This week the Tour returns to Texas, more specifically San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open. The event itself has occupied several different spots on the schedule since its inauguration in 1922, but last year’s renewal was two weeks after the Masters as it will be again this time around.
TPC San Antonio, 7,435 yards, Par 72
Ranked 16/50 in terms of difficulty in 2016
Designed by Greg Norman
Hosted this event since 2010
Par 5 Performance – Four of the last seven winners have ranked 1st in Par 5 Performance on the week, with Ben Curtis (T32) the only winner in that span to rank outside the top-15.
Strokes Gained: Putting – Steven Bowditch (65th) was the only winner of the last seven to rank worse than 12th on the week with him and compatriot Adam Scott the only to rank outside the top-5.
Wind conditions – This is another track where wind comes into play significantly, so those comfortable in such conditions will definitely have an advantage, should the weather get up as it regularly does. This was highlighted clearly in 2015, when the morning wave in Round 1 averaged over 78, whilst the afternoon groupings averaged around four strokes less.
OHL Classic form – In recent years, Charley Hoffman has won at both courses, whilst Pat Perez who won the most recent OHL Classic also has form figures of 21-5-11 at TPC San Antonio. John Huh who won the 2012 OHL Classic also finished 2nd here in the same year. The link makes sense given the similarities in the weather, coupled with the fact both courses are Norman designs.
Matt Kuchar ($11,500) – Kuchar finished 4th at the Masters and backed that up with an 11th at the RBC Heritage. Kuch rescued his week at Harbour Town as he so often does in the final round, shooting a 64 on Sunday. He has steady form here, with his 42nd last year by far and away his worst finish. His form figures here read 13-22-4-15-42. Whilst as steady as ever this season, Kuchar still only has top-10’s at the Phoenix Open and Augusta, if you exclude his finish at the Hero World Challenge and he has not won a PGA Tour event for three years. A win in Fiji on the PGA Tour of Australasia two years ago slightly saves face, but there are obvious concerns at $11,500 and I am tempted to fade him this week.
Brooks Koepka ($10,900) – Brooks Koepka at $10,900, are you crazy? Well maybe, but the signs suggest he is well on his way to being back and close to his best. A T11 finish at Augusta, following an improved performance in the Match Play give reason to believe Koepka can contend again. He has shown it for two rounds at the Phoenix Open, Bay Hill and the WGC down in Mexico, but struggled to put a full week together. There are still doubts around his game, and his record here reads 36-MC so he has hardly set the world alight. With that said, I do think he is getting back to his best and his high salary may put enough people off to make him a worthy play. Despite all his struggles, Koepka ranks 21st in Strokes Gained: Putting, so if his long game is in back in check, he could have a great week.
Charley Hoffman ($10,700) – Hoffman, who performed so admirably for most of the Masters, is the most obvious play this week. The 2016 champion eventually finished 22nd at Augusta, so his last five events now read MC-2-23-22-MC. The missed cut last week does not particularly bother me, given the “Masters Hangover”, and he should be raring to go on a course he loves. In seven starts at TPC San Antonio, Hoffman has a win, a 2nd, a 3rd, a 6th and three more finishes inside the top-13. Another positive, is his win at the correlating OHL Classic, back in 2014. Based on course form alone, he is the safest play of the week and with top-4 finishes at both Bay Hill and Riviera, coupled with his performance at Augusta, Hoffman is putting together another solid season. This course presents him with arguably the best opportunity for him to get the win that will put the icing on the cake on an already impressive start to 2017.
Jimmy Walker ($10,500) – It came to light during the Masters that Walker has been suffering from Mononucleosis since last November, which may explain his inconsistent form. A T18 finish at the Masters two weeks was his third top-20 of the season, but his T9 at the SBS Tournament of Champions (reduced field) still remains his lone top-10. Walker was showing life ahead of the Masters, with three straight top-25’s, at the Genesis Open, Honda Classic and WGC – Mexico Championship, before lacklustre efforts at both the Match Play and the Shell Houston Open. Like his play this season, Walker’s record at TPC San Antonio is inconsistent, but is not without its highlights. The 2016 US PGA Champion won this event in 2015 and finished 7th in 2010, but has also missed the cut on three occasions in his seven starts here. After his stellar fightback at Augusta, in which Walker counteracted his opening 76 with rounds of 71-70-72, he should head to San Antonio in the hope of replicating his win here in 2015. A fully fit Jimmy Walker is a good bet, but it remains to be seen how fighting fit he is, which again may be enough to put many off at $10,500. If his Masters performance is anything to go by, he may well be worth chancing though, in the hope his ownership remains relatively low.
