Steve Bamford

Steve Bamford's Valero Texas Open Tips 2022

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Congratulations if you were on-board Scottie Scheffler at 16/1 to win the WGC Dell Match Play. His rise to OWGR No1 since mid-February is the stuff of legend. Golf Betting System had a strong enough week with Paul landing both Kevin Kisner and Dustin Johnson each-way at 50/1 and 18/1 respectively at the Match Play. I landed a full 16/1 each-way on Jhonattan Vegas in Corales, and that could have been so much better with Graeme McDowell sitting in the top 3 with 27 holes to go. His back then went into spasm and that’s all she wrote for the stricken Northern Irishman.

The Valero Texas Open is this year’s curtain-raiser for The Masters. Played on a stretching 7,400+ yard, Par 72 track in San Antonio, Texas, this Greg Norman design is no pushover. This tournament is a bit of a nomad in terms of its PGA Tour schedule position, but when it has been played the week before The Masters we’ve seen Martin Laird, Corey Conners and Jordan Spieth (we were on-board) win at 100/1, 200/1 and 16/1 respectively. The last Masters invite is also up for grabs for any non-qualified winner this week.

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Before we go into the detail surrounding the Valero Texas Open, we always have new visitors to Golf Betting System as The Masters approaches. Welcome and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published every Tuesday of the golfing calendar), the Steve Bamford Golf Channel on YouTube and our hugely popular, 6,000+ strong private Group on Facebook – you can Join Here.

Course Guide: The Oaks course at TPC San Antonio is not your typical US golf course. This Greg Norman design (remember El Camaleon, home of the Mayakoba 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. Miss the fairway here and the rough is penal, plus there’s all manner of natural hazards. Remember Kevin Na! Greens are undulating, multi-tiered and exotic in their grass structure featuring Emerald Dwarf Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa Trivialis.

Scoring difficulty, as is the norm in Texas, is dictated by wind strength and firmness of the course, but over recent renewals strategic sorts have been able to score nicely around here.

Oaks Course, TPC San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas: Designer: Greg Norman 2009; Course Type: Mid-Score; Par: 72; Length: 7,438 yards; Holes with Water Hazards: 3; Fairways: Perennial Ryegrass & Chewing Fescue; Rough: Ryegrass & Chewing Fescue 2.25″; Greens: 6,400 sq.ft average Champion Bermudagrass overseeded with Poa Trivialis; Tournament Stimp: 11ft; 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. 2018: 72.37 (+0.35), Difficulty Rank of 12 of 51 courses. 2019: 71.24 (-0.76), Difficulty Rank 28 of 49 courses. 2021: 72.48 (+0.48), Difficulty Rank 15 of 51 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:

  • Oaks Course: 250 yards from tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:29; 325:27; 350:26.
  • Copperhead: 250 yards from the tee: 24 yards wide; 275:20; 300:21; 325:23 350:19.
  • TPC Sawgrass: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:32; 300:30; 325:28 350:20.
  • Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 32 yards wide; 275:33; 300:33; 325:39 350:29.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:27 350:25.
  • Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26 350:28.
  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:30; 300:28; 325:27; 350:27.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:33; 300:29; 325:30 350:26.
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 26 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:24; 350:23.
  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:26; 350:24.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:32; 300:34; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 59 yards wide; 275:61; 300:65; 325:60; 350:62.

Course Designer Links: For research purposes other Greg Norman designs include:

  • Earth Course – DP World Tour Championship (DP World Tour)
  • El Camaleon GC – Mayakoba Classic
  • TPC at Sugarloaf – 1997 – 2008  Classic

Course Overview: The Oaks Course layout is undoubtedly stretching, although 2018 to 2021 renewals of the Valero have seen scoring become more possible.

2018 saw organisers water the greens throughout, on the basis of strong winds across the opening 36 holes of play. That, in tandem with firm fairways, allowed for short and long hitters alike to strategically score around here with Andrew Landry winning with a tournament winning -17/271 total.

2019 saw 10-15 mph winds throughout and a 60mm deluge on Sunday, which delayed play and saw the surgical, strategic duo of Ryan Moore and Kevin Streelman shoot a pair of -8/64s. Another ball-striking machine in the guise of Corey Conners won his maiden PGA Tour title at a course record low -20/268 total the year after, and 2021 saw Jordan Spieth use his approach and short game magic to master a set-up which always featured firm fairways and greens that released just enough. He won by 2 shots at -18/270, although only the top 5 made double-digits under par.

