As we reach the penultimate event before The Masters at Augusta next week, we are still yet to find a foreign winner on the PGA Tour, as D.A Points held off an impressive charge from Henrik Stenson to capture the Shell Houston Open this past weekend. We have now had 14 successive American winners, including the WGC events, this week however could see the end of that streak as the top two market leaders in the event both come from outside the U.S, World N0.2 Rory Mcilroy is again the bookies favourite despite failing to shine at the Shell Houston Open and Charl Schwartzel comes just behind him as they are 10/1 & 12/1 top price respectively. We are, as we were last week, in Texas for the Valero Texas Open which was won last year by America’s Ben Curtis. Apart from winning this event last year, Curtis won both the Booze Allen Classic and the 84 Lumber Classic in 2006, three years after his major success at The Open Championship in 2003. He also followed that win in 2012 with a T2 at the Players Championship and T5 at the Wells Fargo spelling a happy few weeks for him, he also finished 2012 with a T11 at another major the PGA Championship. All this shows that although inconsistent, Curtis has the ability to pop up even when out of form and put in a big performance and he is available at a top price of 100/1 (Coral) to defend his crown here at TPC San Antonio.
Since taking it’s current name of the Valero Texas Open in 2002 there has been 10 different winners, with the only multiple winner being Zach Johnson who won it back-to-back in 2008 and 2009. Prior to 2002 there were only three winners who still play on the tour now in 2013. Justin Leonard who also won it back-to-back in 2000 and 2001 and added to those two wins, winning it again in 2007, along with Bob Estes the 1994 champion (who finised T4 last year) and Tim Herron who put his name on the trophy in 1997. These wins however all came on a different course to the one currently used TPC San Antonio. TPC San Antonio has played host this event since 2010 and has seen three different winners, starting with Adam Scott, followed by Brendan Steele in 2011 and then of course last years winner Ben Curtis. Curtis did not play the event over the last three years apart from his win here in 2012, Adam Scott followed his 2010 win with a T23 in 2011 and did not return in 2012. On the other hand Brendan Steele the 2011 champion followed up his win with a T4 finish here last year so he has shown form on both occasions. This remains Steele’s only win on the PGA Tour and as he won it in his rookie year many were and still are expecting to go on and win again, including myself. He missed the cut for the first time this year two weeks ago at Bay Hill but his T6 at the Waste Management Phoenix is still his only finish in the top 25 all season and he will be keen to rectify that here in Texas.
The Course: TPC San Antonio(7,522 yards, par 72), the host of this event ever since it opened in 2010. The resort has two courses, The Canyon’s Course and The Oak’s Course which is where the event takes place. The Oak’s Course was designed by Greg Norman who also consulted Sergio Garcia in the process. This course features narrow fairways and deep bunkers along with some unplayable lies. In 2011 Kevin Na shot a 16 on the par-4 9th hole after struggling to negotiate rocks and underbrush, so this is a course than cannot be messed with, and accuracy of the tee will certainly help the players’ cause.
Defending Champion: Ben Curtis. In 2012 Curtis ended his 6-year winless streak on the PGA Tour by winning the Valero Texas Open. He won by a 2 shot margin ahead of John Huh and Matt Every who finished on -7. So -9 was the score that Curtis won with and that was in no small part down to his two opening rounds of 67/-5, he went on to shoot 73 on Saturday and level par 72 in the final round to seal the deal. It was much more of a hang on type of win as oppose to posting a good round on the final day and despite the best efforts of Huh and Every, Curtis still walked away winner. Huh had to overcome a poor first round of 77 to shoot three rounds in the 60s push Curtis and Matt Every all the way. In contrast Every blew the field away in the first round shooting an unbelievable 63/-9 round and then struggled from then on following up with a 74 in round 2 and then 73 and 72, so there are different paths you can take here at TPC San Antonio, start strong and hang in or start slowly and charge late on. With -9, -8, -14 being the last three winning scores, one big round similar to Matt Every’s last year and you can find yourself right back in contention.
With yet another unpredictable winner in the form of D.A Points taking the spoils last week, it shows yet again that 2013 is proving a very difficult year for anyone to name the winner from week to week, Tiger Woods’ wins aside. This does however open avenues for all types of winners and with big prices available on many different players, we are no doubt in for another exciting week on the PGA Tour. With many players deciding to take this week off in preparation for Augusta in 10 days time, the spotlight will yet again be shining bright on Rory Mcilroy, who only decided to enter this week yesterday evening in order to get more competitive playing time in ahead of The Masters. Many people were bemused by Rory’s somewhat light schedule considering his less than impressive start to the season so this week he will definitely be looking to set the record straight. He is yet to find his form and this is his last shot before the main event so he as much, if not more than most will be desperate for a big week here at the Valero Texas Open. With him and Schwartzel both short prices this week it opens up the rest of the field in terms of odds and offers another attractive market on the PGA Tour, I will try to help exploit that in this weeks tips and hopefully we can go into The Masters with some profit to play with.
