Valero Texas Open Preview

The PGA Tour moves from Austin to San Antonio this week for the Valero Texas Open. This week is a return to the normal stroke-play format. Next week is the biggest event of the year, so this is somewhat of a “soft spot” on the PGA Tour schedule. Some golfers will be in attendance this week solely to mentally and physically prepare for what awaits them at Augusta. The Valero Texas Open is the third oldest PGA Tour event, dating back to 1922. Every iteration of this event has been played in San Antonio. The Greg Norman-designed TPC San Antonio (Oaks Course) will be hosting this event for the twelfth time.

TPC San Antonio is a Par 72 and measures 7,435 yards. Most of the length is built into the Par 5s with all four of them measuring over 550 yards. The course features narrow fairways, penalizing rough, natural hazards, and undulating greens. Strong approach play is crucial this week. The greens are hard to hit in regulation, so golfers are required to create shots and have a good eye fort his course. Missing shots in the right location will be key this week. Due to hot and windy weather, the scoring conditions can vary drastically. Golfers could fall victim to big numbers if they are careless or loose on any of their shots. Avoiding double bogeys will be important this week. Avoiding three-putts will also be important due to the undulating greens. Golfers with poor approach shots will find themselves scrambling to save par or bogey.

Precision is the word of the week. Precise iron shots, with accurate tee shots will be the recipe for success. Former winners of this event include: Corey Conners, Andrew Landry, Kevin Chappell, Charley Hoffman, and Jimmy Walker. Winners of this event have been fairway finders, which allowed them to have the proper angles to reach the green in regulation. Long, daunting Par 5s are hard to score on compared to other courses which means longer hitters should also have an advantage.

I looked at more correlated courses this week because there were multiple angles to use. The Houston Open and the Charles Schwab Challenge were two events I looked at because they are Texas-based events that are subject to windy conditions and similar overall weather. I also looked at the Safeway Open, Pebble Beach, and American Express because they draw similar strength of field and have seen some crossover leaderboards.

Key Stats: Off-the-Tee, Approach, Fairways Gained, Proximity, Total Strokes Gained, Putting, and Three-Putts Avoided

Scoring Upside: Birdies or Better Gained, Double Bogeys Avoided, Par 3 Efficiency 150-175 yards, Par 4 Efficiency 400-450 yards, and Par 5 Efficiency 550-600 yards

Valero Texas Open Tips

Corey Conners 21-1 (Fanduel)

            Conners is the defending champion of this event, with his win here in 2019. Conners obviously profiles well for this course, and that’s because this course favors elite ball-strikers. The 29-year-old Canadian has made a career out of being an elite ball-striker. When his putter cooperates, he is a force to be reckoned with. Conners comes in with good form with recent stroke-play finishes of: 7th and 3rd place.

Conners has played well in Texas, with finishes of 26th and 1st at this event to go along with finishes of 8th, 31st, and 19th at the Charles Schwab Challenge. Over his last 24 measured rounds, Conners has rounded into form by gaining .95 strokes per round in Approach, 1.54 strokes per round Ball-Striking, and 1.63 strokes per round in Tee-to-Green. Additionally, over his 24 rounds in this field, Conners ranks: first in Total Strokes Gained, second Off-the-Tee, second in Par 4 Efficiency 400-450 yards, second in Par 5 Efficiency 550-600 yards, fifth in Fairways Gained, sixth in Birdies or Better Gained, ninth in Proximity, and 13th in Par 3 Efficiency 150-175 yards. Conners might be an “obvious choice but I think he’s live to repeat and defend his title at Valero.

Cameron Davis 50-1 (DraftKings)

            Australians play well in the wind. Just ask Matt Jones about it. After seeing Jones cruise to victory at the Honda Classic, I was reminded of how well Australians play in adverse conditions. Cameron Davis is a young, Australian who can absolutely bomb the golf ball. He has the raw talent to win on the PGA Tour, he just needs to string it together for four days. Davis has not been in the best form, but I think his underlying stats far outweigh his recent finishes. Davis did finish 14th at Pebble Beach earlier this year, confirming he can play well in the wind.

Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Davis ranks: third in Approach, fifth Off-the-Tee, eighth in Birdies or Better Gained, 13th in Total Strokes Gained, and 18th in Double Bogeys Avoided. Davis has been playing pretty well despite the recent missed cuts. He has been great at ball-striking and finds himself on a course that favors his style of play. I am expecting Davis to find birdie opportunities in situations where the field is scrambling for par.

Lanto Griffin 65-1 (Fanduel)

            Lanto has been lingering around leaderboards and I think this is the week he makes a run to the top. Griffin is no stranger to winning in Texas, recording a victory at the 2019 Houston Open. Over his last three events, Griffin has finished 35th, 22nd, and 21st. He’s been playing very consistent golf, and I think that consistency will translate into a spike week.

Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Griffin ranks: third in Proximity, sixth in Approach, sixth in Three-Putt Avoidance, eighth in Putting, eighth in Double Bogeys Avoided, tenth in Par 3 Efficiency 150-175 yards, 17th in Total Strokes Gained, and 21st in Birdies or Better Gained. Lanto’s stats show that he has been able to play clean golf. He is not making big mistakes, and he’s not taking himself out of contention. On a tough course where golfers are struggling to save par, I love Lanto’s ability to remain steady and keep his scorecard intact.

Doug Ghim 100-1 (DraftKings)

Playing with Justin Thomas in the final round of the PLAYERS Championship was too much pressure for Ghim as he quickly fell apart. These type of learning experiences are crucial for the development of young players. Ghim admitted to being overwhelmingly nervous, but I expect him to learn from his mistakes and the next time he finds himself in that position he will perform better. Ghim has played well at Pebble Beach, the American Express, and the Safeway Open where there were similar fields. Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Ghim ranks: second in Double Bogeys Avoided, tenth in Fairways Gained, 18th in Total Strokes Gained, 20th in Approach, and 28th in Birdies or Better Gained. I really like Ghim’s ability to find the short grass and give himself clean lines to the pin. Ghim is a youngster who has flashed his upside and this is the type of field I expect Ghim to be able take down.

Sam Ryder 100-1 (DraftKings)

            Ryder is coming off back-to-back Top 10 finishes, and is playing some of the best golf of his career. Ryder has played well in Texas before with finishes of 28th and 5th at the Houston Open. Over his last 24 rounds, Ryder has gained .92 strokes per round ball-striking. He has been good with his approaches, which is the most important stat for this week. Over the last 24 rounds, in this field Ryder ranks: tenth in Birdies or Better Gained, 20th in Total Strokes Gained, 21st in Proximity, and 26th in Approach. At the Valero Texas Open, Ryder has played twice with finishes of 36th and 42nd. I love the form that Ryder is in and the way he has found himself on the first page of leaderboards. Ryder is trending in the right direction and can play himself into the Masters with a win this week.

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