Best bets for the PGA Tour Valero Texas Open

March 28, 2023 04:09 PM
 

Valero Texas Open

Sam Burns was battling issues with his driver just a few weeks ago, badly missing cuts at Riviera and Bay Hill. Now he is back in the OWGR Top 10 with his biggest career win to date having defeated Cameron Young 6-and-5 in the finals of the WGC-Dell Match Play on Sunday. In the semifinals, he defeated defending champion and OWGR No. 1 Scottie Scheffler in 21 holes. The undefeated run for Burns (35-1) also included victories over Patrick Cantlay, Mackenzie Hughes and a sweep in group play vs. Adam Hadwin, Adam Scott and Seamus Power.

Meanwhile, Cameron Young appeared to take immediately to new caddie Paul Tesori, who switched to Young's bag after 12 years with Webb Simpson. Young was down two holes with three to play and came back to defeat Rory McIlroy, who defeated Scheffler 2-and-1 in the consolation match, in 19 holes to reach the final.

This week, most of the top players are skipping the Valero Texas Open to prepare for next week's Masters. However, this is the last opportunity for players to earn the last invitation to Augusta National.

Tyrrell Hatton (12-1), the favorite at the Valero, is still entered in the field despite suffering a hand injury in last Wednesday's warm-up before his first match in Austin. Hatton, tipped by many, including yours truly, went on to lose all three matches in group play.

Corey Conners (20-1), the 2019 Valero champion, played well in the WGC-Dell Match Play but ran into a buzzsaw in Young and settled for a 2-1 record and failed to advance out of group play. Rickie Fowler (20-1) continues to show signs of a return to form and, despite not advancing from group play, he went 2-1 in his matches, including a victory over OWGR No. 2 Jon Rahm. Fowler is currently not in next week's Masters field and is one of many who need to win this week to earn the invitation.

Si Woo Kim (22-1), finished fourth here in 2019, and 2021 Masters champion Hideki Matsuyama (25-1), who withdrew from this event with a neck injury last year, are looking to tune up for next week. Davis Riley (28-1) has a win at TPC San Antonio on the Korn Ferry Tour in 2020.

Taylor Montgomery (28-1) defeated Jordan Spieth and Shane Lowry last week before bowing out to Hughes in a sudden-death playoff. Chris Kirk (30-1), a winner last month at the Honda Classic, has three top-8 finishes in seven starts in San Antonio. Matt Kuchar (33-1) set the all-time record for match wins in the WGC-Dell Match Play last week before losing to Jason Day in the Round of 16. Kuchar also finished runner-up in this event last year to JJ Spaun (35-1), who won his group last week, going 3-0 against Matt Fitzpatrick, Sahith Theegala and Min Woo Lee before losing to Xander Schauffele in the Round of 16.

Burns was not the only winner on the PGA Tour last week as Matt Wallace (40-1), a four-time European Tour winner, earned his first victory on the tour at the Corales Puntacana Championship by one stroke over Nicolai Hojgaard (55-1). Unfortunately for Wallace, who was last seen arguing with his caddie Sam Bernard en route to a T-7 finish at the Valspar, the Corales Puntacana is an alternate event and does not award a Masters invitation.

The Event

The Valero Texas Open lineage dates to 1922. It is the sixth-oldest professional golf tournament worldwide and the third-oldest on the PGA Tour. The tournament has moved around all over the PGA Tour schedule, from spring to fall, but was moved to the spring in 2009, and now seems to have found a home being scheduled the week before the Masters since 2019. San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corporation, a Fortune 500 international manufacturer of transportation fuels, petrochemical products, and power, came aboard as the primary sponsor in 2002. The Valero ranks near the top of the PGA Tour in terms of money raised for various charitable organizations. The 2021 Valero Texas Open raised a record-setting $16 million for charity, bringing the total to more than $187 million in charitable giving. This week's event is also the final chance for entry into the Masters field if the winner is not otherwise already part of the field.

The Course

The Valero Texas Open moved to its present home of the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio in 2010. TPC San Antonio has two courses: The AT&T Canyons Course designed by Pete Dye with consultation from Bruce Lietzke and the AT&T Oaks Course designed by Greg Norman with consultation from Sergio Garcia, so who knows how long this track will be on the PGA Tour schedule in light of recent events in the game of golf. The Oaks Course is a par-72 of 7,438 yards and is played at 1,100 feet of elevation (third highest on tour).

