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Si-Woo Kim backers, I feel for you. Both Barry and Paul championed him on the Golf Betting System podcast - along with Paul Dunne in Spain for that matter - and the 2-time PGA Tour winner was in control heading into the back 9 on Sunday. But as we know, the final group at the RBC Heritage seems cursed year-in and year-out, with non-member Satoshi Kodaira taking the eventual play-off victory. He earned $1.2 million but more importantly a 3-year PGA Tour exemption, so we'll be seeing the new World Number 27 far more often going forwards. For this column Webb Simpson earned a full 40/1 place payout.
This week we travel to Texas for the Valero Texas Open. Traditionally a tough spot on the PGA Tour, the Greg Norman designed AT&T Oaks Course is a long and tough Par 72. The tournament has always been the nomad of the PGA Tour as it has been played historically across the Fall Series before moving to before The Masters. This is now the third year where the tournament falls after the RBC Heritage, but for 2019 it was announced last week that this will again become the Masters curtain-raiser. The tournament was also played pre-2010 at the low scoring Par 70 at La Cantrera, so bear that in mind when it comes to our tournament form and tournament average statistics.
The winners' list here includes Adam Scott (30/1), Jimmy Walker (25/1), Charley Hoffman (30/1) and Kevin Chappell (33/1) as well as Steven Bowditch (350/1), Brendan Steele (300/1) and Ben Curtis (150/1). Very much from the logical to the illogical!
Over on the European Tour, Paul Williams previews the Trophee Hassan II - you can read his thoughts on that event here.
With regular European and PGA Tour action this week. I'll take this opportunity to highlight Golf Betting System's unique guide outlining which online bookmakers offer the very best golf each-way terms. Covering both the PGA Tour and European Tour, the results including March are in with Coral leading the way for each-way places provided, ahead of Betfair Sportsbook and Paddy Power. The full analysis, which we update monthly, is valuable insight for all golf punters and is well worth a read here.
Course Guide: The AT&T Oaks course at TPC San Antonio is not your typical US golf course and, if conditions allow, it traditionally plays fiery and fast. This Greg Norman design (remember El Camaleon, home of the OHL Classic, is his other currently scheduled PGA Tour course) is a stretching Par 72 measuring 7,435 yards and features tight fairways at over 300 yards carry, the likes of which we saw at GC of Houston a few weeks back. However miss the fairway and the rough is more penal than Houston, plus there's all manner of natural hazards. Greens are undulating, multi-tiered and exotic in their grass structure featuring Emerald Dwarf Bermudagrass overseeded with a combination of Velvet Bentgrass and Poa Trivialis. Scoring difficulty, as is the norm in Texas, is dictated by wind strength and with at least 3 days featuring gusting 20+ mph winds in San Antonio this week, don't expect a birdie barrage.
Oaks Course, TPC San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas: Designer: Greg Norman 2009; Course Type: Technical; Par: 72; Length: 7,435 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 2; Fairways: Bermudagrass, Rye & Fescue; Rough: Bermudagrass 2"; Greens: 6,400 sq.ft average Emerald Dwarf Bermudagrass overseeded with Velvet Bentgrass and Poa Trivialis; Tournament Stimp: 11.5ft; Course Scoring Average 2012: 73.97 (+1.97), Difficulty Rank 4 of 49 courses. 2013: 72.74 (+0.74), Difficulty Rank 15 of 43 courses. 2014: 73.29 (+1.29), Rank 8 of 48 courses. 2015: 74.52 (+2.52), Difficulty Rank of 2 of 52 courses. 2016: 72.21 (+0.21), Difficulty Rank of 17 of 50 courses. 2017: 72.85 (+0.85), Difficulty Rank of 10 of 50 courses.
Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for the Oaks Course, TPC San Antonio and how they compare to recent courses on Tour:
Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Greg Norman designs include:
Course Overview: The Oaks Course layout is undoubtedly a brute. Take 2016: despite a soft course, relatively receptive greens and tranquil conditions across the opening 3 days of play, only 3 players made it into double-digit under par numbers. 2017 saw plenty of rain hit the course on tournament Monday, but despite a soft course and receptive greens only winner Kevin Chappell and runner-up Brooks Koepka made it to double-digits under par. A mixture of course length, intimidating tee shots, all manner of off-fairway hazards and tough, undulating green complexes make the course a technical beast. Greens are also perched up with fairway cut around them, taking errant approaches into collection areas. It's hardly a surprise then that the greens here were the 3rd hardest to hit on the PGA Tour last season.