Fundamentally I still think that the Oaks Course makes you earn your rewards, with strong driving and stellar approach play. 2022 sees a new shorter course yardage at 7,438 yards down 56 yards on last year. The par-3 3rd and par-5 14th holes have been shortened. The course will also feature all new bunkering after a Duininck Golf-managed project started after Jordan Spieth won here last year.

This course though will still be a stern test. A mixture of course length, intimidating tee shots, all manner of off-fairway hazards plus undulating green complexes make this course a challenge. 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 traditionally rank in the top 10 hardest to hit on the PGA Tour.

Up until the last few renewals, I would have told you that power hitting is undoubtedly a huge advantage here, allowing the par-5s to be unlocked, and it’s noticeable that 4 of the previous 8 winners here have led par-5 scoring in the week they triumphed: Laird (2013), Walker (2015), Hoffman (2016) and Spieth (2021) shot -10, -12, -9 and -10 across their 16 looks at the long holes.

But Andrew Landry played a different kind of game here in 2018, scoring equally across the par-3s, par-4s and par-5s shooting -6/-6/-5. Landry was 46th for Driving Distance that week, highlighting that average but straightish hitters can win around here.

In 2019 Corey Conners was middle of the road 28th for Driving Distance. Like Landry the year before he was in the top 10 for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, highlighting that straight, accurate hitting here is a great part of the ingredients needed for success. Plus he scored strongly across the card -4/-8/-8. Shorter, straighter sorts can undoubtedly win here. Typically Spieth breaks the mould slightly: 24th for Driving Distance, the key was that he was positive for Strokes Gained Off the Tee, meaning few huge errors with the driver. That allowed his amazing fairway-to-hole game to do the rest.

Finally, when you look at the last 4 winners here, Chappell ranked 2nd for SG Approach, Landry 1st, Conners 1st and Spieth 4th. For me on a course that traditionally ranks as one of the hardest for Greens in Regulation when the wind blows, and also in the bottom 5 on Tour for par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion, we need to look for players who are at the top of their game iron and approach-wise.

valero texas open tips

Valero Texas Open Winners: 2021: Jordan Spieth (-18); 2019: Corey Conners (-20); 2018: Andrew Landry (-17); 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).

Cut Line: 2021: +2; 2019: -1; 2018: +1; 2017: E.

Lead Score Progression:

  • 2021: Round 1 -8; Round 2 -9; Round 3 -12; Round 4 -18.
  • 2019: Round 1 -6; Round 2 -12; Round 3 -15; Round 4 -20.
  • 2018: Round 1 -5; Round 2 -9; Round 3 -13; Round 4 -17.
  • 2017: Round 1 -6; Round 2 -8; Round 3 -8; Round 4 -12.

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 | Combined Stats.

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 Corey Conners, Tony Finau, Adam Hadwin, Hideki Matsuyama, Luke List, Rory McIlroy, Russell Knox, Chris Kirk, Keegan Bradley and Martin Laird.

Tournament Winners & Prices: 2021: Spieth 16/1; 2019: Conners 200/1; 2018: Landry 200/1; 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. Past 7 Renewals Average: 122/1  Overall Average: 130/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 2021: Thursday: Mostly sunny. High of 70. Wind ENE 10-20 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy. High of 71. Wind ESE 8-16 mph. Saturday: Cloudy. High of 71. Wind ESE 10-20 mph. Due to thunderstorms, the start to the third round was delayed 2 hours,
  • 30 minutes and began at 12:13 p.m. CT. Sunday: Mostly cloudy. High of 75. Wind ESE 8-15 mph.
  • 2019: Thursday: Mostly sunny. High of 85. Wind SW 10-15 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy. High of 82. Wind ESE 10-15 mph. Saturday: Overcast with intermittent showers throughout the day. High of 78. Wind SE 10-15 mph. Sunday: Due to inclement weather, the start to the final round was delayed from 9:40 a.m. until 11:40 a.m. Mostly cloudy in the afternoon. High of 72. Wind NNE 8-12 mph.
  • 2018: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 78. Wind E 15-25 mph, with gusts to 30 mph. Friday: Mostly cloudy, with a high of 64. Wind SE 15-25 mph. Saturday: Cloudy, with scattered showers. High of 75. Wind SSE 8-16 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with a high of 78. Wind N 10-20 mph.
  • 2017: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 85. Wind SSE 10-20 mph. Friday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 86. Wind SSE 15-25 mph. Saturday: Mostly cloudy and cooler, with a high of 67. Wind NNE 15-25, with gusts to 30 mph. Sunday: Sunny, with a high of 74. Wind N 10-18 mph.
  • 2016: Thursday: Overcast, with heavy rains in the morning. Due to inclement weather, the first round was suspended from 8:25 a.m. until 12 p.m. CT. Sunny in the afternoon, with wind NE at 5-10 mph. Due to darkness, play was suspended for the day at 8:10 p.m. and resumed at 8 a.m. Friday. Friday: Sunny, with a high of 81. Wind NE at 8-12 mph. Due to darkness, the second round was suspended at 8:11 p.m. and resumed at 8 a.m. Saturday. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 81. Wind ESE at 8-12 mph. Sunday: Cloudy, with a high of 77. Wind SSE at 7-12 mph.
  • 2015: Thursday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 62. Wind SSW at 15-25 mph, with gusts to 38 mph. Friday: Sunny, with a high of 77. Wind WSW at 6-12 mph. Saturday: Sunny, with a high of 78. Wind SSW at 7-12 mph. Sunday: Partly cloudy, with a high of 82. Wind S at 15-25 mph.

