member at Trinity Forest, knows this golf course as well as anyone in the field and should be extremely motivated to turn his game around before the year’s final three majors.

Marc Leishman (+3300)

There’s no toe-dipping here – I’m going full belly-flop from the high board. (And yeah, I get there are no diving boards into the ocean, but just go with it. Also: Let’s put some diving boards in the ocean. That would be rad.)

Last year’s runner-up started the year hot, but has cooled off ever since. I like Leishman anywhere that it’s windy and you can play the ball on the ground. This course checks both of those boxes.

Rafa Cabrera-Bello (+4000)

Some of RCB’s best PGA Tour performances – T-3 at the Arnold Palmer this year; T-7 at the Dell Technologies and T-3 in Mexico last year – are less about similar course characteristics and more about his game trending in the right direction. On each of those three prior occasions, he had three or four good-but-not-great results entering that week. This time, he comes in on the heels of 16th-36th-24th-30th in his last four. That’s enough for me to get on-board.


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