Some of the oak tree and brush-lined Rye/fescue fairways are on the tighter (30 feet average) side and rank as 12th narrowest on tour. Players will hit into big (6,400 square feet, 18th largest on tour), undulating but firm and elevated greens with Champion Bermudagrass over-seeded with Poa Trivialis that measure a slow 11 on the stimpmeter with deep bunkers that surround. The rough is relatively short (2.25 inches) and non-penal, so players won’t face a lot of trouble if they are wayward off the tee. It can get windy this time of year in Texas, so the winning score has varied from as high as 8 under par to 20 under. The average score over the last five years is 72.14 (+0.14), which is 14th of 46 courses for difficulty rank on the PGA Tour.

The front nine (a little over 150 yards longer than the back) historically plays significantly more difficult. From 2010 to 2018, the field played the front nine +3,704 compared with just +730 on the back nine. In that span, this event had more triple bogeys or worse (289) than all other courses except for TPC Sawgrass (338) and PGA National (323), which is striking considering the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio has only three water hazards (ninth fewest on tour).

The closing holes here often give us an exciting finish, with two risk-reward holes making up the final two holes. The par-3 16th kicks off the finishing trio, a huge doughnut-shaped green, with a bunker in the middle of the putting surface. Followed by the drivable par-4 17th and the par-5 18th, played to an angled green with a stream protecting the front.

The four par-3s have an average length of 200.5 yards, but the 13th hole measures 241 yards (fifth toughest on the course) and boosts this average.

The 10 par-4s have an average length of 428.6 yards but run as short as 347 yards (17th) and as long as 481 (4th) and 474 (9th).

The two shortest par-4s carry a birdie rate north of 23%, one of which is No. 17 which also has a bogey rate of just 8.5%.

The four par-5s have an average length (587.5 yards), three of four surpass this average with the shortest par-5 (No. 14, 553 yards) being the easiest on the course with a birdie rate (42.3%) that rivals the par rate (47.2%).

There were more eagles on the 14th last season than on the other three par-5s combined, so that is your must birdie or better hole. No. 8 is over 600 yards and could be a difference-maker: 20.4% birdie rate and 15.6% bogey rate.

​Correlated courses to TPC San Antonio include PGA National, Riviera, Colonial, Memorial Park, Innisbrook, TPC Summerlin, TPC Scottsdale and Bay Hill.

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Recent History/Winners

2022: J.J. Spaun (-13/275); 150-1

2021: Jordan Spieth (-18/270); 12-1

2020: No tournament (COVID-19)

2019: Corey Conners (-20/268); 200-1

2018: Andrew Landry (-17/271); 200-1

2017: Kevin Chappell (-12/276); 33-1

2016: Charley Hoffman (-12/276); 30-1

2015: Jimmy Walker (-11/277); 25-1

2014: Steven Bowditch (-8/280); 350-1

2013: Martin Laird (-14/274); 100-1

2012: Ben Curtis (-9/279); 150-1

2011: Brendan Steele (-8/280); 30-1

2010: Adam Scott (-14/274); 25-1

Trends and Angles

— Eight of the last 10 events played the week before the Masters were won by a player who was not in the Masters field.

— For six of the last 11 winners, it was their first PGA Tour victory.

— Each of the last nine winners had played here at least once before and eight of nine made the cut on their most recent visit.

— Since play began at the Oaks Course in 2010, the third-round leader/co-leader has gone on to win eight times.

— Last year was the first time the cut line was under par (-1) in the 12 years at TPC San Antonio.

Statistical Analysis

In three of the last five Valero Texas Opens, the eventual winner ranked either first or second in the field for Strokes Gained: Approach during their winning week.

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Rickie Fowler 21.6
  2. Satoshi Kodaira 19.3
  3. Tyrrell Hatton 17.5
  4. Eric Cole 16.1
  5. Russell Knox 16
  6. Scott Piercy 14.5
  7. Ben Martin 14.2
  8. Matt Wallace 13.3
  9. Sepp Straka 13.2
  10. Kevin Roy 12.8
  11. Ryan Palmer 12.5
  12. Chris Kirk 11.8
  13. Robby Shelton 11.1
  14. David Lingmerth 10.8
  15. James Hahn 10.5
  16. Nick Hardy 10.4

TPC San Antonio requires accuracy off the tee. Good drives gained measures fairways or fringe hit with a green in regulation to follow.