Weather Forecast: latest weather forecast for San Antonio, Texas, is here.

Texas in April can be like 4 seasons in a single day, but the forecast for the 2022 Valero Texas Open looks pretty steady. It’s going to be very hot this week with temperatures at 28-31 degrees Celsius across the 4 days. A south easterly breeze will be in operation across both Friday and Sunday, but it won’t be as strong as we saw in Austin last week – for Thursday and Saturday the wind drops further. Plus there’s little threat of rain, although some is forecasted for early Wednesday morning. So all in all I would expect roll on the fairways and releasing greens, although they will need to be watered pre-play in this heat.

Player Strokes Gained Rankings: These top 25 in the field rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am / Ras Al Khaimah Championship which includes both PGA Tour and DP World Tour events. Players’ rankings are based on performance relative to the rest of the field:

  • Top 25 SG Off The Tee: 1) Rory McIlroy; 2) Brendan Steele; 3) Corey Conners; 4) Lee Westwood; 5) K.H. Lee / Luke List; 7) Keegan Bradley / Si Woo Kim; 9) Hayden Buckley / Kevin Streelman; 11) Chris Kirk; 12) J.J. Spaun; 13) Hideki Matsuyama; 14) Alex Smalley / Rasmus Hojgaard; 16) Russell Knox; 17) Anirban Lahiri; 18) J.T. Poston; 19) Cameron Champ / Trey Mullinax / Davis Riley / Jordan Spieth; 23) Austin Smotherman; 24) James Hahn; 25) Mito Pereira.
  • Top 25 SG Approach: 1) Rasmus Hojgaard; 2) Luke Donald; 3) Patton Kizzire / Hideki Matsuyama; 5) Austin Smotherman; 6) Adam Hadwin / Russell Knox / Adam Svensson; 9) Jordan Spieth; 10) Robert MacIntyre; 11) Rory McIlroy / Matthias Schwab; 13) Chris Kirk; 14) Richard Bland / Martin Laird; 16) Gary Woodland; 17) Nick Taylor; 18) Luke List; 19) Keegan Bradley / Jhonattan Vegas; 21) Doug Ghim; 22) Kevin Chappell; 23) Dylan Frittelli / Danny Lee; 25) Dawie van der Walt.
  • Top 25 SG Around The Green: 1) Matthias Schwab; 2) Ian Poulter; 3) Rory McIlroy; 4) Gary Woodland; 5) Bill Haas / Takumi Kanaya; 7) C.T. Pan; 8) Patton Kizzire / Robert MacIntyre / Brian Stuard; 11) Adam Hadwin / Zach Johnson / Scott Stallings; 14) K.H. Lee / William McGirt; 16) Rickie Fowler / James Hahn / Matt Jones; 19) Dylan Frittelli; 20) Keegan Bradley / Brendan Grace / Stephan Jaeger / Pat Perez / Davis Riley; 25) Chris Kirk / Nate Lashley.
  • Top 25 SG Tee to Green: 1) Rory McIlroy; 2) Rasmus Hojgaard; 3) Chris Kirk; 4) Hideki Matsuyama; 5) Russell Knox; 6) Keegan Bradley / Adam Hadwin / Luke List; 9) Matthias Schwab; 10) Robert MacIntyre; 12) Martin Laird / Adam Svensson; 13) Corey Conners / Tyler Duncan; 15) Patton Kizzire; 16) Gary Woodland; 17) Ian Poulter / Brendan Steele; 19) Dylan Frittelli / Nate Lashley; 21) Luke Donald; 22) Jordan Spieth; 23) Richard Bland / Mito Pereira / J.J. Spaun.
  • Top 25 SG Putting: 1) John Huh; 2) Robert MacIntyre; 3) Brian Gay; 4) Sam Ryder; 5) Dylan Wu; 6) Denny McCarthy; 7) Graeme McDowell; 8) Beau Hossler; 9) Martin Trainer; 10) Hideki Matsuyama; 11) Takumi Kanaya / Andrew Landry / Scott Stallings; 14) Ian Poulter; 15) K.H. Lee; 16) Stephan Jaeger; 17) Maverick McNealy / Kevin Tway; 19) Abraham Ancer / Alex Smalley; 21) Brendon Todd / Jhonattan Vegas / Gary Woodland; 24) Brian Garnett / Matt Kuchar / Anirban Lahiri / Matthias Schwab / Austin Smotherman / Curtis Thompson.
  • Top 25 SG Total: 1) Rory McIlroy; 2) Hideki Matsuyama; 3) Robert MacIntyre; 4) Adam Hadwin / Patton Kizzire; 6) Chris Kirk; 7) Corey Conners; 8) Keegan Bradley; 9) Rasmus Hojgaard / Matthias Schwab; 11) Ian Poulter / Gary Woodland; 13) Maverick McNealy; 14) Russell Knox; 15) Takumi Kanaya; 16) Tyler Duncan / K.H. Lee; 18) Abraham Ancer; 19) Mito Pereira; 20) Richard Bland / Dylan Frittelli / Sam Ryder / Jhonattan Vegas; 24) Beau Hossler / Austin Smotherman / Adam Svensson.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the winners of the Valero Texas Open since 2013 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this test:

