Out of the Rough: Valero Texas Open (2023)
With one week until The Masters, there is one spot left in the coveted field and a chance to be filled by the winner of the Valero Texas Open.
With The Masters next week, many of the Tour’s best will take the week off and head to Augusta to prepare. In the meantime, the mid-level golfers head to San Antonio with hopes of earning an invite to the biggest tournament in golf.
Last year we saw a much more star-studded field than what we’ll see this week in San Antonio. The Valero Texas Open has always drawn a difficult schedule position being between the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and The Masters. This creates a natural bye week for those already qualified for The Masters.
Just ten of the 144 golfers slated for this week’s Valero Texas Open are already qualified for The Masters. That means there are 134 other golfers looking for a chance to play next week as the winner will qualify for The Masters, if not already qualified.
We saw names such as Rory McIlroy and Jordan Spieth at this event a year ago but those two will head to Augusta for an extra week of Masters’ prep this season. Despite the lack of the big names, we’ll see a fairly deep and rather motivated field this week.
Tyrrell Hatton and Hideki Matsuyama will headline the event this week and likely open as betting favorites. Although the two top guys in this field, they both currently come in with injury concerns. Hatton hurt his hand on the range prior to the opening match of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and proceeded to lose all of his matches. Matsuyama withdrew from the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play with a neck injury.
Other names playing this week to round out the next-tier of golfers include Rickie Fowler, Keith Mitchell, Corey Conners, Si Woo Kim, Taylor Montgomery and Chris Kirk.
Although the field does lack the star power, it still features a fair level of depth as 25 of the top 100 Official World Golf Rankings (OWGR) players will be in attendance this week.
J.J. Spaun is the defending champion of this event and he comes into this week on a bit of a high note. He won all three of his round-robin matches and advanced to the round of 16 as the lowest seeded golfer in his group at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Other former winners of this event in attendance this week include Corey Conners, Andrew Landry, Kevin Chappell, Charley Hoffman, Jimmy Walker and Martin Laird. Spieth, the 2021 winner and hometown favorite, will be absent this week.
The Valero Texas Open is hosted by The Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio and has been for the past 13 years. It was previously held at the La Cantera Golf Club up until 2010.
The Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio plays at 7,428 yards and a standard par 72. It features the standard breakdown of ten par-fours, four par-fives and four par-threes.
The course is one designed by Greg Norman who also brought in Sergio Garcia as a consulting role. Garcia’s involvement was presumably to try and attract the game’s best in lieu of skipping The Masters. Ironically, Garcia only played the event once before leaving for the LIV Tour.
The course is a “second shot” course as it rewards top-tier iron players in trending tee-to-green form. In all, it is essentially a run-of-the-mill PGA Tour track that lacks unique identity or defining characteristics.
The Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio ranks in the top ten of longest courses on Tour each year and features some of the least penal rough both around the fairways and greens. This sets up for those long-hitters to have an advantage without much deterrence in that aspect.
However, finding the fairway is important as the fairways are heavily tree lined. The bunkers, both around the green and fairway, do offer a bit of deterrence as they are deep and oddly shaped.
Greg Norman was most notably one of the best drivers in the history of professional golf and therefore his course designs reflect that. This week’s course will be driver-heavy but rather difficult off the tee to reflect that; as are his other designs. Of all courses with at least five tournaments since 2015, TPC San Antonio ranks 12th-toughest on Tour off-the-tee.
Finding the greens-in-regulation too will be a challenge as The Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio too offers the seventh-lowest Greens in Regulation Percentage (GIR%) on Tour. Therefore, scrambling will be important this week.
Designed as a “second shot” course, the approach shots are tricky. Of all courses with at least five events since 2015, The Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio ranks as the seventh-toughest for approach shots.
The Bermuda greens don’t offer much of a challenge within 15-feet as TPC San Antonio provides about average difficulty in comparison to the rest of the Tour. However, it is one of the most difficult courses in putts beyond 15-feet. Of courses that have seen at least five events since 2015, this course ranks sixth-toughest in putts over 15 feet. Strong Bermuda putters will see an advantage here.
The weather, most notably winds, play the biggest defense to TPC San Antonio along with the firm and fast conditions. As previously mentioned about the difficulty of both driving and approach shots, the wind has a lot to do with that.
Weather has been a determining factor for scoring at The Oaks Course over the years. In 2019 we saw soft and receptive conditions from heavy rainfall as other years, such as last year, saw heavy winds.
San Antonio experienced an uncharacteristically hot February and March this year, so we can expect the course to play firmer and most difficult this year. Due to this, the projected winning score will be closer to the -12 to -14 range.