Good Drives Gained (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Tyrrell Hatton 28.9
  2. Tyler Duncan 27
  3. Aaron Rai 23.5
  4. Will Gordon 20.5
  5. Nate Lashley 19.7
  6. Ben Martin 19.3
  7. David Lingmerth 18.9
  8. Hayden Buckley 17.1
  9. Adam Long 16.2
  10. Stephan Jaeger 15.3
  11. Chris Kirk 15
  12. Satoshi Kodaira 14.6
  13. Kramer Hickok 14.4
  14. Ryan Armour 13.8
  15. Carson Young 12.9
  16. Akshay Bhatia 12.6
  17. Keith Mitchell 12.2

TPC San Antonio possesses some of the tighter fairways on the PGA Tour.

Fairways Gained (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Satoshi Kodaira 41.8
  2. Adam Long 40.3
  3. Tyler Duncan 35.7
  4. Brendon Todd 35.3
  5. Aaron Rai 31
  6. Ryan Armour 29.9
  7. David Lingmerth 28.9
  8. Zac Blair 28.8
  9. Chez Reavie 27.4
  10. Hayden Buckley 25.2
  11. Michael Thompson 25.1
  12. Ryan Moore 24.5
  13. Paul Haley II 24.2
  14. Kramer Hickok 23.5
  15. Lucas Glover 23.2
  16. Andrew Landry 22.9
  17. Mark Hubbard 22.2
  18. Chad Ramey 22.1

The par-5s here account for about 33% more of the strokes gained than par-4s and par-3s.

Strokes Gained Par-5s (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Patton Kizzire 15.2
  2. Tyrrell Hatton 12.7
  3. Nate Lashley 11.6
  4. Garrick Higgo 9.8
  5. Adam Schenk 9.6
  6. Brett Grant 9.4
  7. Matt Kuchar 8.5
  8. Augusto Nunez 8.1
  9. Davis Thompson 7.9
  10. Taylor Montgomery 7.9
  11. Ryan Palmer 7.5
  12. Davis Riley 7.5
  13. Nicolas Echavarria 7.3
  14. Patrick Rodgers 7.3
  15. Carl Yuan 7.2
  16. Keith Mitchell 7.1
  17. Kevin Chappell 7

Opportunities gained measures the number of times a golfer hits a green in regulation inside of 15 feet or hits a green in under regulation. By incorporating Opportunities gained, we can give a boost to players who are not only hitting greens but hitting it close.

Opportunities Gained (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Davis Riley 22.8
  2. Corey Conners 21.3
  3. Si Woo Kim 19.1
  4. Ryan Palmer 18.1
  5. Rickie Fowler 17.1
  6. Tyrrell Hatton 16.7
  7. Luke List 15.4
  8. Scott Piercy 14.7
  9. Satoshi Kodaira 14.2
  10. Kevin Roy 14
  11. Charley Hoffman 13.4
  12. Carl Yuan 11.8
  13. Augusto Nunez 11.2
  14. Dylan Wu 10.8

Given the number of short par-4s and forced layups on par-5s, you’ll see a lot of wedge shots between 100-125 yards at the Valero this week.

Proximity Gained 100-125 Yards (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Russell Knox 13.5
  2. Brian Stuard 9.2
  3. Stewart Cink 9.1
  4. Alex Smalley 7.4
  5. Seung-yul Noh 7.3
  6. Francesco Molinari 6.9
  7. Ryan Armour 6.7
  8. Kyle Westmoreland 6.7
  9. Peter Malnati 6.1
  10. Si Woo Kim 5.9
  11. Adam Schenk 5.8
  12. Eric Cole 5.8
  13. Davis Riley 5.2
  14. Joseph Bramlett 5.2
  15. David Lingmerth 5.1

Note: Total Feet toward the Hole Gained Per Shot

Five of the 10 par-4s measure 400-450 Yards.

Strokes Gained Par-4s 400-450 Yards (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Sam Ryder 19.5
  2. Hayden Buckley 15
  3. Akshay Bhatia 13.2
  4. Thomas Detry 12.7
  5. Nick Taylor 12.3
  6. Taylor Pendrith 11.3
  7. Ben Martin 11.2
  8. Tyrrell Hatton 10.8
  9. Sepp Straka 10.4
  10. Si Woo Kim 10.4
  11. Carson Young 9.8
  12. Nate Lashley 9.4
  13. Tyler Duncan 9
  14. Chris Kirk 8.5
  15. Stephan Jaeger 8.3
  16. Richy Werenski 8.1
  17. Dylan Wu 8

Bogey Avoidance is 13% more difficult at TPC San Antonio than the average course on the PGA Tour.

