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Thursday, 13 December, 2018

South African duo can duel in the Lone Star State

Schwartzel ready to go all guns blazing

Charl Schwartzel is playing well enough to seriously contend in Texas
1 of 1

Tournament starts 1pm Thursday
Live on Sky Sports 4 from 9pm

Palmer's top tip
Charl Schwartzel 50-1
Dustin Johnson has been backed from 5-1 to 9-2 for the AT&T Byron Nelson by early-bird punters and it is not surprising that the rampant world number one continues to attract support.

Johnson carded the lowest round of the day at Sawgrass on Sunday, signing off with a 68 for 12th place, a career-best finish in the Players Championship. He is playing too well to be tamed by any course and oozing consistency.

Since sharing 12th place in last year's AT&T Byron Nelson, Johnson has finished outside of the top-20 in a Stateside event only twice. He has ended up in the top 20 in the Byron Nelson on his last six visits to TPC Four Seasons, so the formbook makes DJ a virtual certainty for the leaderboard.

Johnson obviously deserves favouritism and those just behind him in the betting are unappealing, but there are three reasons for leaving the 9-2 alone.

Firstly, the price – bookmakers are giving nothing away. Secondly, the weather – the forecast is unsettled, tee-times could play a significant role and a shortened event is a possibility. And thirdly, motivation. The top dog may struggle to get his juices flowing for a minor event with summer Majors on the horizon.

Johnson is preferred to Jordan Spieth, who has a poor Byron Nelson record for a player of his calibre (16-32-68-37-30-18) and been off the boil for a couple of months, while Sergio Garcia and Jason Day arrive after an embarrassingly bad Sawgrass Sunday.

Brooks Koepka is playing well again and worth considering at 18-1, but the South African duo of Charl Schwartzel and Louis Oosthuizen represent the best value at much bigger prices.

Schwartzel is not a fan of Sawgrass – he did not even bother to turn up for last year's Players – so last week's missed cut there should be ignored. Four Seasons, where he finished third on his debut in 2013, is much more his cup of tea.

Schwartzel was 11th in the 2014 Byron Nelson and is playing well enough to seriously contend this time. Prior to Sawgrass, nobody scored better over Masters weekend, where he closed with consecutive rounds of 68 for third place.

Schwartzel has recorded four top-four finishes in his last 14 tournaments and is a Major champion full of tee-to-green confidence. A third US Tour title is entirely possible on Sunday.

Next best
Louis Oosthuizen 35-1
Si Woo Kim provided a Sunday masterclass at Sawgrass, leaving Oosthuizen chasing the Korean's shadow, but the runner-up could leave Florida with confidence.

Oosthuizen's putting stroke was much more convincing than normal throughout the tournament, boding well for the weeks ahead.

Oosthuizen withdrew prior to round four at TPC Four Seasons in 2013, suffering with a neck injury, having been three under par in 32nd spot. He returned 12 months later and took a share of the lead into the final round, before fading to 11th place.

This is clearly turf on which Oosthuizen can act, and there appeared to be an uncharacteristic fire in his belly last week. He has not missed a cut since last year's Open and seems determined to turn consistency into glory as soon as possible.

Other selections
Bud Cauley 45-1
John Huh 200-1
The most likely maiden to use TPC Four Seasons for a breakthrough triumph is Bud Cauley, who has finished ninth and tenth in his last two individual tournaments, before sharing fifth spot alongside Justin Thomas in the Zurich Classic pairs event last time out.

Cauley has been in fantastic nick – he combined with Thomas to shoot a final-round 61 in the Zurich fourballs – and last year he finished fourth in the Byron Nelson when carrying far less self-belief.

He arrived having suffered back-to-back missed cuts at Pebble Beach and Quail Hollow last year, but this time confidence is coursing through the veins of this excellent ball-striker.

It is tempting to roll the dice again with form-horse Kevin Tway, who has contended in his last three events, but this course does not look as suitable for his style of play. Instead, at a much bigger price, John Huh is taken to enter the equation.

Huh has impressed twice this year, carding four solid rounds for ninth place in the Valspar Championship in March, before getting into the final threeball in the Texas Open at the end of last month.