Although previous conditions are expected to see the course firm, there is some rain in the forecast at the time of writing this. As of right now, there is a 60-percent chance of precipitation for Thursday, 40-percent on Friday and 30-percent on Saturday. Sunday is the only day this week without rain in the forecast. Highs are set to range from the low-to-mid 80’s over the four days. Winds of course will be a factor, set to range from 15 miles-per-hour on Thursday to 10 miles-per-hour on Sunday, slowly decreasing each down in between.
Strokes Gained: Approach (SG: APP)
Average Driving Distance
Driving Accuracy Percentage
Birdie or Better Percentage
Par 5 Scoring Average
Strokes Gained: Around the Green (SG: ATG)
Sand Saves Percentage
Strokes Gained: Putting on Bermuda (SG: PUTT Bermuda)
Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS)
*Prices provided by DraftKings
My favorite this week is the betting favorite Tyrrell Hatton ($10,900.) Although he comes with a bit of an injury concern, I’m going to look past that. He’s currently ninth on Tour in SG: APP, 12th in par five scoring average, 13th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 16th in birdie or better percentage, 26th in driving accuracy percentage, 42nd in bogey avoidance, 44th in scrambling, 47th in average driving distance and 54th in SG: BS. His score is a bit hindered by a 155th placement in both SG: ATG and sand saves percentage. I’m not that concerned with it as those are the two statistics I’m putting the least amount of weight into this week. He’s been playing some great golf as of late as well. He hasn’t missed a cut on the season or the calendar year. Dating back to the WM Phoenix Open in mid-February he has three top tens and two top fives. He went second at THE PLAYERS Championship, T4th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T6th at the WM Phoenix Open. He’s right there on the cusp on winning and punching his ticket to The Masters. A win this week would guarantee that. Also consider Rickie Fowler ($10,200.) Fowler is currently tenth in SG: APP, 12th in birdie or better percentage, 18th in SG: BS, 30th in bogey avoidance, 45th in average driving distance, 70th in scrambling, 84th in par five scoring average, 102nd in driving accuracy percentage and 104th in SG: ATG. His score is hindered by a 124th placement in SG: PUTT Bermuda and 162nd in sand saves percentage. He’ll need the flat stick to get hot this week to compete but with his recent form of play, he’ll be just fine. Fowler played in this event the last three iterations where he missed the cut in 2022, went T17th in 2021 and T17th in 2019. On the season he’s showing much improvement from the previous years. He hasn’t missed a cut on the calendar year and has five top 25’s, three top 15’s and a top ten. His season has been highlighted by a T10th at the WM Phoenix Open and T11th at the Farmers Insurance Open.
The 2023 Honda Classic champion, Chris Kirk ($9,300,) is my first suggestion here. Outside of his victory at the Honda Classic, he has gone T3rd at the American Express and third at the Sony Open in Hawaii on the calendar year. He did play at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play event a week ago but did not make it out of the first round group play. Kirk has been a regular of this event, playing it the last seven years dating back to 2015. He has a proven track record here as well, placing T6th in 2021, T8th in 2018, T13th in 2016 and T8th in 2015. He’s currently 25th in bogey avoidance, 26th in both SG: ATG and sand saves percentage, 28th in birdie or better percentage, 33rd in SG: APP, 58th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 61st in SG: BS, 77th in driving accuracy percentage, 93rd in scrambling, 108th in par five scoring average and 116th in average driving distance. Also consider Si Woo Kim ($9,700.) Kim has a victory on the season, winning the Sony Open in Hawaii back in January. Since that event he missed just one cut, at the Genesis Invitational. Since that victory he has four top 25’s. Kim has made the cut at the Valero Texas Open in five consecutive events. During that time he went T4th in 2019 and T13th a year ago. He’s currently 15th on Tour in driving accuracy percentage, 16th in sand saves percentage, 18th in bogey avoidance, 19th in SG: BS, 22nd in SG: APP, 24th in scrambling, 63rd in birdie or better percentage, 72nd in SG: ATG and 114th in average driving distance. His score in our model is brought down by a 135th placement in par five scoring average and 177th in SG: PUTT Bermuda. I really like both of our options in this price range.
Another week and another suggestion of Thomas Detry ($8,400.) Detry had a good showing last week at the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship. This will be his first appearance at the Valero Texas Open. He’s been playing some good golf as of late as well with one missed cut and a withdrawal on the calendar year. He has two top 25’s on the calendar year as well. He’s currently 12th on Tour in scrambling, 13th in bogey avoidance, 14th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 24th in both birdie or better percentage and sand saves percentage, 31st in average driving distance, 33rd in SG: ATG, 66th in SG: BS, 98th in SG: APP, 116th in driving accuracy percentage and 144th in par five scoring average. He’ll have to up his game on the par fives this week but it’s never a bad bet to be in on Detry. Also consider the defending champion J.J. Spaun ($8,900.) Spaun had a fantastic showing at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play where he won all three of his group play matchups and advanced to the round of 16 as the lowest seed in his group. He also placed T5th at the Sentry Tournament of Champions, T12th at the Sony Open in Hawaii and T33rd at the Genesis Invitational on the calendar year. Spaun has played in this event during the last five iterations. He won it all a year ago and has made the cut in three of those five events. He’s currently fourth on Tour in scrambling which is the strongest point of his game. He is also eighth in bogey avoidance, ninth in sand saves percentage, 26th in SG: BS, 48th in SG: ATG, 62nd in driving accuracy percentage, 92nd in birdie or better percentage and 109th in average driving distance. His score in our model this week is hindered by a 130th placement in SG: APP, 144th in par five scoring average and 152nd in SG: PUTT Bermuda. Hopefully Spaun is inspired by last week’s results and the fact that he is the defending champion of this event.