  • 2021, Jordan Spieth (-18). 307 yards (23rd), 51.8% fairways (49th), 58.3% greens in regulation (57th), 35’10” proximity to hole (29th), 80.0 % scrambling (4th), 1.52 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2019, Corey Conners (-20). 302 yards (28th), 64.3% fairways (7th), 81.9% greens in regulation (1st), 28’8″ proximity to hole (2nd), 30.8 % scrambling (70th), 1.53 putts per GIR (1st).
  • 2018, Andrew Landry (-17). 298 yards (46th), 58.9% fairways (29th), 73.6% greens in regulation (1st), 33’11” proximity to hole (7th), 78.9 % scrambling (2nd), 1.60 putts per GIR (4th).
  • 2017, Kevin Chappell (-12). 297 yards (25th), 58.9% fairways (35th), 72.2% greens in regulation (3rd), 35’7″ proximity to hole (10th), 65.0 % scrambling (26th), 1.69 putts per GIR (14th).
  • 2016, Charley Hoffman (-12). 301 yards (4th), 64.3% fairways (34th), 68.1% greens in regulation (17th), 37’8″ proximity to hole (47th), 65.2 % scrambling (42nd), 1.59 putts per GIR (2nd).
  • 2015, Jimmy Walker (-11). 303 yards (4th), 53.6% fairways (45th), 70.8% greens in regulation (1st), proximity to hole 38’10” (16th), 61.9 % scrambling (27th), 1.65 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2014, Steven Bowditch (-8). 297 yards (15th), 51.8% fairways (49th), 61.1% greens in regulation (15th), proximity to hole 39’7″ (51st), 71.4 % scrambling (11th), 1.64 putts per GIR (5th).
  • 2013, Martin Laird (-14). 298 yards (20th), 66.1% fairways (8th), 69.4% greens in regulation (7th), proximity to hole 36’1″ (37th), 63.6% scrambling (37th), 1.60 putts per GIR (4th).

