PGA Tour best bets: Texas Open

March 29, 2022 09:27 PM
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Last weekend at the WGC-Match Play, Scottie Scheffler, priced at 16-1, became the first player to win a PGA Tour event after finishing runner-up the previous year since Dustin Johnson did it at the Masters in 2020. With the victory, Scheffler moves to No. 1 in the Official World Golf Ranking, becoming the 25th player to reach the top spot and the sixth-youngest since the rankings debuted in 1986. In group play, Scheffler went 2-1 (wins over Ian Poulter and Matt Fitzpatrick and a loss to Tommy Fleetwood) and had to beat Fitzpatrick on the sixth extra hole to advance. Once reaching the knockout stage, Scheffler earned some payback by taking out Billy Horschel, who defeated him in last year's final, then defeated Seamus Power, Johnson and 2019 champion Kevin Kisner in the championship match. Scheffler also became the first player to win three events before the Masters since Johnson and Justin Thomas did it in the 2016-2017 season. 

Scheffler will skip the penultimate event leading up to Augusta, but a solid field is in place for the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, about 90 minutes south of last week’s event in Austin. Favorite Rory McIlroy (15-2), who skipped the Match Play, makes his first appearance in this tournament since 2013. Jordan Spieth (14-1) failed to make it out of group play last week but returns to defend his 2021 Texas Open title. Corey Conners (18-1), who made the Match Play semifinals and finished third, won his first PGA Tour event at the 2019 Texas Open after emerging from a six-man playoff in the Monday qualifier. That victory also earned him the last spot in that year’s Masters field. Speaking of the Masters, Hideki Matsuyama (18-1) took last week off but will look to tune up this week for his title defense at Augusta. Abraham Ancer (22-1) made the quarterfinals last week with victories over Bubba Watson, Webb Simpson, and Collin Morikawa before bowing out to Conners.

Bryson DeChambeau (25-1) returned at the Match Play after missing several weeks due to various injuries, including a fractured hamate bone in his left hand and a torn labrum in his left hip. He failed to win a match. A host of players are priced at 35-1, including Adam Hadwin, who comes in with consecutive top-10 finishes at The Players and Valspar; Gary Woodland, who finished sixth here last year; and Maverick McNealy, who got the last spot in the Match Play and went 2-0-1 but was defeated on extra holes by Kevin Na to keep him out of the knockout stage. 

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 from spring to fall on the PGA Tour schedule but was moved to the spring in 2009 and seems to have found a home, scheduled the week before the Masters since 2019. This week’s event is the final chance for a spot in the Masters, which will go to the winner if he is not already part of the field. 

The Course

The Texas Open moved to its present home at the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio in 2010. The Oaks Course, designed by Greg Norman with consultation from Sergio Garcia, is a par-72 of 7,438 yards. Some of the Bermuda fairways are on the tighter side. Players will hit into big greens (6,400 square feet) that are undulating, firm and elevated with Champion Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa Trivialis. The greens measure a slow 11 on the stimpmeter with deep bunkers surrounding them. The rough is relatively short (2.25 inches). It can get windy this time of year in Texas, so the winning score has varied from 8-under par to 20-under par. 

The front nine (about 150 yards longer than the back) has played significantly more difficult. From 2010-2018, the field played the front nine + 3,704 compared to just + 730 on the back. In that same span, this event had more triple bogeys or worse (289) than all other courses except for TPC Sawgrass (338) and PGA National (323).

The closing holes are set up for an exciting finish, with two risk-reward holes on Nos. 17 and 18. The par-3 16th kicks off the finishing trio featuring a huge doughnut-shaped green with a bunker in the middle. What follows is the drivable par-4 17th and the par-5 18th, played to an angled green with a stream protecting the front.

​Correlated courses to TPC San Antonio include PGA National, Riviera, Colonial, Memorial Park, Harbour Town, Waialae and Innisbrook. 

Recent History/Winners

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); 300-1

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

​Trends and Angles

​— Seven of the last nine events played the week before the Masters have been won by a player who was not yet in the Masters field.

— Of the last 10 Texas Open winners, five won for the first time on the PGA Tour.

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

— The cut line has never been under par at TPC San Antonio.

​Statistical Analysis

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking (Last 24 Rounds)

Strokes Gained: Ball Striking measures a combination of Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee (four of the last five winners rated ninth or better during their winning weeks) and Strokes Gained: Approach (the last four winners rated fourth or better, with Corey Conners and Andrew Landry leading the field during their winning weeks). 

