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Monday, 10 December, 2018

Branden Grace should be comfortable at Trinity Forest

New course provides tough test for players and punters

Branden Grace should appreciate the Trinity Forest test
1 of 1

Sky Sports Golf, 5pm Thursday
Tournament starts 2pm

The Byron Nelson heads for a new home this year and the test that awaits at Trinity Forest represents a big change from what went on at the TPC Four Seasons.

The two-year-old course has a real links feel about it and is a a departure from the sort of tracks commonly used on the US Tour.

Local hero Jordan Spieth is the short-priced favourite in a tournament where Betway, Paddy Power and Sky Bet pay places for the top eight on the final leaderboard.

Wilkerson's top tip
Branden Grace 25-1

Undulating greens and fairways will greet the field this week but while for some it will be a step into the unfamiliar, it should be a track on which South African Branden Grace is able to flourish.

Spieth has plenty of experience of the tree-less Dallas track, being used in a tournament of this magnitude for the first time, but disputes that it is a real links test as the best approach is to attack greens from the air rather than along the ground as is common with many Open Championship courses.

The Open champion compares it to Royal Birkdale where he claimed the Claret Jug in July and that will be music to Grace's ears, who finished sixth there and carded a Major-record 62 in his third round.

Grace has finished in the top five at two US Opens, including at Chambers Bay which has also drawn parallels with this week's examination, and while he has not threatened many leaderboards since the turn of the year, his play remains consistent.

His eight spot at the Valspar Championship has been his only top ten of the year but his 46th at last week's Players Championship was his worst result in his last 15 outings and he will not face a field of that quality this week.

This should be an excellent opportunity for him to increase his confidence with the US Open less than a month away. 

Next best
Beau Hossler 40-1

If Spieth has the benefit of local knowledge, then so does Beau Hossler who is attached to Trinity Forest and has a good chance to put on a show.

It is always difficult for an emerging player to find his comfort zone on unfamiliar tracks against players who have been playing on the regular US Tour courses for years, but this time the situation has been reversed.

And it is not as if Hossler merits selection merely on the basis that he lives close to the course. The fact is he is playing decent golf, which was best expressed by his playoff defeat to Ian Poulter at the Houston Open a week before the Masters.

He has made all four cuts since - he would have finished much higher than 59th at the Texas Open had it not been for a closing 79 - and his ability around the green should be a big benefit this week.

The 23-year-old merits his place in the staking plan with so many of his rivals taking a step into the unknown.


Other selections
Jimmy Walker 22-1
Martin Laird 50-1

Another Texas resident who can make his presence felt on the leaderboard is Jimmy Walker, who looks to be heading in the right direction after illness.

The former USPGA champion was diagnosed with Lyme disease last year - a bacterial infection that is caused by a tick bite which leads to sickness and fatigue - and it has taken him a while to get back in the groove.

However, progress has been made in the last couple of weeks as he finished second at last week's Players Championship, four shots behind Webb Simpson, and that good show at Sawgrass followed a fourth spot at the Valero Texas Open three weeks earlier.

Should fitness prevail, he can make another big impression.

Martin Laird has been pulling off some spectacular shots in the last few weeks. He sank an 83-foot putt at the Valero and then holed a 132 yards second for an eagle at Sawgrass last week.

But his overall play has been solid and the putter has been hot as he has posted an 11th place at the Texas Open, ninth at both the Genesis and Phoenix Opens and a seventh place alongside fellow Scot Russell Knox at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans.

He is in the sort of form to suggest it is worth chancing that he can get into the frame.

Others to note

Jordan Spieth
The three-time Major winner will be desperate to win in his home state and has plenty of course experience. Probably the man to beat but his price is prohibitive after a disappointing 41st at Sawgrass last week.

Sergio Garcia
Just the sort of player who should find Trinity Forest to his liking, but has finished MC-MC-70 in his last three tournaments.

Adam Scott
Having returned to his long-handled putter at Sawgrass and finished 11th, it would not be a surprise if this week's test proved to work in his favour.

Matt Kuchar
Finished second at Birkdale in last year's Open and could appreciate the layout, but he rarely manages to get over the line. Was 17th at the Players.

Peter Uihlein
Should be buzzing after his fifth place at the Wells Fargo Championship two weeks ago, which included a 62 in the third round. He led the field in scrambling that week, so his short game is in good order.

Marc Leishman
If it gets windy, the Australian can make his mark on this layout. Has been disappointing since a top-ten finish at Augusta, though.

Staking plan
B Grace
2pts each-way 25-1 general
B Hossler
1pt each-way 40-1 BetBright, Ladbrokes
J Walker
1pt each-way 22-1 bet365, BetBright
M Laird
1pt each-way 50-1 Coral

The lowdown

Course Trinity Forest Golf Club, Dallas, Texas
Prize money $7.7m ($1.386m to the winner)
Length 7,380 yards Par 71 Field 156
When to bet By 2pm tomorrow
When to watch Live on Sky Sports Golf, 5pm
Time difference Dallas is six hours behind the UK and Ireland
Last week - The Players Championship 1 W Simpson 80-1, T2 C Schwartzel 110-1, J Walker 110-1, X Schauffele 125-1, T5 J Day 16-1, J Dufner 125-1.

Course overview After a 35-year stay at the TPC Four Seasons at Las Colinas, the Byron Nelson has moved to Trinity Forest and it is a radical departure. The course was designed by Bill Corre and Ben Crenshaw and opened towards the end on 2016. They were also responsible for the Kapalua Plantation course in Hawaii that hosts the Tournament of Champions in January but this course is a lot different. They also redesigned the Pinehurst course that hosted the 2014 US Open.

There is not a single tree on the site which means wind can become an issue. It is modeled on a links layout with undulating greens and fairways, tall rough and large bunkers and there is talk of the course having to be watered before play commences. The most notable feature is the double green that serves the third and the 11th. It is the size of a football pitch and the largest putting surface in the USA.

The middle of the fairway is not always the best position and solid iron play will be required to find the right areas on the greens. A few yards can be the difference between triumph and disaster. It's going to be a huge test.

Story of last year Having missed his previous four cuts, Billy Horschel won in a playoff at TPC Four Seasons at the first extra hole after Jason Day missed a four-foot putt.

Weather forecast It should be a warm week. There is a chance of a thunderstorm at the start of the tournament but the second and third rounds should be played under clear skies. It is expected to be cloudy on Sunday but temperatures should stay around 27C all week. Winds could prove a factor with the strongest gusts anticipated on Saturday.

Type of player suited to the challenge Players aren't just going to be able to blast it off the tee this week. It is going to be a thinker's course and those who revel on links tests should flourish. Although the fairways are wide, finding the right areas on the shorter grass and greens will be key.

Key attribute Accuracy

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This should be an excellent opportunity for him to increase his confidence with the US Open less than a month away.
E.W. Terms
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