Tournament Skill Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 21st, Driving Accuracy: 32nd, Greens in Regulation: 13th, Proximity to Hole: 26th, Scrambling: 29th, Putting Average 5th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 2021, Jordan Spieth (-18). SG Off the Tee: 38th, SG Approach: 4th, SG Around the Green: 3rd, SG Tee to Green: 3rd, SG Putting: 6th.
  • 2019, Corey Conners (-20). SG Off the Tee: 4th, SG Approach: 1st, SG Around the Green: 58th, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 26th.
  • 2018, Andrew Landry (-17). SG Off the Tee: 9th, SG Approach: 1st, SG Around the Green: 33rd, SG Tee to Green: 1st, SG Putting: 8th.
  • 2017, Kevin Chappell (-12). SG Off the Tee: 4th, SG Approach: 2nd, SG Around the Green: 32nd, SG Tee to Green: 2nd, SG Putting: 21st.
  • 2016, Charley Hoffman (-12). SG Off the Tee: 8th, SG Approach: 16th, SG Around the Green: 49th, SG Tee to Green: 10th, SG Putting: 4th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Skill Averages:

  • SG Off the Tee: 13th, SG Approach: 5th, SG Around the Green: 35th, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 13th.

Traditional Skill Set Averages:

  • Driving Distance: 33rd, Driving Accuracy: 26th, Greens in Regulation: 19th, Scrambling: 22nd, Putting Average 2nd.

Let’s take a view from players as to how the Oaks Course sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

Jordan Spieth: “In the fairway on 8, if you told my I could play in even par, I would have taken it, so no reason to get too upset on 9. I did for sure steal one. I had 208 to that back right pin. I was trying to just kind of cut it into the breeze and have it come down short of the ridge. The wind kind of stopped, so it got all the way back there and took advantage. I won’t make many birdies from that far out on that hole very often.

So I really like the way I played 18 today. Driver, 3-wood onto that green, and to hold that green is really, really challenging. I can use those couple swings for some confidence into tomorrow.”

Corey Conners (2019): “Yeah, it was great. I hit the ball really well. Never really got myself out of position except for No. 10, where I drove it a little right. Other than that, it was really solid ball-striking. I was able to make some putts. Basically took care of the holes that you need to take care of, the par 5s, and No. 5, a short par 4, I was able to make birdie. Other than that, just kept it pretty simple. There’s a few pins that are close to some slopes, so played a little safer on some shots, but struck it really well. So just tried to keep it simple and scored well.”

Andrew Landry (2018): “This is a good golf course for me, it sets up well for my driving. You’ve got to be pretty accurate out here. Like you said, the rough, I don’t know what happened but the overseed might have not came in as good as I guess they wanted and you can get some pretty sketchy you lies around those greens. Not sketchy as in it’s in bad shape, but sketchy as in the ball sits down and you’re having to hit some higher shots on some tight lies. But I luckily avoided all those today and I think I had maybe one and I made a par with it.

This place, all around the greens it’s really tough right now, tee shots as well. The wind’s kind of swirling all over the place. The greens, they’ve been really receptive this week. And I went to a new set of irons this week, new shafts, and it’s just made a total difference with being able to get spin on the ball and the height of it that’s coming in, I’ve been able to stop a lot more long irons now. It’s just been nice. It’s been a good treat that I’m finally getting some good golf shots out of it and here we are.”

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 winners of the Valero Texas Open since 2010:

  • 2021 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2019 – Corey Conners: Round 1: 17th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 2nd.
  • 2018 – Andrew Landry: Round 1: 7th, Round 2: 3rd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2017 – Kevin Chappell: Round 1: 19th, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2016 – Charley Hoffman: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 2nd, Round 3: 3rd.
  • 2015 – Jimmy Walker: Round 1: 6th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2014 – Steven Bowditch: Round 1: 4th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2013 – Martin Laird: Round 1: 17th, Round 2: 15th, Round 3: 7th.
  • 2012 – Ben Curtis: Round 1: 3rd, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2011 – Brendan Steele: Round 1: 8th, Round 2: 1st, Round 3: 1st.
  • 2010 – Adam Scott: Round 1: 25th, Round 2: 22nd, Round 3: 6th.

Shots From the Lead: Below are the shots from the lead during the tournament of the Valero Texas Open winners since 2010:

  • 2021 – Jordan Spieth: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 2 back, Round 3: level.
  • 2019 – Corey Conners: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 1 back.
  • 2018 – Andrew Landry: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: level.
  • 2017 – Kevin Chappell: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 1 back, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2016 – Charley Hoffman: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: 3 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2015 – Jimmy Walker: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 1 ahead, Round 3: 4 ahead.
  • 2014 – Steven Bowditch: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 8 back, Round 3: 2 back.
  • 2013 – Martin Laird: Round 1: 3 back, Round 2: 5 back, Round 3: 5 back.
  • 2012 – Ben Curtis: Round 1: 4 back, Round 2: 2 ahead, Round 3: 3 ahead.
  • 2011 – Brendan Steele: Round 1: 2 back, Round 2: level, Round 3: 1 ahead.
  • 2010 – Adam Scott: Round 1: 5 back, Round 2: 4 back, Round 3: 3 back.