Ryan Moore ($10,200) – Ryan Moore is one of my favourite plays from a fantasy perspective this week. Despite failing to win a match at the WGC Match Play (halved all three group ties), Moore had been in solid, if somewhat unspectacular form, heading into Augusta. After missing the cut at Riviera, Moore finished T28 at the WGC in Mexico, T18 at the Valspar Championship and T34 at Bay Hill. This steady form finally translated into a big result, as he finished T9 at the Masters, thanks to a pair of 69’s on Friday and Saturday. 74’s to start and end the week meant he failed to seriously scare the leaders, but it was good to see him in the mix once again. Moore had a win, a 2nd and a 3rd last year as well as a further four top-10’s. The 2nd came at the season-ending Tour Championship and Moore will be keen to find similar form in 2017 as he did last year. In his sole start here at TPC San Antonio, Moore finished 8th in 2012, so he clearly felt comfortable around this course. Given his performance at Augusta, there is absolutely no reason why he cannot build on and better that 8th here five years ago. A team with both Hoffman and Moore on it leaves $7,275 on average for your other four picks, and with some nice value around, that could be an interesting top-heavy pivot this week.
Plays in the 8.5k-10k range
Branden Grace ($10,000) – If the guys in the top-5 don’t take your fancy, Grace is sitting there at $10,000 which is a decent price, given his play over the last two weeks. After finishing T18 on debut at Augusta, Grace went on to miss four straight cuts there, before his T27 finish this year. A top-30 finish may not jump off the page, but this was a valiant effort after an opening round 76 and his apparent struggles with Augusta in previous years. Grace gradually improved throughout the week (74-71-70), which led to the decent finish. The South African played at Harbour Town last week, a course that does suit, highlighted by his win last year and his 7th a year previous and he can keep that good form going this week. That T11 last week was arguably better than his finish suggests, as he went 68-71-69-68 to finish just five shots shy of winner, Wesley Bryan. Four rounds of par or better the previous week is always a good sign of form, and Grace will look for another big finish, on what will be his 4th visit to TPC San Antonio. In this three previous starts here Grace has got progressively better, after missing the cut on debut he has since finished 30th and 9th and I think he can better last year’s result once again. He could be a good option to spearhead a team, leaving an average of $8k on the table for the remaining five players.
Brendan Steele ($9,900) – Much like Charley Hoffman, Steele presents a very high-level of safety this week, at an $800 discount on the former. Both players are winners of this event, and whilst Steele has missed one cut here (2014), he backed his win up in 2011, with a 4th in 2012, an 8th in 2015 and a 13th last year. 2013 was the year TPC San Antonio was setup similar to Augusta, so his 46th that year can almost be forgiven as well. Steele has made 11/11 cuts this season, including a decent T27 finish at the Masters. He went through the first three rounds, making just three birdies, before shooting 69 on the final day, which included 3 birdies on the first three holes. Steele has been solid all season with a win, a further three top-10’s and four more top-20’s to his name, so there is a chance he could double his win tally this week. Steele should really have won more than the two PGA Tour titles he has, and this could well be a breakout year for the Californian. He tends to play the same courses well each year, and a top-10 should be the minimum expectation for him this week. Steele ranks T5 in Par 5 Performance, which bodes well heading into this week.
Kevin Chappell ($9,400) – Chappell is one of two players I have bet this week, and whilst there is always a worry it is an overreaction to one good finish, I do think he is on his way back to the form he showed last year. Chappell finished T7 at the Masters, his first top-10 since his 2nd at the Tour Championship last season. He finished 2nd three times last season, 3rd once and inside the top-10 a further three times. His play at Augusta was the lone bright spark in what has been a torrid 2017 so far, but hopefully he can get back to the form he showed last year. At the Valero Texas Open, Chappell has a 2nd (on debut in 2010), a 4th last year, as well as a 15th in 2013. He withdrew in 2012, missed the cut in 2014 and was disappointing a year later (66th) but the positives outweigh the negatives here. If he can draw on fond memories both last year and in 2010 here, he can build on that great finish at Augusta.
