The field this week in San Antonio is a grade or five down from The Players but is interesting all the same. The Valero Texas Open moves to a new 5-star course - TPC San Antonio. It’s a Greg Norman design and Sergio Garcia has also had input.
The fact that it’s a new venue for the PGA Tour adds a whole lot of mystery to the proceedings this week. Scratch all thoughts of form transferring from this tournament’s previous home, La Cantrera, as defending Zach Johnson highlights “It's longer and it looks tight,” two-time defending champion Zach Johnson said this week of AT&T Oaks. “The greens look very, very treacherous. It's going to be a very different test.”
The course itself is a long Par 72 with extremely deep bunkers and reportedly tough rough. With 2 +600 yard Par 5s amongst 4 in total, making hay them won’t be too easy. Add to all of this uncertainty the fact that Texas is renowned for high winds and this week looks no different. Indeed mid 25km/h winds are forecast all week and remember that’s an average number. Gusty winds especially on Sunday could add real intrigue to affairs.
With the sheer length of the course, people WILL get hung up around the fact that you’ll need to be a long hitter to win here because of the course length. However I’m taking the view that accuracy and finding fairways is the key. This quote is interesting: Norman definitely carved this layout with his game in mind, putting the premium on driving accuracy. Norman, as you might recall, was one of the finest drivers of the golf ball during the prime of his career. You don't win over 100 worldwide tournaments by missing fairways.
Take a look through the results of last season’s Barclays tournament and you’ll start to catch my drift. Liberty National is a tough +7,400 yard Par 71 with an average shot length of +104 yards. The winner was……Heath Slocum.
So, my tips this week as follows:
I Really like the look of Brian this week. His whole game is built around accuracy and Gay is a renowned wind positive player. The Texan who lives in Florida will want to put on a show and will hit plenty of fairways and greens in regulation. His short game is legendary and currently he sits 20th in Sand Saves and 5th in Putting. Unsurprisingly finished in the Top 10 at Liberty National in September and won the Mayakoba Classic on another Norman design.
Update - Brian Gay has withdrawn from this event
Mark Wilson 1pt EW Best priced 50/1 RESULT: Missed Cut
The gritty Illinois based player like Gay jumps out of this mediocre field for a number of similar reasons. He won the Mayakoba Classic in 2008 so isn’t afraid of tough windy conditions. Allied to that he won on Bermuda greens on the tough windswept PGA National track in 2007 to win the Honda Classic. Wilson missed the cut at The Players but finished 7th at the classical and the lengthy Quail Hollow the previous week so is in decent nick. Wilson also likes the Texas Open as 11th in 09 and 2nd in 08 indicate.
Justin Leonard 1pt EW Best priced 28/1 RESULT: Made Cut, Did Not Finish
Could have easily gone for Adam Scott his week, but I’m liking the look of true Texan Justin Leonard. Got to -6 on Saturday at last week’s Players on a course he truly underperforms on, so is clearly playing well. His ‘links’ golf type game should really suit well around TPC San Antonio this week, where deep bunkers and hefty rough will play a major factor. An Open winner and 12-time PGA Tour winner, Leonard is a class act and is due a win very soon as he hasn’t won since 2008, which is a similar story to Kim, Villegas & Els in recent weeks.
Paul Goydos 1pt EW Best priced 70/1 RESULT: Missed Cut
Goydos is continually underrated but is as short as 50/1 with some bookmakers this week. The 70/1 best price on offer through Totesport is mouthwatering value. No different to any of my previous picks i.e. as straight as a die from tee to green which should pay real benefits this week. I’ve mentioned The Barclays of 2009 and Goydos led after the 3rd Round until eventually falling to the pressure of the world’s best players. Plays tough 'coastal’ courses well and TPC San Antonio stacks up so I’m expecting Goydos allied to his liking for this tournament to show this week.
Troy Matteson 0.5pt EW Best priced 80/1 RESULT: T41
Starting to find some form Florida based Matteson started to find some form last week at The Players where he finished an accomplished 17th. His current 3rd on Tour for Greens in Regulation is attractive on a course where finding the putting surface will be a premium. Growing up in Florida means that Matteson will be able to hang around in tough windy conditions.
Tim Wilkinson 0.5pt EW Best priced 150/1 RESULT: Made Cut, Did Not Finish
The Kiwi has a track record of performing at wind affected venues. Top 20 finishes at the Verizon and Northern Trust this season are notable as were two Top 5 finishes at Puerto Rico and New Orleans in 2008. It’s a long shot but if the wind truly blows I wouldn’t be surprised to see Wilkinson in the upper echelons of the leaderboard.
Richard S Johnson 2pts Top 20 Best priced 15/2: RESULT: T63
An awesome price for the Florida-based Swede and quite rightly justified. However if I like links type players this week Richard S fits the bill perfectly. Having a dismal season but 4th at Mayakoba in March shows how he thrives on coastal courses and Norman courses. Not sure? Well he also finished an amazing 8th at Turnberry last year. Could quite easily shoot 78, 78 this week but I think he could well feature in tough conditions on a tough course at a tournament where he has 3 Top 20 finishes to his name.
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 21:00BST 11.05.10 but naturally subject to fluctuation