Bogey Avoidance (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Sam Ryder 21.2
  2. Alex Smalley 18.9
  3. Brendon Todd 15.6
  4. Matt Kuchar 15
  5. Thomas Detry 13.9
  6. Dylan Wu 13.7
  7. Si Woo Kim 13.6
  8. Stephan Jaeger 13.3
  9. Tyrrell Hatton 13.2
  10. Sam Stevens 13
  11. Eric Cole 12.2
  12. Hideki Matsuyama 12.2
  13. JJ Spaun 11.9
  14. Nate Lashley 11.7
  15. Ben Griffin 11.7
  16. Doug Ghim 11.5
  17. Michael Kim 11.4
  18. Henrik Norlander 11.1
  19. Rickie Fowler 11.1

The bunkers at TPC San Antonio are the eighth toughest on tour in which to gain strokes.

Sand Saves Gained (Last 24 rounds)

  1. Matt Kuchar 9.5
  2. Ben Griffin 9.3
  3. Austin Cook 9
  4. Si Woo Kim 8.7
  5. SH Kim 7.6
  6. Patrick Rodgers 7.5
  7. Brendon Todd 6.9
  8. Keith Mitchell 6.7
  9. Robby Shelton 5.9
  10. Brian Stuard 5.9
  11. Zac Blair 5.6
  12. Andrew Putnam 5.2
  13. Eric Cole 5.2
  14. Ryan Moore 4.7
  15. Harry Higgs 4.6

Selections

Davis Riley (28-1, BetMGM)

As mentioned above, Riley has a win on this course back in July 2020 at the TPC San Antonio Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour, which clinched his promotion to the PGA Tour.

Riley went just 1-1-1 at the Dell Match Play last week but earned a victory over Tom Kim, halved with an elite match play player in Alex Noren and took OWGR No. 1 Scottie Scheffler to the final hole.

Last year, he finished just 63rd at the Valero, but that was his first start after losing the 2022 Valspar to Sam Burns in a playoff, so there was an obvious hangover.

He barely missed out on making his Augusta debut last year being just outside of the OWGR Top 50 and is motivated to not only earn the Masters invitation but to also procure his first PGA Tour victory.

Ryan Fox (43-1, Circa Sports)

Fox already has a Masters invitation next week courtesy of finishing 2022 in the OWGR Top 50.

A top-20 finish this week would earn him Special Temporary Membership on the PGA Tour, but a victory would earn full membership.

The New Zealander has mixed it up with elite competition over the last month on the tour with a T-14 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, a T-27 at The Players Championship, and went 2-1 in the Dell Match Play last week for a T-17 finish.

A drop in field class could earn Fox his first PGA Tour victory.

Matt Wallace (50-1, Superbook Sports)

Wallace nearly chased down Jordan Spieth in the 2021 Valero before settling for third in pursuit of his first PGA Tour win.

Last week, he finally earned that victory at the Corales Puntacana Championship.

The Englishman has shown to be a streaky player who can get hot and put together multiple wins in a calendar year as he did in 2016 with six victories on the Alps Tour and three times on the DP World Tour in 2018.

Cam Davis (50-1, DraftKings)

Davis does not have much course form to speak of at the Valero with a 69th and a missed cut to his credit.

However, he is on good recent form with a T-6 at the Players and a T-17 last week at the Dell Match Play despite losing his opening match to Xander Schauffele. Davis rebounded with victories over Tom Hoge and Aaron Wise.

Nick Taylor (50-1, Circa Sports)

Taylor went head-to-head with Scottie Scheffler in Phoenix before finishing second.

He also has top-10s at the Sony Open in Hawaii and more recently at the Valspar.

Taylor has finished in the top 25 here twice in six appearances and has shown the ability to flourish in windy conditions with a wire-to-wire victory in the 2020 AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am.

Ben Martin (90-1, DraftKings)

Martin has finished in the top 13 in three of his last five starts: the Honda Classic (T-5), the Corales Puntacana Championship (T-8) and Pebble Beach (T-13).

He has also made the cut at TPC San Antonio in each of his last four appearances, including a ninth in 2020 in the Korn Ferry event held here.

David Lingmerth (115-1, Circa Sports)

Lingmerth has finished inside the top 11 five times this season, most recently with a T-6 at The Players Championship. He followed that with a T-27 finish at the Valspar, where he sat 10th going into the final round.

Fifth- and 18th-place finishes at Colonial suggest he likes playing in Texas, and his eighth-place finish at Mayakoba and 13th-place finish at the Sony Open in the past also suggest he could like it more here on his fifth course start, as success at both of those courses correlates well here.

Matchups (19-11-3)

Matt Wallace -135 over Nicolai Hojgaard

Nate Lashley -120 over Matthew NeSmith

Ben Martin -142 over Austin Eckroat

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