Power hitting is undoubtedly a huge advantage here, allowing the par-5s to be unlocked, and it's noticeable that 3 of the previous 5 winners here have led par-5 scoring in the week they triumphed: Laird (2013), Walker (2015) and Hoffman (2016) shot -10, -12 and -9 across their 16 looks at the long holes. Shorter hitters can contend, but since Greg Norman re-sculpted the course prior to the 2013 renewal, power wins. Although critical, par-5 scoring on this course is tremendously hard with 3 of the 4 'scoring holes' measuring over 590 yards. Greens are severely contoured so putting is difficult and the fairways are some of the most testing the Tour pros will face this season. For me though on a course that traditionally ranks as one of the hardest for Greens in Regulation when the wind blows, and also in the bottom 3 on Tour for par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion, we need to look for aggressive ball-strikers who are very apt at Going for the Green as much as possible.
Winners: 2017: Kevin Chappell (-12); 2016: Charley Hoffman (-12); 2015: Jimmy Walker (-11); 2014: Steven Bowditch (-8); 2013: Martin Laird (-14); 2012: Ben Curtis (-9); 2011: Brendan Steele (-8); 2010: Adam Scott (-14).
Tournament Stats: We've published some key player statistics for this week's event that are well worth a look. Naturally they'll help to shape a view on players who could go well this week: Current Form | Tournament Form | First Round Leader | Top 20 Finishes. NEW! Combined Current and Course Form is now available here.
Published Predictor Model: Our published predictor is available here. You can build your own model using the variables listed on the left hand side. Top 10 of my published predictor are Matt Kuchar, Kevin Chappell, Charley Hoffman, Sergio Garcia, Brendan Steele, Zach Johnson, Ryan Palmer, Luke List, Jason Kokrak, and Chesson Hadley.
Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on a 10-tournament window that stretches back to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am and includes both PGA Tour and European Tour events. Players must have played in a minimum of 2 Tour events to be included and rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:
Winners & Prices: 2017: Chappell 33/1; 2016: Hoffman 30/1; 2015: Jimmy Walker 25/1; 2014: Bowditch 350/1; 2013: Laird 100/1; 2012: Curtis 150/1; 2011: Steele 300/1; 2010: Scott 25/1. Average: 126/1. Past 4 Renewals Average: 109/1. For a full summary of winner's odds on the PGA Tour since 2010 click here.
Weather Forecast: The latest weather forecast for San Antonio, Texas, is here. Conditions-wise we should see a lush course from the start of the tournament as the area received 30mm of rain across Friday and Saturday. A light breeze on Thursday will aid scoring, but from there winds gusting 20+ mph are forecast across the rest of the tournament. Showers could be a feature for Friday morning, but Saturday sees an 80% chance of serious rain with electrical activity. Sunday will be fine, but again gusting 20mph. Temperatures throughout are over 24 degrees Celsius.
Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 8 winners of the Valero Texas Open since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:
Tournament Skill Averages:
Let's take a view from players as to how TPC San Antonio sets up and what skill sets the course favours:
Kevin Chappell (2017): "Missing it in the right spots is the key. It was windy enough you had to really think about what shots you can take on and, if you did, getting the ball in the right place. I was fortunate to be chipping back into the wind a lot and that made it a lot easier. The ball - it's warm and windy is the recipe to hit the ball really far. So, we hit a few shots went 10, 15 yards further than we thought they would. Into the kind the ball is going nowhere because it's blowing so hard. It's a good mixture on this golf course, lot of holes run north/south. With the wind blowing out of south today, you know, you had a good mixture of both. For me I played enough rounds around here that I probably played every wind they have. So, you know, I look forward to the challenge. My game tends to rise in more difficult conditions so I look forward to that on the weekend."
Charley Hoffman (2016): "Tee to green is very visual, shapes with the trees and it's a tough driving golf course. I usually drive it pretty good and got to be accurate when you're hitting in there. For some reason I've been able to roll the putter. Conditions are a lot different than normal. Usually you're trying to land them short, today you're trying to get them past the hole and suck them back. No rough, no overseeding. Premium on driving isn't quite as much. You can hit them in the rough and have a shot at the green. There's low scores out there, still going to make some putts in the right spots."