Adam Hadwin ($9,100) – Hadwin has not missed the cut since his first event of the season (Safeway Open) and the Canadian finally made the breakthrough he has been promising, winning the Valspar Championship. He had finished 2nd at the CareerBuilder Challenge already this season, thanks to a third round 59 and he hasn’t looked back. Hadwin added a 6th at Bay Hill the week after his win, before finishing T36 on debut at Augusta. He led the field in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green, but struggled with the flat stick (70th in SG: Putting) which is usually his bread and butter. If normal service resumes on the greens, Hadwin should be good to go on his second start at TPC San Antonio. He missed the cut here in 2015, but he has evolved as a player in that time, and I have no doubts he can contend here. Hadwin ranks T5 alongside Steele in Par 5 Performance and 18th in Strokes Gained: Putting (down from 7th last week), so statistically he ticks the boxes for this event.
Billy Horschel ($8,900) – Horschel loves this course and once again if he can get hot with the putter, he will contend. He missed the cut last week at the Heritage but will expect to bounce back at a course where his form figures read 3-MC-3-4 in his last four starts. Horschel loves the course and recently stated on Twitter that “It’s one of my favs of the year. Big fan of the course and the tournament staff that runs the event. Fans are awesome as well” and also stated on his next tweet that he plans to play it every year until he retires. The last time he arrived at this event in great form was in 2013, when he finished 3rd off the back of a 2nd at the Shell Houston Open, otherwise he tends to arrive here amidst some average form and still performs at a high level.
Luke Donald ($8,700) – Donald finished 2nd at the RBC Heritage last week, an event he absolutely loves, so he should come into this week full of confidence. He finished T13 on his debut at this course last year as well, so he has good experience to draw on. My concern for Donald is whether last week’s finish may just have been a result of his love affair with Harbour Town. He does rank 4th in SG: Putting, which comes at no surprise as that’s always been a big part of his game, so that itself is a huge plus. At $8,700 you are getting a player who is coming off the back of his best finish of the season, and has prior form here, but you are also getting a player who is now 5 years removed from his last PGA Tour win, and as such leaves you with one of the toughest decisions of the week.
Ryan Palmer ($8,600) – Palmer finished 11th last week at Harbour Town and now returns to a course he has enjoyed relative success at. After going MC-32-15-56 in his first four starts here, Palmer has gone 6th and 4th in his last two starts at TPC San Antonio, so may well be set for a good week. The $8,600 price tag looks steep, given he has made just 3/8 cuts this season, but those made cuts have come on his last four starts, so he may well have turned a corner. This is a home game for Palmer who was born and still resides in Texas and that’ll no doubt be a factor. Add to the positives, his previous play in windy conditions (won the Sony Open and lost in a play-off at the Honda Classic) and he looks a solid option.
Plays in the 8.4k-6.9k range
Ollie Schniederjans ($8,200) – Schniederjans posted his career-best finish on the PGA Tour last week at the Heritage, and he was involved all week, shooting four under-par rounds. In the end he was two shots shy of Bryan and finished in a tie for 3rd with William McGirt and Patrick Cantlay. After a rough start to the season, he has been fairly solid throughout, with last week being his third top-10 of the season. It is tough to tell what the rookie will do this week, but we know the potential is there for him to be a superstar on Tour. At $8,200 he looks like a low-risk option considering his high ceiling.
Harold Varner III ($7,800) – Varner, often most famous for his dabbing antics, is actually a pretty good golfer, and this week might be another time he proves it. He played in his first Valero Texas Open last year, finishing 9th and also finished T5 at the OHL Classic last season, which as we know is a correlating course. Two weeks ago, Varner finished T23 at the Houston Open and that was one of four consecutive cuts made, on this recent run. When reading up on TPC San Antonio, there is often a mention of the “Australian sand belt” feel, which wins by Adam Scott and Steven Bowditch help endorse. Varner’s first professional win came at the Australian PGA Championship last year, an event he lost out on winning a year earlier in a play-off. With his recent run on and his performance in this event last year gave plenty of reason to have him on board sub-8k.
