Valero Texas Open – Golfers to Target

Mark Diana
Golf Analyst

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The PGA Tour returns to its normal stroke-play format for the Valero Texas Open. This event is the “warm-up event” for the Masters. Some golfers will be using this event solely to get mentally and physically prepared for the grueling test that 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 12th time. 

There will be 144 golfers in the field this week. Dustin Johnson was a late addition to the field on Friday afternoon, but has since withdrawn from the event. 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. Golfers will need to know that missing shots in the correct spots will be key. There are big numbers lurking, and the scoring conditions are subject to the wind and heat. Ball-strikers should be favored, with an emphasis on fairway finders and good iron players. I will also be looking for golfers who are able to avoid double bogeys or worse, and golfers who avoid three-putts. 

Each week, I will highlight golfers from different price tiers to help you build your betting card! The four price tiers I will highlight this week will be the: the top-tier, mid-tier, sleepers, and longshots. Top-tier golfers will consist of golfers who are 40-1 or less. The mid-tier will consist of golfers who are longer than 40-1, but shorter than 75-1. Sleepers will consist of golfers who are longer than 75-1, but shorter than 100-1. Longshots will consist of golfers who are longer than 100-1.

Top Tier (Under 40-1)

Tony Finau 14-1

Top 10 Tony has a really good chance to finally get that elusive second win that he’s been chasing for more than four years. The 31-year-old has been living on the first page of leaderboards for months now, but has been unable to actually win. TPC San Antonio sets up perfectly for a ball-striker of Finau’s caliber. Over the last 24 measured rounds, in this field Finau ranks: first in Birdies or Better Gained, second in Total Strokes Gained, third in Par 5 Efficiency (550-600 yards), sixth Off-the-Tee, 11th in Par 3 Efficiency (150-175 yards), 14th in Par 4 Efficiency (400-450 yards), 15th in Proximity, 22nd in Approach, and 23rd in Putting. Earlier this year, Finau lost to Max Homa in a playoff at the Genesis Invitational, an event that experienced extremely windy conditions. This golf course profiles very well for Finau, and a win here would be an enormous confidence boost as he heads to Augusta next week.

Corey Conners 21-1

We know that TPC San Antonio is a ball-strikers course because Conners is the defending champion. The Canadian has made a career out of being an elite ball-striker and his lone PGA Tour win came at this venue back in 2019. In his last two stroke-play events, Conners has finished in seventh and third place. At Colonial Country Club, another Texas course that always has windy weather, Conners has finished eighth, 31st, and 19th. 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. The 29-year-old Kent State alum is trending in the right direction, and if he can find his putting stroke this week, he’ll make a run at repeating as the Valero Texas Open champion.

Ryan Palmer 30-1

The 2021 PGA Tour season has seen a resurgence of the older PGA Tour players. Stewart Cink, Hudson Swafford, Martin Laird, Brian Gay, Harris English, and Matt Jones have all won this season for the first time in at least four years. Palmer looks to add his name to the list of seasoned veterans who are taking down tournaments. Palmer has not won since 2010, and he’s been playing well lately. Over his last 36 rounds, in this field Palmer ranks: ninth Birdies or Better Gained, 20th in Approach, 21st Off-the-Tee, and 22nd in Putting. The Texas native has played well at this course in the past, recording three straight Top 10s from 2015-2017. If Palmer can continue to strike the ball well, I expect to see him in the mix on Sunday.

Charley Hoffman 33-1

Hoffman is this week’s “horse for the course.” Playing this course 14 times, Hoffman has recorded ELEVEN (11) Top 15 finishes. Hoffman loves this place. He has been known on Tour as a good wind player, so his success at TPC San Antonio makes a lot of sense. In his last three events, Hoffman has finished 34th, 17th, and 10th. The 44-year-old has been playing outstanding golf. Over the last 24 rounds, in this field Hoffman ranks: first in Approach, seventh in Par 4 Efficiency (400-450 yards), ninth in Total Strokes Gained, 13th in Double Bogeys Avoided, 24th Off-the-Tee, 25th in Putting, and 27th in Proximity. If there is ever a week to bet on Charley Hoffman, it’s this week at the event he loves the most. 

Mid-Tier (Longer than 40-1, Shorter than 75-1)

Keegan Bradley 50-1

Bradley is the captain of #TeamNoPutt. When Bradley putts well, he contends. His ball-striking is elite but he loses so many strokes on the greens that it erases all of the positive aspects of his game. However, this is a great week to lean heavily on ball-strikers. Additionally, over the last 24 rounds in this field, Bradley is second in Proximity. The closer he is to the hole, the easier it is to putt … right? Finding the fairway will be crucial this week, as the rough is very penal and the course features many natural hazards. Over his last 24 rounds, Bradley is sixth in Fairways Gained and 18th Off-the-Tee. The recipe for success is pretty clear, and Bradley has all of the ingredients.