Form of Valero Texas Open winners since 2010:

  • Jordan Spieth: 9th WMP/48th Players/4th Arnold Palmer/15th Genesis.
  • Corey Conners: MC Corales/41st Players/MC Bay Hill /MC Puerto Rico.
  • Andrew Landry: 42nd Harbour/MC PGA National/MC Riviera/MC TPC Scottsdale.
  • Kevin Chappell: 7th Augusta/44th Houston/39th WMP/49th Bay Hill.
  • Charley Hoffman: 14th Harbour/29th Augusta/33rd Houston/11th Copperhead
  • Jimmy Walker: 31st Doral /41st Riviera/21st Pebble/7th Torrey.
  • Steven Bowditch: MC Copperhead/37th Puerto Rico/MC PGA National/MC Riviera.
  • Martin Laird: MC Houston/34th Bay Hill/70th Copperhead/MC PGA National.
  • Ben Curtis: MC Houston/14th Puerto Rico/13th Dubai/47th Qatar.
  • Brendan Steele: 51st Houston/38th Bay Hill /MC Copperhead/MC Puerto Rico.
  • Adam Scott: 26th TPC Sawgrass/MC Quail Hollow/18th Augusta/14th Houston.

First Round Leader Analysis: First round leader(s), their wave and winning score since 2010. Full First Round Leader stats are here.

  • 2021 – Villegas – PM -8/64 – 150/1.
  • 2019 – Si Woo Kim – AM -6/66 – 66/1.
  • 2018 – Murray – AM -5/67 – 100/1.
  • 2017 – Grace – AM -6/66 – 33/1.
  • 2016 – Steele – PM -8/64.
  • 2015 – Hoffman – PM -5/67
  • 2014 – Loupe – PM -5/67.
  • 2013 – Bettencourt / Tomasulo – Both PM -5/67.
  • 2012 – Every – AM -9/63.
  • 2011 – Cink / Henry – AM/PM Split -5/67.
  • 2010 – Jones – AM -6/66.

We face an interesting conundrum this week with regards the difficult 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 was once a real beast of a track with tough scoring conditions, but recent renewals have been won at -18/270, -20/268 and -17/271. The Texas wind and its direction can really dictate scoring, and it’s abundantly clear that when holes 1, 4 and 10 were made less challenging with green re-sculpting and fairway widening work prior to 2013’s renewal, difficulty was significantly eased. Even so, greens are 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.

Pre-Major tournaments always have a slightly strange feel to them, but the week prior to The Masters in recent times has been pretty difficult to read. 2020 saw the Houston Open precede The Masters, both played in November, and despite OWGR No 1 Dustin Johnson being right in the mix for victory, non Augusta National qualifier Carlos Ortiz snared his maiden PGA Tour title.

Critiquing the April Masters ‘curtain raisers’, we know that the vast majority of the respective fields are ignoring Augusta on the basis that they are not qualified. Corey Conners here at TPC San Antonio in 2019 falls into this category, plus Ian Poulter (2018), Russell Henley (2017) and Jim Herman (2016) across the previous 3 years played at the GC of Houston. And 2014 also saw Matt Jones win in this pre-Masters week with no Augusta qualification weighing on his mind. Extrapolate that to TPC San Antonio in 2013, where Martin Laird again grabbed a last minute invite to the first Major of the year, and there’s a line of enquiry that suggests we look for non-Augusta qualifiers. After all, 7 of the past 9 winners of the Masters warm-up event weren’t already in the field for the following week’s main event.

But we have 2 exceptions. The first was J.B. Holmes in 2015 who was ranked 20th in the OWGR and came into Houston off of 2 runner-up finishes in his previous 2015 outings. Whether he thought he had a serious chance of putting on a Green Jacket at Augusta is open to debate, and instead he took the opportunity of lifting his 4th PGA Tour title, when he was undoubtedly playing some of the very best golf of his career.