1. Luke List, 35.5

2. Keegan Bradley, 30.2

3. Corey Conners, 28.4

4. Hideki Matsuyama, 27.5

5. Russell Knox, 25.5

6. Jhonattan Vegas, 22.1

7. Brendan Steele, 21.2

8. Bryson DeChambeau, 21

9. Chris Kirk, 20.5

10. Rory McIlroy, 19.4

11. Austin Smotherman, 19.1

12. Tony Finau, 18.3

Strokes Gained: Approach (Last 24 Rounds)

Strokes Gained: Approach should be a weighted a little heavier than Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee. 

1. Luke Donald, 25.2

2. Hideki Matsuyama, 19.9

3. Luke List, 19.6

4. Russell Knox, 17.8

5. Patton Kizzire, 16.6

6. Martin Laird, 15.6

7. Keegan Bradley, 15.1

8. Tony Finau, 15

9. Adam Hadwin, 14.8

10. Lucas Glover, 14.6

11. Corey Conners, 13.8

12. Adam Svensson, 12.6

GIR Gained (Last 24 Rounds)

TPC San Antonio is one of the tougher courses to hit greens in regulation (60.5% last six years vs. 65.6% tour average). GIR Gained has a good deal of overlap with SG: Approach, so do not overuse it, but it’s good to look at it for some extra context. 

1. Corey Conners, 31.6

2. Russell Knox, 31.3

3. Adam Hadwin, 26.2

4. Jhonattan Vegas, 25.2

5. Luke List, 23.5

6. Doc Redman, 23.2

7. Lucas Glover, 20.5

8. Martin Laird, 20.4

9. Justin Lower, 19.9

10. Robert MacIntyre, 19.9

11. Patton Kizzire, 19.8

12. Alex Smalley, 19.3

Good Drives Gained (Last 24 Rounds) 

While second shots tend to be a bit more important here, tee shots still matter, though players will have chances to reach greens out of the shorter rough. Good Drives Gained measures drives in which the player either hits the fairway or misses the fairway but still hits the green or fringe in regulation.

1. Martin Laird, 40.8

2. Corey Conners, 29.4

3. Brian Stuard, 27.1

4. Russell Knox, 23.4

5. Matthew NeSmith, 22.3

6. Alex Smalley, 20

7. Hayden Buckley, 19.5

8. Abraham Ancer, 18.2

9. Adam Hadwin, 17.7

10. David Lipsky, 17.2

11. Brendan Steele, 16.9

12. Sung Kang, 16.6

Birdie Or Better Pct. From Fairway (2021-2022 season)

The PGA Tour average for birdies or better from the fairway was 21.9% from 2016-2021. At TPC San Antonio over the same time frame, the percentage was much lower.

1. Tony Finau, 29.06%

2. Hideki Matsuyama, 28.51%

3. Maverick McNealy, 27.52%

4. Jason Day, 27.45%

5. Ben Kohles, 27.32%

6. Chris Kirk, 27.25%

7. Abraham Ancer, 26.63%

8. Corey Conners, 26.60%

9. Luke List, 26.40%

10. Lucas Glover, 26.26%

11. Keegan Bradley, 26.19%

12. Austin Smotherman, 25.98%

Opportunities Gained (Last 24 Rounds)

Opportunities Gained measures birdie opportunities from inside 15 feet from the green or fringe plus greens/fringes under regulation.

1. Luke List, 25.4

2. Rory McIlroy, 24

3. Keegan Bradley, 21.7

4. Hideki Matsuyama, 20.2

5. Aaron Rai, 20

6. Bryson DeChambeau, 18.8

7. Chad Ramey, 16.6

8. Austin Smotherman, 16.2

9. Chris Kirk, 16.2

10. Lanto Griffin, 15.6

11. Hudson Swafford, 15.4

12. Tony Finau, 14.9

Strokes Gained: Par 5s (Last 24 Rounds)

TPC San Antonio has four par-5s, with the three longest measuring 604 yards (No. 8), 602 yards (No. 2) and 591 yards (No. 18). The course has the third-most difficult set of par-5s on tour. 