I was in on Brendon Todd ($7,900) at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he battled late with eventual winner Justin Rose. Now I’m back in on him this week. He is currently fourth on Tour in driving accuracy percentage, 12th in SG: ATG, 13th in bogey avoidance, 15th in scrambling, 22nd in sand saves percentage, 37th in birdie or better percentage, 55th in par five scoring average, 60th in both SG: APP and SG: PUTT Bermuda and 96th in SG: BS. His score is brought down by a 203rd placement in average driving distance. Todd has played this event four times since 2014 where he missed the cut just once. In those four appearances he’s gone T6th in 2014 and most recently went T8th a year ago. He has a proven track record at this event and course. He has made the cut in back-to-back events heading into this week. He went T39th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T27th at THE PLAYERS Championship. Also consider Andrew Putnam ($7,800.) I was high a week ago on Andrew Putnam at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play and although I didn’t play him, he was featured in my daily parlays. He played very well, making it out of his group on the back of his elite scrambling. He placed T9th in a field of the 64 highest ranked golfers in the world a week ago. Besides that showing, he’s missed more cuts than he’s made this calendar year but has gone T4th at the Sony Open in Hawaii, T36th at The American Express and T34th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Putnam has played the Valero Texas Open the last four years, highlighted by a T8th in 2018. He also missed just one cut in those four events. He’s currently fifth on Tour in both scrambling and bogey avoidance, tenth in sand saves percentage, 27th in driving accuracy percentage, 29th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 49th in par five average scoring, 51st in SG: ATG, 76th in SG: BS, 79th in SG: APP and 103rd in birdie or better percentage. Like Todd, his score is brought down by a 196th placement in average driving distance. Being an elite scrambler goes a long way and I think that’ll keep Putnam relevant this week.
This price range is always difficult in these “average” PGA Tour fields. However, the two names we have here have been names we’ve suggested in the past. First off we have Ben Taylor ($6,900.) Taylor had a good stretch of events prior to missing the cut at the Valspar Championship two weeks ago. He made three consecutive cuts, highlighted by a T5th at the Honda Classic. He’s also gone T4th at the Sony Open in Hawaii on the calendar year. This will be the first time Taylor has played this event. Taylor is currently 27th in SG: PUTT Bermuda, 44th in bogey avoidance, 53rd in sand saves percentage, 64th in average driving distance, 72nd in scrambling, 91st in SG: APP, 94th in SG: ATG, 104th in SG: BS and 105th in birdie or better percentage. His score is hindered by a 127th placement in par five scoring average and 167th in driving accuracy percentage. However, for someone in this price range in this type of field, he offers a lot. Also consider Ryan Moore ($6,400.) Moore has now missed four consecutive cuts but if we’ve learned anything as of late, you can’t always go off of that. I played Austin Eckroat a week ago who had six missed cuts prior to the Corales Puntacana Championship and before that we saw Chad Ramey tie the single round course record at THE PLAYERS Championship after missing four consecutive cuts. The last time Moore made a cut however was at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am where he went T7th. This is a course that Moore is both experienced in and has had a bunch of success. He played this event four times from 2017 to 2021. He placed third in 2019, seventh in 2018 and T18th in 2017. He didn’t miss the cut in any of those events as well. If there’s ever a week he’s to right the ship and make a cut, it’s this week. He’s currently seventh on tour in driving accuracy percentage, 21st in sand saves percentage, 25th in SG: APP, 63rd in scrambling, 69th in par five scoring average, 78th in bogey avoidance and 103rd in SG: PUTT Bermuda. His score is hindered by a 135th placement in SG: BS, 170th in birdie or better percentage, 186th in SG: ATG and 198th in average driving distance. No one in this price range is going to have a perfect match to the course but Moore has proven he can have success at TPC San Antonio.
*Odds Provided by FanDuel Sportsbook
Tyrrell Hatton (+1300) - 3u
Si Woo Kimm (+2100) - 2u
Chris Kirk (+3100) - 2u
Thomas Detry (+4400) - 1u
Brendon Todd (+4800) - 1u
Ben Taylor (+16000) - 0.5u