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Patrick Reed follows through on the 12th hole of the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship on May 2 (Chuck Burton)
Patrick Reed follows through on the 12th hole of the first round of the Wells Fargo Championship on May 2 (Chuck Burton)|Associated Press
Golf

Golf: Kern on Byron Nelson - Tony Romo, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Speith, Aaron Wise, Brooks Koepka

By Mike Kern

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Last week at the Wells Fargo Championship I told you to take Rory McIlroy at even money to finish in the top 10. And he did, barely, with a tie for eighth. But you still cashed. And that’s good, because I had McIlory as one of my three picks to win. The two others did nothing. In fact one, Gary Woodland, had to withdraw. Why does that always seem to happen to me? Anyway, if you went strong enough with the Rory in the top 10 bet, you would have probably fared OK overall. And that’s what it’s mostly about. That, and trying to have some fun.

This week it’s the Byron Nelson, in Dallas, the third of four PGA Tour stops in Texas this year. The field isn’t very strong, because the PGA Championship at Bethpage Black is next week after making the switch from August to May on the schedule. So Brooks Koepka is the logical favorite, as he should be, at 7-1. But he has said this week is more about him getting his game in better shape for the PGA than anything else, so there is that. Besides, he doesn’t seem to win too many non-major events. Which is more than OK, since he does so well in the four tournaments that define careers.

Here’s a look at some of the other usual suspects, since you know I try to avoid the chalk when I can and try to get you some decent odds. And I’ve had three winners in the past few months (with another couple of close calls), so it must be working at least a little. All we can do is keep at it, and hope.

Hideki Matsuyama, who hasn’t won in nearly two years but hasn’t missed a cut in almost 12 months, is 13-1. Jordan Speith, who will be playing in his hometown, is 15. But he hasn’t been that Jordan Spieth in a while now, and his best finish here was a tie for 16th nine years ago as a teenager. Defending champion Aaron Wise is 20. That was his first win, and he’s still looking for a second. But he did finish top 20 in his last two tourneys, which included the Masters.

Henrik Stenson, who is making a rare appearance in this, is 24. Patrick Reed is 28. He opened 67-69 last week before fading. Marc Leishman, at 29, shot 61 here a year ago en route to getting runner-up. Sungjae Im is 36. He’s probably going to win one of these weeks, maybe even soon. Charles Howell III, who’s having a good year that nobody seems to have noticed, is 50. And Brandt Snedeker, who can always have a chance if his putter gets going, is 55. Oops, almost forgot. Rory Sabbatini is 40. He’s had three top 20s in his last five starts, and finished in the top 10 at the Byron in 2018.

For what it’s worth, cause I always try to be as truthful as possible, I have Texan Jimmy Walker in my yearlong pool that I have to select in December. He’s 60-1. Me having him is usually not a good sign, but hey you never know.

Also, Tony Romo is in the field as a sponsor’s exemption. He’s been listed at 10,000-1 to win. It might as well be a zillion. He shouldn’t even come close to making the cut. But you can bet the Over/Under on his opening round, at 77.5. The best he’s ever shot in previous PGA starts is 77. But this is his home course (Trinity Forest). Go for it. Be a Cowboy hater.

OK, enough of the prelims. I really don’t have a strong feeling. I guess you could take Koepka and hope that his talent gets it done. But with a field like this I would rather take a shot at some prices. So how about we go with Sungjae Im, since I think he is going to be pretty good (heck, he already is) and I’m just trying to get in on the ground floor. I’ll also go with Reed and Sabbatini. Reed might be due to break out, at just the right time heading into the second major of the season, and Sabbatini has a decent recent track record.

So there you have it. Good luck with whatever you decided to do. See you next week when the bigger boys will all be teeing it up.

Pick: Sungjae Im (36-1)
Pick: Patrick Reed (28-1)
Pick: Rory Sabbatini (40-1)