Cameron Tringale 33/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Tringale was a popular pick two weeks ago for many people after his 3rd placed finish at the Tampa Bay Championship and although he comes in at a shorter price this week, I’ve decided to include him in the weeks selections. He followed that 3rd place finish with a T21 in the Arnold Palmer Invitational at Bay Hill, but that’s not what has made me go for him. What has persuaded me to go for him at a shorter price than he normally goes off at is his past form at this event. Last year he came in a tie for 8th, just 1 shot off of the top 5, which he previously achieved the year before, coming T5 and had he off not shot +1 in his final round in 2011 he would of finished in a tie for 4th with Brandt Snedeker. Even before that Tringale finished just outside the top-25 in 2010 sharing 28th place with Bo Van Pelt. This bodes well for Tringale as all those results came here at TPC San Antonio and whilst he is still looking for his first win on Tour we have already seen the likes of John Merrick, Michael Thompson and Kevin Streelman pick up their first wins and with respect their wins came as much more of as a surprise than if Tringale was to win this week. 33/1 seems a fair price for someone with a proven record at the track and hopefully he can build on his 3rd place at the Tampa Bay.
Brendan Steele 50/1 (General) 1pt e/w: Just like Tringale, Brendan Steele has a very good record at this course, in fact his is even better. As previously mentioned in his rookie season in 2011 Steele won this event beating Charley Hoff man and Kevin Chappell by 1 shot and then he followed that up by coming T4 in 2012. His lack of consistency this season is the main contributing factor to his price this week and at 50/1 I think it would be silly to leave out a player who’s record reads Win, T4 in his two attempts. He will certainly need to improve if he wants to go well this week, but with such fond memories of the course it seems this could be the event that reverses his current fortunes.
Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano 66/1 (Ladbrokes, Coral, William Hill) 1pt e/w: A price that grabbed my attention considering his strong start to the season. Castano had a fantastic finish at Bay Hill finishing in a tie for 3rd after playing his third round with eventual winner Tiger Woods. Castano also came T9 at the WGC Match-Play event, building on his good start on the European Tour which has seen him make all of his 3 cuts, finishing in the Top-25 on each occasion, his results reading T20, T9, T16 before he moved state-side for the WGC’s and Bay Hill. He has hit 75% of Greens in Regulation on the European Tour this season and that always helps when trying to post a good score. He seems a big price considering he finished 3rd in a strong field at Bay Hill and it’s his final prep before he tees it up at his second Masters. Gonzalo has just recently gained the opportunity to become a Special Temporary Member for the remainder of the 2013 season, meaning he can accept unlimited sponsor invites in an attempt to qualify for the 2013-2014 PGA Tour Season.
John Huh 66/1(Coral &William Hill) 1pt e/w: Huh came 2nd here in 2012 in his rookie season and two weeks prior to that he finished T14 at the Shell Houston Open so Texas was good to him one year ago. Fast forward to 2013 and you have a player who has seen some highs and lows all season long. Following a final round of 80 at Bay Hill we saw Huh drop dramatically from one minute challenging for the title following three solid rounds, to finishing in a not so impressive tie for 27th. Many people looked at him to bounce back this past week in the Shell Houston Open but he missed the cut and did not get a chance to prove he can still play Sundays. Last season at this event he faced the complete opposite, he made a horror start in round 1 shooting a 77/+5, before closing with three rounds in the 60s. Hopefully Huh can go back to this time last year and recreate his final three rounds, plus a slightly better opening round and get himself in the winners circle once again, making his 4th round at Bay Hill a distant memory.
European Tour points staked this week: N/A (no event)
Total Points staked this week: 8
Profit/Loss for 2013: -19.5
With no European Tour event this week there is only one event to focus on and hopefully some profit can be made. Although there was no success once again in terms of PGA tips, Mikko Illonen (66/1) came in T2 in the Trophee Hassan II to return a profit of +16.5pts and could quite easily of been even better had David Howell pushed on that little bit more, falling just short of a place. I really hope that the Valero Texas Open provides some positive results for us, thus building the excitement even more for Augusta. As ever I will be available via my Twitter @TomJacobs8 if you have anything you wish to share. Good luck this week!