J.J. Spaun ($7,800) – Someone that you could turn to at the same price, if you don’t like Varner is rookie sensation, J.J. Spaun. Spaun posted his third top-10 of the season, last week at the RBC Heritage and certainly looks to be a winner in waiting. On top of his top-10’s at the Heritage, Phoenix and Torres Pines, Spaun has top-21 finishes at both the Honda Classic and the Puerto Rico Open in his last six starts. A winner on both the Canadian PGA Tour and the Web.com, the next natural step is a win out on the big tour, and he definitely has the game. A T28 at the OHL Classic gives hope, as does his steady but not outstanding ranking in SG: Putting (44th). Spaun ranks 8th in Par 5 Performance, so he should be able to take advantage of the long holes.
Luke List ($7,700) – Luke List burned a lot of people last week, including me, but I fully expect him to bounce back here. He has finished 46th and 29th in his two starts here, but a T3 finish at the Houston Open three weeks ago gives hope that he can perform in this state. His two career finishes on the PGA TOUR have come this season, with his T2 at the Sanderson Farm Championship and in Houston, but it’s his other top-10 this season, the T7 at the OHL Classic that is the most promising, in relation to this week. List ranks 1st in Par 5 Performance, unsurprisingly given his power off the tee and that could well be essential, when these two 600+ yard, Par 5’s come around.
Sam Saunders ($7,000) – Sam Saunders is finally making a name for himself rather than “Arnie’s Grandson” as he’s always been known on television coverage. He has now finished inside the top-20 in his last three events, which included a T5 at the Puerto Rico Open which was his second top-5 in that event, after a T2 there two years ago. A T20 at Houston three weeks ago shows sings he may like playing in Texas. He finished T29 at the OHL Classic last year and also has two top-17 finishes at the Honda Classic which again, is an event which throws in some testing conditions. With the form he is in, and his previous form in correlating events, he looks a great option at $7,000.
John Peterson ($6,900) – Perhaps my favourite play of the week, and also my second bet alongside Kevin Chappell, I truly believe John Peterson will contend this week. He ranks inside the top-28 for Greens in Regulation (14th) and Driving Accuracy (28th), leading to him ranking 18th in Ball Striking. This has not been a problem all season, his putting has. Peterson currently ranks 193/207 in Strokes Gained: Putting, but he only needs to get the putter hot for this one week. He was reaching out for a putting coach on Twitter this past week, and has also fielded plenty of questions about whether he will be getting up to anything untowards (like Vegas!) this week, all of which he has replied saying he is focused this week, as he cannot afford another bad week, especially with his family turning up. It was his birthday yesterday so he will be hoping to celebrate in style, at his home event. He finished 11th here two years ago on his third appearance at the course, and his play at other events this season are also promising indicators. A T15 at the OHL Classic and a T24 in Puerto Rico suggest this course will suit. At $6,900 he may just be the best value play of the week.
$6,800 and below
David Hearn ($6,500) – David Hearn has made five straight cuts, including top-20’s at the Puerto Rico Open and the Valspar Championship. In four starts here he has had mixed results, with two missed cuts alongside two top-13 finishes (11th and 13th), so when he makes the weekend he goes well here, and in the form he is in, I fully expect him to do just that. Given his salary a top-13 finish would suffice, so I hope he can make a run at that sort of finish again this week. The Canadian has top-10’s at both the Honda Classic and the Sony Open so far in his career, proving he can cope with similar weather conditions.
Nick Taylor ($6,500) – At the same price as Hearn, I like his compatriot, Nick Taylor to go well here. Taylor finished T21 on his Valero Texas Open debut last year and also finished T22 last week, so comes into the week with a bit of form. Taylor won the Sanderson Farms Championship in 2014 so he is a winner on Tour. This season Taylor has four top-25’s, including a T10 at Pebble Beach and a T15 at the correlating OHL Classic. This is no small part down to his performances on the Par-5s, ranking T2 on the season. If he can even slightly better his performance last year, he will payback your faith in him at a bargain price.
Martin Flores ($6,200) – Martin Flores is not exactly the most consistent, but talented he is. Playing in his home event should give him a confidence boost, especially as he has a top-10 and two top-24 finishes in four starts at TPC San Antonio. He missed the cut on his last appearance here in 2015, but the three years prior to that were good showings, and I can see him repeating this time around. Amongst an abundance of missed cuts, Flores has posted finishes of T28 at Torrey Pines, T14 a start later at Pebble Beach, followed by a T10 at Puerto Rico in 2017 so there has been some good signs. Earlier in the season he finished T24 at the OHL Classic which gives hope he can find another good result at this Norman design.