The CJ Cup Byron Nelson Predictions: Conservative/Aggressive Plays for Every Type of Bettor

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Byeong Hun An, of South Korea, waves after making a putt on the sixth hole during third round at the Masters golf tournament at Augusta National Golf Club Saturday, April 13, 2024, in Augusta, Ga.
(AP Photo/George Walker IV)
Jason Sobel @JasonSobelGolf Apr 30, 2024, 9:31 AM

If the 2024 PGA Tour schedule has felt like a frenetic-paced frenzy, with the best players competing against each other on enough of a regular basis that the phenomenon has actually lost some luster, this week’s The CJ Cup Byron Nelson represents a brief respite for both you and them, with only a few of the biggest names in the field at TPC Craig Ranch.

That might dissuade some fans, but it should be music to the ears of the golf betting community searching for value on a board which is stocked with it.

The early-week favorites at BetMGM are (rightfully) Jordan Spieth (+1600), whose inconsistency this year has led to some uncharacteristic results, as well as Si Woo Kim (two wins since 2017). Next up is Jason Day (+2000), who has one win since 2018, followed by Alex Noren (+2200), who’s never even won a PGA Tour event. Needless to say, not exactly a trio of recent closers.

In three previous editions of this event at TPC Craig Ranch, K.H. Lee has won twice, which should have us scrambling to back those with Lee-like profiles, except for the fact that his profile is essentially that of a guy who’s fairly average off the tee, a bit below average with his irons, above average with his wedges around the greens and average with his putter. It’s not as if he performs so well in a single aspect of the game that we should chase all copycats.

All of which – the limited history at this venue, the lack of confidence in the favorites, even the inability to target those who fit this course – should open up this week’s event to plenty of options.

Let’s get right to some of ‘em, with a conservative and aggressive play for each selection. 

The CJ Cup Byron Nelson Outright Picks

Conservative: Byeong Hun An (+2800)

In my first two preview pieces since starting with BetMGM, I listed Shane Lowry as an outright play at both the Masters and RBC Heritage. As I wrote last week, I simply couldn’t offer him up for a third consecutive week… so of course he won the Zurich Classic alongside Rory McIlroy. 

That’s been a familiar theme throughout this year – right guy, wrong week on too many occasions so far, which is the golf prognosticator’s version of hitting a lot of good putts without getting many of ‘em to drop in the cup. Perhaps the best golf betting advice I’ve ever received – if not also paid forward – is that if you like a player and he doesn’t cash for you, don’t immediately blacklist him, since there’s a reason you liked him in the first place. 

All of this is a long-winded way of explaining that I’m sticking with those guys I’ve believed in, and Ben An finds himself firmly on this list. It’s been the same story for An this year as it’s been throughout much of his career, which is to say he’s been very good from tee to green and something less than very good once he gets there, currently ranked 130th in putting. 

In fact, that was also the story for him at last year’s edition of this tournament, when he finished T-14 while owning the worst putting numbers of anybody inside the top-20. Perhaps it’s insane to back a player knowing that he’ll possibly do the same thing over and over while expecting different results, but I’d rather target an elite-level ball-striker in hopes of a spike week with the flatstick instead of the other way around. 

With six top-25s in 11 starts this year, I like the chances for An to finally break through in a field that should be less competitive than many of the others he’s seen recently.

Aggressive: Ryan Palmer (+12500)

A member at the annual PGA Tour host venue Colonial CC, it’s actually been the other DFW-based tourney that has better suited Palmer’s game, especially since the move to Craig Ranch. Of the veteran’s five career top-10s at this event (in 19 starts), two have come in the last two years. 

Meanwhile, there have been some rumblings that Palmer is pleased with the way his game is progressing recently; it’s difficult to glean too much from last week’s two-man Zurich Classic, but best-ball scores of 63-65 alongside Zach Johnson should prove that Palmer is at least capable of posting plenty of circles to a scorecard right now. Does that mean he can also add a fifth career title – and first individual one in 14 years? 

That obviously remains to be seen, but if it’s going to happen, then it’s more likely to happen against an inferior field in familiar surroundings, which suggests this price should be worthy of attacking in search of that perfect storm. Besides the other names listed in the “aggressive” plays below, Mark Hubbard, Michael Kim and Ryo Hisatsune also make some sense for outright value selections. 

The CJ Cup Byron Nelson Top-5 Picks

Conservative: Min Woo Lee (+550)

I’ll admit that it was a bit of a toss-up between An and Lee for my favorite outright above, just as I’ll admit that the latter owns a higher ceiling on any given week. The truth is, I’ll have each player in both the outright and top-five markets, which essentially renders these picks as some sort of package-type deal. 

With a runner-up at the Cognizant Classic being Min Woo’s lone top-20 in eight starts so far this season, the Chef hasn’t been cooking with gas as much as his growing fanbase would like, though it does feel like he’s gearing up for a big summer.

Aggressive: Adam Schenk (+700)

Over the past couple of years, Schenk has established himself as one of the top candidates on the “Guys Who Are Better Than Most People Realize” list, with a pair of runner-up finishes last year that easily could’ve been victories. 