Cameron Davis 50-1

Matt Jones’s commanding victory at the Honda Classic served as a reminder to the golf betting community that Australians are very good in tough windy conditions. The 26-year-old Australian has been a ball-striking machine in recent weeks. Over his last 24 rounds in this field, Davis ranks third in Approach, fifth in Off-the-Tee, and eighth in Birdies or Better Gained. A 14th place finish at Pebble Beach shows that Davis is capable of performing well in the wind. Davis is a long bomber who can overpower a golf course and I think he has what it takes to win this event. 

Sam Burns 60-1

Burns has shown his high upside with low rounds, and playing in the final group on Sundays. However, those final group pairings on Sunday have not yielded a win, but Burns’s volatility is appealing. The former LSU Tiger wasted a great opportunity at a win with a lackluster showing in the final round of the Genesis Invitational. As previously mentioned, the Genesis Invitational was extremely windy and Burns was up for the challenge. As an above-average putter, Burns needs to just avoid making big mistakes and he’ll find himself contending. The irons have been hot recently, ranking 12th in Approach and 29th in Proximity over his last 24 rounds. The PGA Tour maiden has been knocking on the door for his first career victory and this is the week he capitalizes. 

Lanto Griffin 65-1

I love Lanto this week. He hasn’t been playing exceptionally, but he hasn’t been playing poorly either. With recent finishes of 35th, 21st, and 22nd, Lanto has been just hanging around. His stats have been promising though, with ranks of third in Proximity, sixth in Approach, sixth in Three-Putt Avoidance, eighth in Putting, eighth in Double Bogeys Avoided, and 17th in Total Strokes Gained. I love how he has been playing solid golf. There have not been many catastrophic holes, and he is no stranger to winning in the state of Texas. Griffin won the 2019 Houston Open. Griffin was the first bet I made this week, and I think he shows up big this weekend. 

Sleepers (Longer than 75-1, Shorter than 100-1)

Harry Higgs 95-1

The fan-favorite has been striking the ball well recently. Higgs has gained .98 strokes per round in Approach over his last 24 rounds. Approach is the most important stats this week because the course ranks as one of the harder courses to hit Greens-in-Regulation. Over his last 24 rounds Higgs also ranks: first in Par 3 Efficiency (150-175 yards), ninth in Approach, 13th in Par 4 Efficiency (400-450 yards), and 13th in Birdies or Better Gained. Higgs profiles well for the lengths of the holes at TPC San Antonio and has been in good form.

Doug Ghim 100-1

Playing with Justin Thomas in the final round of the PLAYERS Championship was too much pressure for Ghim as he quickly fell apart. However, he has played well at other events that are similar. Ghim finished fifth at the American Express which featured a similar field. Ghim has a 14th place finish at the Safeway Open, an event that has seen crossover leaderboards with the Valero Texas Open. Ghim also played well at the windy Pebble Beach with a 21st place finish. Additionally, over his last 24 rounds in this field, Ghim ranks: tenth in Fairways Gained, 18th in Total Strokes Gained, and 20th in Approach. This is a huge number for a golfer who has shown he can contend amongst much stronger fields. 

Sam Ryder 100-1

Ryder has been playing some of the best golf of his career with back-to-back Top 10 finishes. Ryder has played well in Texas with 28th and fifth place finishes at the Houston Open. Ryder has gained .92 strokes per round in Ball-Striking over his last 24 rounds. Good form, good Texas player, and no invitations to the Masters is a perfect storm for Ryder. I expect another good week from him and think he’s a great golfer to fill out the back-end of betting cards. 

Long Shots (Longer than 100-1)

Kevin Chappell 140-1

Chappell is another “horse for the course.” The big difference between Hoffman and Chappell is that Chappell isn’t very good overall. Chappell plays really well at TPC San Antonio. Chappell has played here nine times with three Top 5 Finishes, including a win. I like this number for a former winner, but would be cautious with him. I like him a lot more as a Top 40/Top 30 play rather than an outright play.

Cameron Percy 190-1

Percy is another Australian who has experience playing in windy events and has been playing well recently. Over his last 24 rounds in this field, Percy ranks: sixth in Proximity, ninth in Par 5 Efficiency (550-600 yards), 13th in Approach, and 24th in Fairways Gained. The 5-Time winner on the Australian PGA Tour has never won on the PGA Tour but this is still an outrageous number for him. Longshots have won this event in the past so I will not count anyone out. 

Roger Sloan 190-1

Sloan is a 33-year-old Canadian who has never won on the PGA Tour. His current PGA Tour card status is based off of being in the Top 125 in the FedEx Cup Standings in 2018-2019. His card expires this year so he needs to start making some moves. Sloan is currently ranked 124 in the FedEx Cup Standings after three straight good showings. Three straight Top 25s is a strong sign that Sloan is finding his game. Over his last 24 rounds, in this field Sloan ranks: seventh in Double Bogeys Avoided, 12th in Par 4 Efficiency (400-450 yards), 16th in Approach, 20th in Birdies or Better Gained, and 21st in Total Strokes Gained. I would look at Sloan as a Top 40 bet.

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