1. Rory McIlroy, 19.6

2. Jhonattan Vegas, 13.9

3. Bryson DeChambeau, 12.6

4. Pat Perez, 11.6

5. Hideki Matsuyama, 10.7

6. Doug Ghim, 10.6

7. Bill Haas, 10.3

8. Brandon Hagy, 10.2

9. Maverick McNealy, 9.7

10. Sahith Theegala, 9.4

11. Sam Ryder, 9.3

12. Luke List, 9

Strokes Gained: Par 5s 550-600 Yards (Last 24 Rounds)

We can also break this category down by yardage.

1. Rory McIlroy, 11.6

2. Bryson DeChambeau, 11.5

3. Jhonattan Vegas, 9.1

4. Martin Laird, 8.4

5. Pat Perez, 8.2

6. Min Woo Lee, 7.3

7. Sam Ryder, 6.9

8. Chris Kirk, 6.8

9. Greyson Sigg, 6.6

10. Trey Mullinax, 6.3

11. Danny Lee, 6.2

12. Gary Woodland, 5.8

Strokes Gained: Par 5s 600-650 Yards (Last 24 Rounds)

1. Chad Ramey, 6.4

2. Sahith Theegala, 4.6

3. Brandon Hagy, 4.4

4. Martin Trainer, 4.4

5. Bill Haas, 4.3

6. Adam Schenk, 4.2

7. Nick Taylor, 3.7

8. Kramer Hickok, 3.7

9. Jim Herman, 3.6

10. Bryson DeChambeau, 3.5

11. Rory McIlroy, 3.4

12. Aaron Rai, 3.3

​Selections

​Abraham Ancer (22-1)

Ancer defeated Bubba Watson (3 and 1) and Webb Simpson (2 up) and finished all square with Brian Harman — all Pete Dye experts — last week to qualify for the Round of 16, where he impressively took out Collin Morikawa 7 and 6 before falling to Corey Conners in the quarterfinals. While he has never finished better than 23rd at the Texas Open, Ancer is a San Antonio resident and practices regularly at TPC San Antonio. He has also gone well on Norman’s other PGA Tour design, El Camaleon, with finishes of eighth, 12th, 12th and seventh. 

Chris Kirk (35-1)

Before a missed cut at The Players, which was plagued by weather delays, Kirk finished 14th at the Phoenix Open, seventh at the Honda Classic and fifth at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Kirk has teed it up at TPC San Antonio seven times and has an excellent record, with finishes of sixth, eighth, eighth, 13th and 48th to go with two missed cuts. 

A great record at Colonial, including a win, plus two runners-up at Waialae also stand out for potential success in San Antonio. 

Gary Woodland (35-1)

After spending the better part of the last two seasons with injuries, Woodland is finally back to full health, and the results show it with back-to-back fifth-place finishes at the Honda and Arnold Palmer (which he probably should have won) and a 21st at the Valspar. Woodland also has correlating course form with a ninth (2020) and 14th (2021) at Colonial. He was a runner-up at PGA West (2011) on similar overseeded greens. 

Tony Finau (40-1)

Finau’s recent form will not inspire much confidence, having only one top-20 finish in 2022 — and that was in a field of only 38 at the Tournament of Champions. He also failed to emerge from group play last week but showed some signs in his final match against Xander Schauffele, when he made eight birdies. The ball-striking is starting to come around, and Finau has a third here in 2017.

Jhonattan Vegas (55-1)

Vegas shot 11-under 133 over the weekend to finish fourth at the Corales Puntacana Championship despite being on the wrong side of the weather draw. He ranks 27th on tour in ball-striking, with ranks of 12th off the tee, 40th for greens in regulation and 50th for approach.

Patton Kizzire (70-1)

Kizzire was ninth on debut here last year. He has victories at Waialae and El Camaleon, plus top-three finishes at Colonial and the Byron Nelson, so past Texas form is there. Kizzire has made five straight cuts in much tougher fields dating to a 10th in Phoenix. 

Dylan Frittelli (100-1)

Like many in this field, Frittelli is looking to earn his way into the Masters with a victory. He finished fifth at Augusta in 2020. He has made five of his last six cuts and should fare better off the tee this week. Frittelli finished 20th on debut in 2018 but ranked second in that field for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee.

Austin Smotherman (250-1)

Smotherman has never played in this event but does have a fourth on this course two years ago in the TPC San Antonio Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour. He ranks 13th on tour for Strokes Gained: Approach, 26th for Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee and 33rd for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green, so his ball-striking has been solid in his rookie year. 