He suffered a Sunday 77 to drop to 22nd spot, watching Kevin Chappell claim a maiden title, but the overall performance showed this precise operator is close to his best.
Huh's missed cut by a shot in the Players Championship last week is easy to forgive and the 2012 Mayakoba champion could threaten a second US Tour victory on a Four Seasons track which plays to his strengths. The 26-year-old has a strong record in Texas, including second place in the 2012 Texas Open and eighth in the 2013 Byron Nelson. Coral and Paddy Power are offering seven places.

Others to note
Marc Leishman
The Aussie has twice finished third at Four Seasons and won at Bay Hill in March. Must be respected, but hosted a charity event in Virginia on Monday, which is not ideal preparation.

Russell Henley
The three-time US Tour champion won the Houston Open on his last trip to Texas. Full of confidence and difficult to ignore.

Ryan Moore
The Ryder Cup star could grind his way to a place on a course where he was a playoff loser to Adam Scott in 2008.

Byeong Hun An
The Korean may take inspiration from the efforts of Si Woo Kim at Sawgrass. An finished eighth in the Wells Fargo Championship last time out.

Seung yul Noh
Another talented Korean playing well. Noh was fifth in the Wells Fargo and 22nd at Sawgrass, raising hopes of an overdue second US Tour title.

Robby Shelton
The 21-year-old is bursting with talent and potential, and finished 16th in the Texas Open at the end of last month. A dangerman wherever he plays.

Staking plan
C Schwartzel
2pts each-way 50-1 Sky Bet
L Oosthuizen
2pts each-way 35-1 Betfred
B Cauley
1.5pts each-way 45-1 BoyleSports
J Huh
0.5pt each-way 200-1 Coral, Power

AT&T Byron Nelson lowdown
Course TPC Four Seasons, Irving, Texas
Prize money $7.5m ($1.34m to the winner)
Length 7,166 yards
Par 70
Field 156
Course records – 72 holes 259 Steven Bowditch (2015) 18 holes 60 Keegan Bradley (2013)
Course winners taking part Ernie Els, Sergio Garcia (twice), Rory Sabbatini, Jason Day, Keegan Bradley, Jason Dufner, Brendon Todd, Steven Bowditch
When to bet By 1pm Thursday
Where to watch Live on Sky Sports from 9pm Thursday
Time difference Texas is six hours behind the UK and Ireland
Last week – Players Championship 1 S W Kim (400-1), T2 I Poulter (300-1), L Oosthuizen (100-1), T4 R Cabrera-Bello (200-1), K Stanley (200-1), T6 B Steele (200-1), L Glover (200-1), A Scott (45-1), F Molinari (60-1)

Course overview From 1994, the TPC Four Seasons and the Cottonwood Valley course were used for a round each, with the final 36 holes played at the TPC, but from 2008 onwards the tournament has been played exclusively at the TPC. The layout underwent major renovation and redesign in 2007 at the hands of DA Weibring, with all the greens rebuilt and bunkers and water hazards added, so course form prior to 2008 should be treated with caution. The Bermuda grass fairways are lined by trees, while creeks and ponds come into play on several holes. Large Bentgrass greens provide generous targets, but the dancefloors are heavily undulating and tough to sink putts on. The par-four third hole is the most challenging on the course, with water right, bunkers left and 528 yards to cover. The 542-yard seventh and the 546-yard 16th are the only par-fives, and the driveable 323-yard par-four 11th is another excellent birdie opportunity

Story of last year Sergio Garcia became the first dual champion at TPC Four Seasons, defeating Brooks Koepka in a playoff after the American found water at the first extra hole

Weather forecast Sporadic thunderstorms and moderate breezes are expected for the first three days, before a cloudy, calm Sunday

Type of player suited to challenge This tree-lined, water-strewn track demands tee-to-green accuracy. The unsettled weather forecast brings in the possibility of a 54-hole event

Key attribute Accuracy

Nobody scored better over Masters weekend, where he closed with consecutive rounds of 68 for third place
E.W. Terms
Sky bet