Career comebacks have suddenly become all the rage on the PGA Tour, with Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, and Rory McIlroy all ending significant winless droughts in the past two months.
Is there another one out there this week? There are several who would qualify.
The big focus this week, though, is on building momentum for the second major championship of the year, the PGA Championship, which will be taking place at Kiawah Island in South Carolina next week.
To get there hot, a moderately-strong field will be in Dallas taking on a new course to the PGA Tour: TPC Craig Ranch, which is now the temporary host venue of the AT&T Byron Nelson.
All eyes will be on Matsuyama this week, as he makes his first start since his breakthrough major victory at last month’s Masters. What effect will a green jacket have on the game of Japan’s best shotmaker? There is a great deal of excitement building around it.
Here are the best of who he has to compete with in Texas:
15b. John Catlin
The 30-year-old Catlin is a native to the U.S. and played collegiate golf at New Mexico, but he rarely plays in the states, having made just five starts in America, and none since the 2019 John Deere Classic.
Catlin has made a name for himself in Europe, however, where he has three victories in his last 15 European Tour starts, dating back to last September. He got a special exemption for next week’s PGA Championship, which will be his first career major championship start, so he presumably is in the field at Craig Ranch this week to prepare.
While the recent wins and his fifth-place finish in his last start look good, those past 15 starts also include six missed cuts and two results outside the top 50. He is kind of the ultimate wildcard this week.
World Rank: 78
Odds To Win: 125/1
15a. Thomas Pieters
The long-hitting Belgian has faded since appearing on the brink of stardom in 2016, but Pieters may fulfill that promise yet. His recent play has been very encouraging, with four straight top-15s: two apiece on both the PGA and European Tours.
The 29-year-old should at least be considered a good bet to make the cut, as he has missed just two weekends in his last 31 starts.
His last start on U.S. soil was also a good one, posting a T23 at last year’s U.S. Open.
World Rank: 88
Odds To Win: 66/1
14. Sam Burns
The 24-year-old from Louisiana is coming into Dallas hot, having won his first career event two weeks ago at the Valspar Championship, where he was finally able to hold onto a Sunday lead, winning by three strokes.
Now, after a week off to enjoy being a Tour champion, Burns is back at it, and hopes to add a sixth top-10 finish on the season.
Many would be surprised to learn that Burns ranks 7th on Tour in birdie average. After not qualifying for The Masters last month, Burns is certainly looking to keep form going into the PGA next week.
World Rank: 44
Odds To Win: 33/1
13. Brooks Koepka
Many thought Koepka was going to end up withdrawing from The Masters after his most recent knee ailment, which required surgery in March. He did play, but ended up missing the cut, something he just does not do in majors, so it would be fair to question how healthy he really is.
It helps that he has taken the past four weeks off, and he should be motivated to get his major mojo back before the PGA Championship, which he has won twice, although that has not really mattered to him.
At this point, it is more about getting comfortable with his knee again than acquiring momentum.
World Rank: 12
Odds To Win: 20/1
12. Will Zalatoris
Zalatoris Fever has grinded to a halt since the 24-year-old finished solo runner-up to Hideki Matsuyama at The Masters last month.
A T42 the following week was excusable given the emotions from Augusta, but it was very surprising to see him miss the cut at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship after taking a few starts off.
As a whole, this season has been phenomenal for Zalatoris, though, with six top 10s and 11 top 25s in 17 starts. Heck, just the fact that he has only missed two cuts this year is amazing given that he only had six career Tour starts as a professional coming into the year, and all six of those were in 2018.
Ranking a lofty 4th on Tour in strokes gained: approach-the-green, Zalatoris boasts the Tour’s 13th best scoring average.
World Rank: 30
Odds To Win: 28/1
11. Daniel Berger
It kind of feels like Berger has been slumping lately, but a look at his recent finishes shows that he has three T18s or better in his last four starts, including a T13 three weeks ago in his last start, which was at the RBC Heritage the week after The Masters.
The 28-year-old is just six starts removed from a remarkable victory at February’s AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. Could he go back-to-back in AT&T sponsored events?
Maybe he should be studying Collin Morikawa, who won the last two events sponsored by Workday.
Although, Berger probably does not need much advice, ranking fifth on Tour in birdie average and 18th in strokes gained: putting. He just needs to play his game, which has resulted in two wins and three additional top-3 finishes since the Tour re-start from the COVID-layoff last June.
World Rank: 16
Odds To Win: 20/1
10. Charl Schwartzel
The 36-year-old South African has looked much improved as of late, with four straight finishes of T26 or better, including a T14 at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship. He might even have a win in that span had Louis Oosthuizen, his playing partner at the recent Zurich Classic of New Orleans, not sent the opening tee shot of the playoff into the water.
His last five rounds on Tour have comprised three 70s and two 71s. It is hard to be more consistent than that.
At Quail Hollow, he ranked third in the field in strokes gained: tee-to-green and fourth in strokes gained: approach-the-green. It is often smart to bet on the guy hitting his irons well.
World Rank: 157
Odds To Win: 66/1
9. Sergio Garcia
The 41-year-old Spaniard has largely looked like a more youthful version of himself in 2021, with five top 12 finishes worldwide since the calendar flipped. However, after a T9-T5 stretch in two elite-field events (THE PLAYERS, WGC-Match Play), Sergio followed a missed cut at The Masters with another at the RBC Heritage.
