Spieth, Tringale set for Texas duel

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Billy Horschel earned the biggest victory of his career at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play last weekend at a price of 70-1. After a 2-1 group-play record and outlasting Max Homa in sudden death, the 32nd-seeded Horschel defeated Kevin Streelman, Tommy Fleetwood, Victor Perez and then Scottie Scheffler in the final. Horschel moved into the Official World Golf Ranking top 20 for the first time since 2015 and put himself into consideration to make the U.S. Ryder Cup team for the first time. He will not play in the Valero Texas Open this week, instead turning to Masters preparation.
 
Meanwhile, Joel Dahmen will enter an event as a PGA Tour winner for the first time. At 50-1, Dahmen won the Corales Puntacana Championship and was in tears on the 18th green, saying, “It is so freaking hard to win a golf tournament.” He admitted to a bit of a hangover Monday but now must get back to business as he will need to go back-to-back to earn a spot in next week’s Masters. Nevertheless, he is now No. 61 in the world and has a two-year PGA Tour exemption after his maiden victory. 
 
Dustin Johnson was a late entry into the Valero Texas Open. But Monday, he became a late withdrawal, taking the week off before defending his Masters title. Speaking of the Masters, 2015 champion Jordan Spieth (10-1) is now this week’s betting favorite in San Antonio, where he finished second in 2015. After a season-opening missed cut in San Diego, Spieth was all the way down to 92nd in the world. Since then he has posted three top-4 finishes, reached the round of 16 at the Match Play and has become a chic pick to capture another green jacket. Tony Finau (12-1) has cooled a bit from his early season form, when he had four top-4 finishes in four starts, but he did finish third here in 2017. Scheffler (14-1) played brilliantly last week in his Austin home game. He took down Ian Poulter and Jon Rahm, two European Ryder Cuppers, on Saturday, and then beat Matt Kuchar before bowing out to Horschel in the final. Scheffler is still seeking his first PGA Tour victory, and it will remain to be seen if he has the energy for this one with the Masters on deck. Hideki Matsuyama (18-1) makes his first Valero appearance after failing to advance in the Match Play, but he might be carrying some momentum after having easily dispatched world No. 10 Patrick Cantlay 4 and 2 in his final pool-play match. Abraham Ancer (20-1) was looking to go 3-0 in his group and had a 2-up lead on Viktor Hovland with four holes to play, but he lost three straight holes and eventually the match, then had little left for Streelman in sudden death for a spot in the round of 16. Corey Conners (20-1) had to earn a spot in a Monday qualifier the last time this event was held in 2019 but got himself a spot in that year’s Masters. Many players are attempting to duplicate that feat this week. 
 
 
The Event
 
The Valero Texas Open’s lineage dates to 1922. It is the sixth-oldest professional golf tournament in the world and the third oldest on the PGA Tour. The tournament has shifted all over the schedule but was moved to the spring in 2009 and now seems to have found a home being scheduled the week before the Masters. San Antonio-based Valero Energy Corp., 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 charitable organizations. 
 
The Course
 
The Valero Texas Open moved to 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. The Oaks Course is a par-72 of 7,435 yards. The Bermuda fairways are on the tighter side. Players will hit into undulating, 6,400-square-foot greens with Champion Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa Trivialis that measures 11 on the Stimpmeter. 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. 
 
Recent History/Winners
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 eight winners of the event before the Masters won their way into the Masters field. Notable players not qualified for the Masters include Brendan Steele, Charley Hoffman, Cameron Tringale, Chris Kirk, Cameron Davis, Keegan Bradley, Adam Hadwin, Ryan Moore, Sam Burns, Andrew Putnam, Charles Howell III, Harold Varner III, Aaron Wise, Byeong-Hun An, Doug Ghim, Jhonattan Vegas, Joel Dahmen, Branden Grace, Erik van Rooyen, Rickie Fowler, Denny McCarthy and Adam Long.
— Recent form has not meant much here. Only one winner, Walker in 2015, had a top-10 finish in one of the four lead-up starts to the event. 
 
Stats
 
The last three winners of this event have rated first or second for the week in SG: Approach. Conners was first in 2019, Landry was first in 2018 and Chappell was second in 2017.
 
SG: Approach Leaders (last 24 rounds)
1. Charley Hoffman 24.8
2. Corey Conners 22.7
3. Cameron Davis 19.1
4. Jordan Spieth 18
5. Lanto Griffin 17.6
6. Keegan Bradley 17.1
7. Matthew NeSmith 16.6
8. Harry Higgs 16.5
9. Si Woo Kim 15.1
10. Sam Burns 14.9
Birdie Opportunities Gained (last 24 rounds)
1. Sam Burns 29.2
2. Charley Hoffman 26
3. Corey Conners 23.6
4. Cameron Davis 23
5. Harry Higgs 19.4
6. Tony Finau 18.8
7. Hideki Matsuyama 18.4
8. Cameron Champ 17
9. Harold Varner III 16.4
10. Rob Oppenheim 16.3
The rough is a bit more penal than meets the eye here, so ball striking (driving plus approach) must be good.
 