Jimmy Walker (2015): "I still think the greens are going to stay relatively firm. Even talking to some guys yesterday that played that even after the rain, they were still getting some nice bounces and release after the rain. The fairways were obviously kind of not running as well. The rough isn't like it was last year. Last year it was overseeded. This year they didn't and the Bermuda has come back but hasn't all grown yet. Driving the ball in the rough isn't going to be, I don't think, a big deal this week, just because it's not very long. You can get some pretty nice lies in the rough. So that's just a South Texas thing right now this time of year. The transition and everything is coming back.
They keep making minor improvements to the golf course. It's really resonating with the guys. A lot of guys like to show up and play a tough golf course. It's kind of the deal if you get bad weather you feel like half the field is out. They're in a bad mood. There's guys that enjoy coming and playing tough tracks where you don't have to shoot 18, 25-under. We shot 9-under last year and won, something like that. It's a tough track. The opening stretch here is pretty good. 1 through 4 you got to kind of have all your stuff together. You do have a par 5 in there but it's really not too reachable by 90-some-odd percent of the field. It's a good par 5. And then 3 is a tough par 3 and 4 is a great, tough, 485-yard hole with a tiny green. You got to be precise. It's got some tough tee shots, got some tough second shots and the greens can be a little tricky to read. They've got some South Texas grain in them. It can play with you a little bit."
Jordan Spieth: "Well, for one, the trouble isn't the hazard. You're going in to try to find your ball or you're walking up thinking you're going to find it in a good spot. And then when it's not in a good spot, well, now I don't want to find it. You want to play it as a lost ball. You get guys that are coming up and walking all the way back. That takes a lot of time. If it's a hazard and you didn't find it, you know it went in, take a drop there, that saves five to ten minutes on that hole. So because it's so challenging on both sides of the fairway, you get any shots astray, which will happen tomorrow in the wind, it's going to slow down the round significantly, especially if you're trying to grind. Any tough course is going to play slow towards the lead groups because for whatever reason you're normally grinding it out a little bit more. I don't think it should change, no matter what position you're in, but I do it for whatever reason, and it just happens. So, yeah, I just think because of the trouble off the tee that this course maybe could yield slower play than other places."
Steven Bowditch: "I mean maybe the fairways are a little more softer or forgiving, if that's what you want to call it. There's good and bad things to that. It tends to make the golf course fraction wider, because the ball doesn't run out on the same lines. But it makes it longer, too. I think it's playing a little tougher this year already, just because the greens are a little firmer. The ball is not going as far and especially with the weather coming for the first couple of days, anyway, it's going to cool right down, so that will make it even longer.
I think all in all the scoring, depending on the wind I think the scoring will pretty much be similar. But the greens being so perfect to putt on, if you get your putter rolling, you might come from anywhere. The golf course just doesn't give you too much, there's no let up out there. Every hole you can make a birdie, hit a good shot. But every hole as a bogey and double, all around. Just finer points, ball running off the green, the rough is sticky around the greens, it can be hard to get it up and down. So I would probably say under and over probably be about 10 under, pretty similar this year."
Path to Victory: Below are the end of round positions for the last 8 Valero Open winners:
Incoming form of winners since 2010:
First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.
We face an interesting conundrum this week with regards the difficult AT&T Oaks Course itself in an event that can be very fanciful from a betting perspective. Let's firstly start with my views on the course. It's abundantly clear that this Norman design is a bit of a brute. Even though holes 1, 4 and 10 were made less challenging with green re-sculpting and fairway widening work prior to 2013's renewal, the course is perennially one of the toughest Par 72s on the Tour as par-5 scoring on this course is tremendously hard. Greens are severely contoured so putting is difficult and the fairways are some of the most testing the Tour pros will face this season - long and tight and surrounded by masses of trouble. Greens are hard to hit in volume and the putting surfaces themselves repel approach shots from pin positions very ably.