​Chevron Championship

The LPGA Tour will host golf’s first major of 2022 this week at the Chevron Championship. This event was formerly known as the ANA Inspiration and for many years the Nabisco/Kraft Dinah Shore Championship. 

World No. 1 Jin Young Ko (5-1), who has won five times since September, won the LPGA Tour Player of the Year and topped the money list in 2021. She is a former champion here but has not won a major since winning two (ANA Inspiration and Evian Championship) in 2019. World No. 2 Nelly Korda will not be playing this week due to a blood clot found in her arm three weeks ago. Lydia Ko (11-1), the 2016 champion, world No. 3 and a tour winner already this season, shot 62 in the final round to fall two shots short of Patty Tavatanakit (20-1) last year. Brooke Henderson (12-1) was a co-runner up with Nelly Korda here two years ago but lost in a playoff to long shot Mirim Lee. Henderson has four top-six finishes in her last five LPGA Tour events. Perhaps no player has better long-term form in this event than 2014 champion Lexi Thompson (16-1). Since her 2014 triumph, Thompson has a runner-up, a third, fourth, fifth and seventh. Thompson is trying to break a two-and-a-half-year winless drought. 

Atthaya Thitikul (16-1) of Thailand, already No. 5 in the world at 19 years old, won her first LPGA Tour event last weekend at the JTBC Classic in a playoff over Nanna Koerstz Madsen (25-1), who won the LPGA event in Thailand two weeks prior. Danielle Kang (20-1) kicked off the 2022 season with a victory in Florida. Inbee Park (22-1) won this event in 2013 to go along with numerous top fives and top 10s here, but she has now gone a calendar year without a win. World No. 4 Minjee Lee (25-1) has a third and a seventh here and was runner-up last month in Singapore to Jin Young Ko. 

The Event

The Chevron Championship officially became a major in 1983 but was founded in 1972 by entertainer Dinah Shore. The tournament will be held at Mission Hills Country Club for the final time and is expected to move to the Houston area in 2023. Since 1988, the winner traditionally celebrates her victory by taking a jump into the pond, known as Poppie’s Pond, named after longtime tournament director Terry Wilcox. 

The Course

The Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, California, plays as a par-72 of 6,763 yards. The layout was designed by Desmond Muirhead in 1970. It is more of a second-shot course where you don’t have to be a bomber to win. Unlike most desert courses, it is tree-lined and puts a premium on accuracy. Hitting the Bermuda fairways is important as the rough (3.5 inches) is thick. The greens are very big (7,000 square feet) and fast (12 stimpmeter). 

Recent History/Winners

2021: Patty Tavatanakit (-18/270); 200-1

2020: Mirim Lee (-15/273); 600-1*

2019: Jin Young Ko (-10/278); 9-1

2018: Pernilla Lindberg (-15/273); 225-1**

2017: So Yeon Ryu (-14/274); 14-1***

2016: Lydia Ko (-12/276); 5-1

2015: Brittany Lincicome (-9/279); 66-1****

2014: Lexi Thompson (-14/274); 22-1

2013: Inbee Park (-15/273); 14-1

2012: Sun Young Yoo (-9/279); 66-1*****

Playoff win over Nelly Korda, Brooke Henderson*

Playoff win over Inbee Park, Jennifer Song**

Playoff win over Lexi Thompson***

Playoff win over Stacy Lewis****

Playoff win over I.K. Kim*****

​Selections

​Inbee Park (22-1)

Park is a former champion (2013) and lost an eight-hole playoff (2018) here. She has not won since a year ago at the Kia Classic in nearby Carlsbad. The world No. 6 ranks ninth on tour for Strokes Gained: Approach. If she can get her driver back in shape, she is proven to go well here with seven top 10s in 14 starts.

Minjee Lee (25-1)

The world No. 4 ranks first on tour in both Strokes Gained: Approach and Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green and is third for greens in regulation. The Aussie won her first major in last year’s Evian Championship. She landed back-to-back top fives in her most recent AIG Women’s Open starts and has finished third and seventh in this event (26th or better in six of her last seven starts here).

Sei Young Kim (66-1)

Kim finished third here last year after a missed cut the week prior at the Kia Classic. She missed the cut again last week in the same event but has shown she can rebound quickly. Despite a down year in 2021, she led the tour for Strokes Gained: Tee-To-Green.

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