Taking the past two weeks off to reset was probably a good idea. As usual, Sergio has been spectacular with his irons, ranking in the top 15 on Tour in both greens in regulation and strokes gained: tee-to-green.
He has not been as lethal with his putter, as he ranks a dismal 190th on Tour in strokes gained: putting, but you never bet on him expecting miracles on the green anyway.
World Rank: 46
Odds To Win: 40/1
8. Scottie Scheffler
That first Tour win is coming very soon, and given that he is a Dallas native, many will be putting down money on that happening this week. They could point to March at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play in nearby Austin, where Scheffler finished runner-up, taking down an impressive gauntlet to reach the championship match.
Scheffler was also solo-fifth at the WGC-Workday Championship at The Concession, which, similar to this week, was a new course for the PGA Tour.
World Rank: 22
Odds To Win: 25/1
7. Marc Leishman
Leishman’s last start was a victory, where he teamed up with fellow Aussie Cam Smith to win the team-play Zurich Classic of New Orleans. A win is always nice from a confidence perspective, but it is difficult to put too much stock into the Zurich.
We are more encouraged by his previous start, where he contended at The Masters on his way to a T5.
In his last Byron Nelson start, he opened with a 61 and reached 20-under for the week, finishing second to the only man in the field, Aaron Wise, who was in hotter form. Granted, it was at a different course, but we like his veteran perspective and strong recent play at the unfamiliar TPC Craig Ranch.
World Rank: 38
Odds To Win: 28/1
6. Dustin Johnson
There was hope that a strong final round at the RBC Heritage, which vaulted the world No. 1 into a T13 finish would get DJ out of his recent funk, but he did not look better than he has lately two weeks ago at the Valspar Championship, where he finished T48.
It was his sixth straight finish out of the top 10 after finishing no worse than T12 in his previous 11 starts.
Surprisingly, his worst day, by far, at Innisbrook was the round where he hit 11/13 fairways. He had hit just seven a piece in each of his other three rounds. He has suddenly struggled with consistency round to round.
World Rank: 1
Odds To Win: 11/1
5. Matt Fitzpatrick
The 26-year-old Brit might not be especially well-known to casual golf fans yet, but he is right on the verge of it. Ranking 17th in the OWGR, Fitzpatrick has finished 11th or better in five of his last six stroke-play events, most recently posting a T4 at the RBC Heritage the week after The Masters.
Fitzpatrick is hitting fairways at a high rate this season and ranks 11th on Tour in strokes gained: putting; two strong indicators of success when playing an unfamiliar course.
He has a penchant for going on birdie runs, and exploding into contention when nobody was really watching him.
World Rank: 17
Odds To Win: 20/1
4. Hideki Matsuyama
Easily the most exciting storyline in the field this week, Matsuyama will be teeing up for the first time as a major champion, having won The Masters one month ago.
His shotmaking was special, and the much-needed confidence could see him soon further fulfill the promise he flashed during his younger years.
The question with him, though, is how much rust will there be? He has been back in his native Japan, where his celebrity skyrocketed after he acquired a certain green jacket.
Players have struggled keeping focused in similar situations before.
World Rank: 15
Odds To Win: 20/1
3. Jordan Spieth
Do not forget, the last time the Tour was in Texas, Spieth won the Valero Texas Open to snap an agonizing four-year winless drought.
A T3 at The Masters was his seventh finish of T15 or better in his last eight starts. So, native Texan (and Dallas at that) and hot form? It is difficult to not continue to ride Spieth, as he is on the periphery of breaking back into the top 25 of the OWGR.
We cannot imagine his four-week post-Masters break has cooled him down much. He will be motivated to keep momentum going into next week’s PGA Championship, where he can become the sixth golfer in PGA Tour history to complete the career grand slam.
World Rank: 28
Odds To Win: 12/1
2. Jon Rahm
With a blistering Sunday at Augusta that catalyzed a T5 at The Masters, and leading the Tour in top 10s (nine in just 13 2021 starts), it seemed like a foregone conclusion that he would add another lofty result at last week’s Wells Fargo Championship.
Well, not only did he fail to land in the top 10, he opened with a 76 and missed his first cut of the season. He misses the cut so rarely – just four times in 49 starts the past three seasons – that it’s fair to wonder if he is dealing with an injury.
There is no indication he is, though, and we’re willing to bet that it was just a one-round blip on his radar. He feels immune to slumps, even if the new first-time father has had a lot to juggle in the past month.
World Rank: 3
Odds To Win: 9/1
1. Bryson DeChambeau
DeChambeau got to Dallas early, flying in from Charlotte after believing he had missed the cut at the Wells Fargo Championship. The problem was, he did not actually miss the cut, and had to take a jet back on little notice.
The distraction would have rattled most, but Bryson was phenomenal over the weekend at Quail Hollow, going from the cut line to a T9 finish, which placed him back atop the FedExCup standings.
The Tour leader in scoring average and strokes gained: tee-to-green, Bryson also hit a career high of 4th in the OWGR. He has been a little hit-or-miss lately, but this is not the kind of tournament where he is typically a miss.
World Rank: 4
Odds To Win: 10/1
Next 5: Keith Mitchell, Luke List, Ryan Palmer, Cameron Champ, Aaron Wise