It's also worth remembering that this is only the third time that the Texas Open has been played 2 weeks after The Masters. Looking at the past 7 winners in this post-Augusta slot, Bohn (80/1), Horschel (33/1), Noh (125/1) and Rose (11/1) won at TPC Louisiana; Snedeker (35/1) at Harbour Town and Ben Curtis (150/1), Charley Hoffman (30/1) and Kevin Chappell (33/1) here at TPC San Antonio. As you'd expect a mix of players and circumstances across 3 different courses, but all had at least a top 16 finish in one of their previous 2 outings which differs significantly from the incoming form characteristics if you look purely at the Valero Open winners.
My selections are as follows:
Billy Horschel arrives in San Antonio with momentum and we know that he likes playing in Texas. A winner 11 months ago at the AT&T Byron Nelson at TPC Four Seasons, Billy has also finished 2nd (2013) at the GC of Houston and his record here is something to behold: 3rd in 2013, 3rd in 2015, and 4th in 2016 - he clearly gets on with the course. In previous winners Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell, both of them had previous top 3 finishes here, so let's be straight - you don't have to re-invent the wheel to grab the winner here.
Asked in 2016 what he thought of TPC San Antonio, Horschel said, "like I said, I've been in this contending position before here the last couple of years. I want to get the job done. I love this place, I love San Antonio. It's an unbelievable stop. Hopefully tomorrow will be the third time the charm for me to get that victory." Again he came up short 24 months ago, playing in the same 2nd last group with Charley Hoffman and celebrating like he'd won himself on the 18th.
In both 2015 and 2016 he arrived here in relatively poor form, however the same can't be said this time around. The signs were there a few weeks ago at Bay Hill where following 4 straight missed cuts he shot 68-70 to be in 6th place after 36 holes, however an eventual 54th hardly raised eyebrows. He then made his traditional missed cut at Augusta, but last week at Harbour Town a 5th place finish was a career-best at the tight and claustrophobic South Carolina course. He talked recently about working to get his swing back to how it was in 2013 and 2014 when he harvested a career-first victory at TPC Louisiana (2013) and won at Crooked Stick then at East Lake in consecutive outings to win not only the BMW and Tour Championships but also the FedEx Cup. So I really like his chances this week on a hard course where aggressive driving is rewarded in spades. RESULT: T11
I have had Xander Schauffele in mind for this for a while as TPC San Antonio - unlike Harbour Town last week - will be right up his street. The 2017 Greenbrier Classic and Tour Championship champion, Schauffele has been inevitably quieter in 2018 but he's still playing some excellent golf. 17th at TPC Scottsdale, 9th at Riviera, 18th at Chapultepec and his WGC Dell Match Play campaign was ok too, beating Frittelli and Sharma before being beaten by Sergio Garcia. 50th on debut at Augusta was no disgrace and featured an opening 71 good enough for tied-16th. His performance last week at a claustrophobic Harbour Town set-up, which doesn't suit him in my mind, was also quietly impressive. 68-68 was good enough for 13th after 36 holes, but Schauffele ultimately needs a more open course where he can use his undoubted strengths. 16th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, 8th for All-Drives Driving Distance and 12th for par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion really tell you that the longer courses suit the World Number 28, whose record at Erin Hills, Old White TPC, Firestone and of course East Lake really correlate well with the likes of course specialists Brooks Koepka, Jimmy Walker, Billy Horschel, Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell. RESULT: T73
I always like Chesson Hadley when he's on a roll and like Luke List he's certainly a player who deserves a victory this season. 3rd at Silverado, 2nd at Jackson, 4th at TPC Summerlin, 5th at TPC Scottsdale and last week's career-best 7th at Harbour Town sees him sitting 25th in the FedEx Cup with a cool $1.78m grossed season to date. He's also renowned for being able to string great performances together which he has across both PGA and web.com Tours. So I like the look of him this week at TPC San Antonio where he finished 4th back in 2015 behind Jimmy Walker. A 297 yard driver which is an advantage here, Chesson ranks 2nd for Strokes Gained on Approach, 58th for par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion and 20th for Greens in Regulation from Off the Fairway - which is pretty crucial for the longer hitters around here. 20th for Strokes Gained on Approach, 12th for Proximity to Hole and 5th for Strokes Gained Putting last week, I always like Hadley when he has confidence with the putter and it's note-worthy that he was 3rd behind only Jimmy Walker and Jordan Spieth here back in 2015 for Strokes Gained Putting. Super chance this week. RESULT: T20
Watch these tips on YouTube with Steve Bamford: Golf Betting System YouTube Channel
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