SG: Ball Striking (last 24 rounds)
1. Corey Conners 37.8
2. Cameron Davis 32.5
3. Charley Hoffman 30.8
4. Tony Finau 25.4
5. Keegan Bradley 25.3
6. Cameron Tringale 21.4
7. Abraham Ancer 20.8
8. Cameron Champ 20.5
9. Lanto Griffin 20.4
10. Ryan Moore 20.3
The last four winners here have rated ninth or better those weeks for SG: Off-The-Tee. Conners was fourth in 2019, Landry was ninth in 2018, Chappell was fourth in 2017 and Hoffman was eighth in 2016.
 
SG: Off-The-Tee (last 24 rounds)
1. Jhonattan Vegas 15.4
2. Corey Conners 15.2
3. Brendan Steele 15
4. Cameron Champ 14.8
5. Cameron Davis 13.3
6. Tony Finau 13.3
7. Luke List 13.2
8. Ryan Moore 10.9
9. Charles Howell III 10.5
10. Cameron Tringale 10.2
Selections
 
Cameron Tringale 35-1
 
Tringale is one of only three players in this week’s field who has played this event each of the last 10 years, joining Hoffman and Walker. The latter two have victories here, so perhaps this is Tringale’s turn.
 
He ranks top 10 in the field for SG: Ball Striking and SG: Off-The-Tee. 
 
Cameron Davis 40-1
 
Davis does not appear to be in good form and has not had a high finish since a third at the American Express, which has proven to be a good link here with Andrew Landry winning at both venues.
 
He rates top 5 in the field for SG: Approach, SG: Off-The-Tee, SG: Ball Striking and Birdie Opportunities Gained.
 
Sam Burns 50-1
 
After his near-miss at Riviera, Burns missed two straight cuts and has drifted back up in the market. This appears to be a spot to buy on the drift. 
 
Burns leads this week’s field for SG: Approach and ranks third for SG: Bermuda Putting.
 
Lanto Griffin 52-1
 
Griffin’s lone PGA Tour win at the 2019 Houston Open did not come far from here.
 
He rates in the top 10 in the field for Approach, Ball Striking and SG: Putting. 
 
Doug Ghim 82-1
 
Texas Longhorns had a very good run last week at the Match Play, with Scheffler finishing as runner-up and Spieth and Dylan Frittelli making the round of 16. Perhaps Ghim will be able to follow their lead. 
 
Ghim fell down the leaderboard Sunday at the Players Championship with a 78 for a disappointing T-29 finish, but his ball striking has stayed true as of late. He rates in the top 20 in the field in Total SG, SG: Approach and SG: Tee-To-Green. 
 
Harry Higgs 85-1
 
After a slow start to 2021, Higgs has shown progressively better form with a 29th at the Players and a 19th at the Honda Classic.
 
He rates top 10 in this week’s field for Approach and Birdie Opportunities Gained. 
 
Graeme McDowell 150-1
 
McDowell had missed five of his last six cuts before a T-4 last week in the Dominican Republic. 
 
He finished seventh here last year and does have a win on a Norman design at the Mayakoba Classic. 
 
ANA Inspiration
 
The LPGA Tour holds the first of its five major championships this week at the ANA Inspiration. The betting favorite is world No. 2 Inbee Park (8-1), who won this major in 2013 and won her 21st career event last weekend at the Kia Classic. World No. 1 Jin Young Ko (10-1) won here in 2019 for her first major championship. Nelly Korda (11-1) is the top-ranked U.S. player at No. 4 and already has a tour win this year. She lost in a playoff last year, along with Brooke Henderson (20-1), to long shot Mirim Lee. World No. 6 Lexi Thompson (12-1) won here in 2014 and was runner-up in 2017. World No. 8 Hyo Joo Kim and world No. 5 Danielle Kang follow in the market at 16-1. 
 
The Event
 
The ANA Inspiration officially became a major championship in 1983 but was founded in 1972 by entertainer Dinah Shore. From 1972-99, the event was titled with her name. Kraft and Nabisco sponsored the event from 2000-13, and Shore’s name was removed from the event title, but the trophy still bears her name. All Nippon Airways (ANA), Japan's largest airline, became the title sponsor in 2014. Since 1988, the winner traditionally celebrates her victory by jumping into the pond alongside the 18th green. 
 
The Course
The Dinah Shore Tournament Course at Mission Hills Country Club in Rancho Mirage, Calif., is about a 90-minute drive east of Los Angeles. The par-72, 6,780-yard track was designed by Desmond Muirhead in 1970. It is really more of a second-shot course, and you don’t necessarily have to be a bomber to win here. Unlike most desert courses, it is tree-lined, so players have to put a premium on accuracy. Hitting the Bermuda fairways is important as the 3.5-inch rough is fairly thick. The greens are very big at 7,000 square feet and fast at 12 on the Stimpmeter. 
 
Recent History/Winners
 
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 and Brooke Henderson
** - Playoff win over Inbee Park and Jennifer Song
*** - Playoff win over Lexi Thompson
**** - Playoff win over Stacy Lewis
***** - Playoff win over IK Kim
 
Selections
 
Lexi Thompson 12-1
 
Thompson is a former champion here and has finished in the top 7 in six of the last seven years. She has already tallied two runner-up finishes this year.
 
Brooke Henderson 20-1
 
Henderson was the runner-up here last year. 
 
Charley Hull 55-1
 
The British player missed the event last year due to COVID-19 but had three top-7 finishes in her last six appearances here.
 
Jennifer Kupcho 66-1
 
The former No. 1 world amateur has been in the top 10 for GIR in six of her last eight events. She should fare well on a ball strikers’ course like this.
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