He’s back at it again lately, posting three top-20s in his last five starts, including a T-19 at The Players and a T-12 at the Masters. This is the type of field that should have him licking his chops, knowing there aren’t too many others here who have played better golf since the beginning of last year. 

His record at Craig Ranch isn’t anything special, going 34th-79th-MC the past three years, but without much history for anyone here, I’ll favor form over anything else. He’s got that right now. 

The CJ Cup Byron Nelson Top-10 Picks

Conservative: Alex Noren (+225)

It would be too shortsighted to suggest this former top-10 player, 10-time DP World Tour winner and ex-Ryder Cupper is playing the best golf of his life, but it might not be too far off from the days when he was earning all of those accolades. 

Noren has gained strokes in every tournament he’s played since October, and he’s gained in each major category on a majority of occasions this year. That’s resulted in five straight finishes between T-9 and T-23, showing a consistently high floor, if not the potential for a big ceiling, as well. 

With results of T-21 and T-12 in his previous two starts at this venue, I like the current form to pay off in a finish just a couple of notches higher, as he makes a ton of sense for a top-10 this week.

Aggressive: Taylor Pendrith (+700)

Like An and Schenk, Pendrith is another player I consistently target for the sole reason that his talent level outweighs his current price. The Canadian also tends to heat up as the summer gets going, so he’ll be a guy I keep my eye on for the next couple of months. Making his first career start at this tournament is certainly a concern, but Craig Ranch is straightforward enough that it shouldn’t require too much of a learning curve.

The CJ Cup Byron Nelson Top-20 Picks

Conservative: Kevin Yu (+333)

One of the better ball-strikers that your non-betting, golf-fan buddies have never heard of, Yu is currently third in SG: Off the tee and 42nd in SG: Approach, but the positives end there, as he ranks 183rd around the greens and 172nd on them. 

It’ll take a massive tee-to-green week and at least a field-average short-game performance for him to win at some point, but he doesn’t need everything to come together in order to cash top-20 props, which he did four times last year and already three times this year.

Aggressive: Peter Kuest (+320)

Riddle me this: In a half-dozen starts on the Korn Ferry Tour this year, Kuest has a T-47 and five MCs. In a pair of PGA Tour starts, though, he’s finished top-10 in both. 

In fact, the man with the greatest unofficial fan club name in all of golf — A Tribe Called Kuest — has often played his best golf when competing at the highest level, posting seven top-25s in 17 appearances on the PGA Tour since the beginning of last year. That includes a T-14 at the Nelson, when he closed with a final-round 63.

The CJ Cup Byron Nelson First-Round Leader Picks

Conservative: Jordan Spieth (+2800)

He’s potentially injured, has just one finish better than 30th place in his last seven starts, and is still the outright favorite in this field, all of which is a combination that should have you running in the other direction. 

I’m certainly not playing him in that market, but at the first tourney he ever attended with his dad as a youngster, one which has always held a special place in his heart, I’m willing to overlook all of those red flags in hopes that the human roller coaster doesn’t hit a freefall until Friday. We know all about his penchant for making birdies in bunches and six scores of 67-or-better in eight career rounds at Craig Ranch hints that another low one could be coming in the opener.

Aggressive: Wesley Bryan (+15000)

Look, nobody is ever going to accuse this 34-year-old, one-time PGA Tour champion of being the most consistent guy out there, but his long periods of mediocrity have at times been interrupted by brief glimpses of brilliance. 

We again witnessed that two weeks ago, when – in just his second PGA Tour start of the season – Bryan opened with a 63 at the Corales Puntacana Championship, eventually finishing in solo second place behind Billy Horschel. That was massive for a guy with only partial status these days and could unlock a little something moving forward. 

I might be a little skittish to back him for an outright (although at 250/1, he owns plenty of value), but a single-round investment feels like a no-brainer at this price, considering he’s fresh off that hot start in his most recent appearance. 

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About the Author

Jason Sobel

Read More @JasonSobelGolf

Jason Sobel is a Brand Ambassador for BetMGM. He joins after six years with Action Network. Prior to Action, Jason spent a total of 17 years in two stints at ESPN (1997-2011; 2015-18) and four years at Golf Channel (2011-15). He also currently works as a host for "Hitting the Green" on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio and contributes to the channel's on-site coverage during major championships. He's won four Sports Emmy awards, more than a dozen Golf Writers Association of America accolades and has earned an honorable mention in the Best of American Sportswriting series.

Jason Sobel is a Brand Ambassador for BetMGM. He joins after six years with Action Network. Prior to Action, Jason spent a total of 17 years in two stints at ESPN (1997-2011; 2015-18) and four years at Golf Channel (2011-15). He also currently works as a host for "Hitting the Green" on SiriusXM PGA Tour Radio and contributes to the channel's on-site coverage during major championships. He's won four Sports Emmy awards, more than a dozen Golf Writers Association of America accolades and has earned an honorable mention in the Best of American Sportswriting series.