The Masters is looming large on the horizon which means that it is time for the Valero Texas Open, the annual lead up to Augusta National and all that the opening major of the golfing year brings with it in just over a week.
Jordan Spieth certainly warmed up for The Masters in style last year when he took down what is considered his home tournament in style. He is back looking to make a successive defence and a tilt at the Green Jacket next week.
2021 – Jordan Spieth
2019 – Corey Conners
2018 – Andrew Landry
2017 – Kevin Chappell
2016 – Charley Hoffman
2015 – Jimmy Walker
2014 – Steven Bowditch
2013 – Martin Laird
2012 – Ben Curtis
2011 – Brendan Steele
Once again the tournament takes place at TPC San Antonio this week. This is one of the tougher courses on the circuit when the wind blows which is interesting because next week at Augusta the players are going to be on a scoreable course. The wind is expected to be relevant for the final three days of this event too and as we saw towards the end of the WGC Match Play down the road last week, conditions are likely to be firm and fast which could make life even tougher for the players.
The track is a par 72 which measures 7,438 yards with some lengthy par 5s which even the longer hitters can’t reach. The trick to this place is hitting these large, undulating greens in regulation and then holing putts on them. Usually with that in mind there is a need to play this course from the fairway but if the course is set up to mirror Augusta then the rough might not be so bad. Either way I want hot putters here.
A lot of the leading lights are taking this week off after their exertions in Austin last week ahead of the opening major of the year next week. Rory McIlroy didn’t tee it up in the Match Play though and will complete his Augusta preparations with a spin at TPC San Antonio and he is a clear headliner in the field in terms of major wins but Jordan Spieth will be the one all the Texans will be looking for over the four days though as he goes about defending his title.
Other leading names to be looking to perfect their preparations for next week include Abraham Ancer, Hideki Matsuyama, Corey Conners, Bryson DeChambeau, Gary Woodland and Si Woo Kim. Outside of McIlroy this week the European charge will be spearheaded by Russell Knox and Matt Wallace while Jason Day, Jhonattan Vegas and Adam Hadwin are other internationals in the field. Rickie Fowler is another big name looking to win and make it into next week.
Rory McIlroy will tee off as the 8/1 favourite to warm up for Augusta in the best possible way this week. I don’t know if he has forgotten how to win as such but he has bungled a few winning positions in the last four or five months which is a concern. He seems to have a decent round and then fall away or start slowly and then come good but leaves himself too much to do. By right he could lead this lot a merry dance but I think I’m in the camp of letting him do it if he is good enough rather than backing him to do it.
Jordan Spieth is the defending champion this week which immediately puts me off backing him but I wouldn’t anyway because there is way too much emphasis and scrutiny on him when he plays in Texas. It is to his credit he won here last year with that in mind. He hasn’t been in brilliant form in recent weeks but he was in next to no form at all when he won here last season so that doesn’t really matter. He hasn’t been ramming them in with the putter as we are used to seeing him though and he would need to do that to contend here. He isn’t for me at 16/1.
The international pair of Hideki Matsuyama and Corey Conners come next at 20/1. These two had very different weeks last week. Matsuyama had his feet up and that will serve him well but his title defence and everything that goes with it next week has to be in his mind so he can’t be for me. Conners is a former winner of this but he played seven hard rounds of golf up the road in Austin last week and it would be some effort to play four more intense ones here to win the title. He can’t be for me either.
Abraham Ancer looked good last week until he ran into Conners in the quarter final. He is 22/1 to win this tournament. He is no stranger to Texan golf and should get plenty of decent support this week but on a course where one of the necessities is a hot putter I’m not sure the one in the hands of the Mexican can be relied upon enough to justify backing him at a relatively tight price for all that his ball striking skills are there to be seen.
Adam Hadwin looks to have run into a bit of form in recent times having landed top 10 finishes at The Players Championship and the Valspar Championship. It certainly isn’t a bad thing that he didn’t tee it up last week. If you do deep in the Match Play you basically play yourself out of contention here and if you go to the Dominican Republic you can get blown out of your stride so I’m quite happy that the Canadian will go in here fresh. I’m sure there will be an element of him that will have been inspired by his countryman Conners going so deep last week which will spur him on in conditions which should suit. Hadwin is one of the better putters in the game and he has been eating up greens in regulation in recent times. He also has the added motivation of not being in The Masters next week yet so he’ll be all out for success this week and I think he can go well at a big price.
There is a strong trend of course form when it comes to this place so although Davis Riley is making his debut in this tournament we should take notice of the fact he has won a Korn Ferry Tour event on this course two years ago. He putted exceptionally well that week and when you consider he comes here as the closest challenger to Sam Burns at the Valspar a couple of weeks ago he certainly looks primed for a good showing here. His ball striking that week was of a good quality and he putted very well at Copperhead. We know he can putt these greens well and there isn’t quite the emphasis on ball striking this week anyway so he might be worth a go here.
Beau Hossler was second in the Houston Open in 2018 when it had this slot in the calendar and I fancy he might have another strong push for The Masters this week. I think it is fair to say that Hossler has underachieved since that week in Houston but he isn’t having a bad season by any means this term. He has already finished third at Pebble Beach and inside the top 20 at The Honda Classic and Bay Hill, both of which had much stronger fields than this and were played on much tougher courses than this too. Hossler has been in fine form with the short stick this season. In those three events he came fifth, sixth and eighth for strokes gained putting and his long game, especially into the greens, has never been in question. He ticks a lot of boxes and could go very well here.
I’ll also take a chance on David Lipsky this week. He comes here off the back of a top 10 finish in Dominica last week and would have been much closer to the winner but for an indifferent opening round. Going back to October he finished in the top five in Valderrama and you don’t go well around there if you haven’t got a good all-round game. Lipsky also won an event on the Korn Ferry Tour at TPC San Antonio although it was on the other course to the one he features on here. The time he played this course on that tour he finished T76 but that was the week after he won so it is understandable that he didn’t have his best stuff with him. Clearly he struck the ball well last week and the conditions there aren’t too dissimilar to what he’ll face here. If he continues to putt like he has for the most part recently he could go very close here.
Back A.Hadwin to win Valero Texas Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 34.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back B.Hossler to win Valero Texas Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with William Hill (1/5 1-8)
Back them here:
Back D.Riley to win Valero Texas Open (e/w) for a 1/10 stake at 51.00 with Coral (1/5 1-8)
Back him here:
Back D.Lipsky to win Valero Texas Open (e/w) for a 0.5/10 stake at 126.00 with Sky Bet (1/5 1-8)