AT&T Byron Nelson: Final prep for the PGA Championship but also a title to win at TPC Craig Ranch

We take a look at three key factors ahead of this week’s PGA Tour event and who they favour.

Nine of the world's top 20 players tee it up this week in the AT&T Byron Nelson as they seek to get themselves match fit for next week's PGA Championship.

As we've detailed elsewhere this week, it's been a funny month on the circuit, with players taking a lot of time off ahead of what will be more or less a non-stop schedule from now until late August.

It means many top performers need that test of their competitive juices.

For others this is a valuable opportunity.

As we saw ahead of the Masters, when JJ Spaun won the Texas Open, sometimes the big boys are so concerned with the next week they take their eye off the ball.

The field is back in Texas, at TPC Craig Ranch, will we see a repeat of that surprise? Or will the likes of Jordan Spieth and Justin Thomas want a win to propel them into next week's challenge?

Let's take a closer look.

The Weiskopf connection

TPC Craig Ranch was designed by Tom Weiskopf and he was also responsible for a re-design of TPC Scottsdale.

Is that enough to make a link?

At first glance it seems a little flimsy, but the result of the first event 12 months ago does provide some evidence to back up the notion.

The winner of this event, Korea's Kyoung Hoon Lee, had finished second at TPC Scottsdale in the WM Phoenix Open and the man who held the 36 and 54 hole lead, Sam Burns, had also got off to a fast start at TPC Scottsdale, lying in the top four at halfway.

Moreover, Lee made a swift start back in Phoenix earlier this season.

If that connection does hold true, that might spell good news for the following players (their result at Scottsdale in brackets):

Scottie Scheffler (1st), Brooks Koepka, Xander Schauffele, Sahith Theegala (T3rd), Alex Noren (6th), Hideki Matsuyama, Justin Thomas (8th).

The right approach

Ahead of last year's event Weiskopf said: "We call this a big-boy golf course. Back in 2000 when we were negotiating with the Tour, 7,450 yards was a long golf course. And that's what this is."

Ryan Palmer, who hails from Texas and had knowledge of the track, added: "It's going to be a big putting contest that week. You've got wide fairways. It's going to be hard to tighten the fairways up. Bent grass greens. I think you've got to hit it a long ways. It's going to be a bomber's golf course, I think."

It didn't really work out that way however.

The course had dropped clues. In 2008 and 2012 it had hosted the Korn Ferry Tour and the leading finishers on both occasions thrived in hitting greens in regulation.

That happened again last year: the top six all ranked top 20 for GIR.

But perhaps more tellingly five of the top six ranked top seven for Strokes Gained Approach.

The scores were low - Lee won with 25-under for the week - and it seems that second shots were the key because driving at the wide fairways was easy and those bent grass greens ran true.

The best players in this week's field for the season in SG Approach? Will Zalatoris, Justin Thomas, Tom Hoge, Kurt Kitayama, Sam Burns and Hideki Matsuyama.

Spieth's input

Jordan Spieth is usually an informed, interested and interesting observer of a new course.

Ahead of last year's event he started off by saying of TPC Craig Ranch: "The greens are beautiful."

That helps explain why so many birdies were drained.

He also said, perhaps perceptively: "You've just got to have really step up because you've got big greens but they play effectively smaller and it's really hard to kind of get your mid irons to long irons into the sections of the greens where the pins will be.

"I think it's going to be more of like a second shot risk-reward golf course to try and go low, but you can also play it smart and really hang in there if you're able to putt well."

He also added: "It's got really hard par-3s, 17 being the outlier, the kind of shorter one."

In fact, the winners and top finishers in all three events it has hosted have played the short holes under-par for the week. So he was bang on about that, too.

Who in the field features highest in the season's Par-3 scoring? Talor Gooch, Tom Hoge, Marc Leishman, Aaron Wise, Will Zalatoris and Jason Kokrak.

Hoge features in both stats lists and guess what? He was T14th at TPC Scottsdale.

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