The second exemption is defending champion Jordan Spieth, who we were on-board 12 months ago at 16/1. Winless in over 3 and a half years, Spieth, who ranked at 53rd in the OWGR, has always been one that likes to hit Majors with a top performance the outing before. 4th at TPC Scottsdale, 3rd at Pebble Beach and 4th at Bay Hill in the build-up, with a more compliant driver Spieth was undoubtedly trending and he took advantage of a weak field to take his 12th PGA Tour and 2nd Texas win.

My final Valero Texas Open tips are as follows:

Abraham Ancer 2pts EW – WD Pre-Event

Abraham Ancer caught the eye last week at Austin Country Club. Wins over Bubba Watson (3&1) plus Webb Simpson (2 Up) and a Thursday tie with Brian Harman – all Pete Dye experts – qualified him for the last 16, where he impressively took out Collin Morikawa 7&6. His flag eventually fell to Corey Conners, who he took to the 18th hole in defeat. Purely from a Strokes Gained Total perspective, he ranked 14th in the Group stages and that was his best 2022 performance on the PGA Tour, plus he looked good to my eye as well. It suggests that he’s getting used to the Callaway Woods and Odyssey putter which were new in his bag at the turn of the year.

Buoyed by his best performance at the Match Play and that huge victory over Morikawa, I can see Abraham going well at an event which must be close to his heart. Born in the Lone Star State – he holds dual Mexican/USA citizenship – he’s a San Antonio resident who will be sleeping in his own bed this week. He’s also the sort whose played his very best stuff either side of Major Championships. 8th at the 2018 Houston Open preceded the Masters, whereas 2nd at the Wells Fargo Championship last year was his pre-PGA Championship outing. His maiden win also came in a stretch where he played the Open Championship and then the Olympics.

TPC Southwind is no picnic of a golf course (featuring Champion Bermudagrass greens) and let’s not also forget that Ancer won the 2018 Australian Open at a firm The Lakes Golf Club in Sydney. A super record at PGA West (The American Express) where he has finished 2nd (2020) and 5th (2021) makes plenty of sense when you look at Texas Open champions Kevin Chappell, Charley Hoffman and Andrew Landry, plus Ancer is a perennial top 12 finisher at El Camaleon, which is Greg Norman’s other PGA Tour design. Result: WD Pre-Event

Gary Woodland 1.25pts EW 35/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Gary Woodland arrives in San Antonio with nothing but momentum and a Masters invite in his back pocket.

The 2019 U.S. Open winner does not have to worry about entry to Major Championships this year, but instead he must be focussed right now on continuing what has been a very positive rehabilitation journey in 2022. Fit and athletic again, Gary is building that inexorable movement towards a 5th PGA Tour victory, fuelled by an excellent Florida Swing: 5th at the Honda, 5th at the Arnold Palmer (he should have won) and 17th at the Valspar, Woodland pocketed $858,000 and 255 FedEx Cup points in the Sunshine State.

Across my 8-week Strokes Gained Tracker in this field he ranks 16th for Approach, 16th for Tee to Green, 21st for Putting and 11th for Current Form, so he’s undoubtedly in good nick. 26th (2015) and 6th here last year, Woodland ranked 6th for Tee to Green and he’s clearly an excellent fit for the course.

Correlating course form also works. 9th (2020) and 14th (2021) at Colonial works nicely with Valero champions Scott, Conners and Spieth, and he’s also finished 7th (2014) and 12th (2016) at TPC Las Colinas, which used to host the Byron Nelson. That’s a course where more Valero champions in the form of Bowditch, Walker and Hoffman have had success. A runner-up at PGA West (2011) and a winner at Copperhead (2011) plus TPC Scottsdale (2018) on similar overseeded Bermudagrass greens, I like the 37 year old’s chances this week. RESULT: T8

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Chris Kirk 1.25pts EW 33/1 (10EW, 1/5) with Boylesports

Chris Kirk is another, like Gary Woodland, who you just cannot ignore this week on the basis he has current form and course form.

Hailing from Athens, Georgia, which is just 95 miles north-west up IS 78 from Augusta National, a first ‘home game’ since the 2016 Masters must appeal for a player in such rich form. Up to 85th in the OWGR, Kirk has finished 14th at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, 7th at the Honda Classic (when we were on-board at 66/1) and 5th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational. Solid form and he’s hung around under the pump on Sundays to boot.

Course form is also decent. A TPC San Antonio regular, Kirk has finished 8th (2015), 13th (2016) 8th (2018) and 6th (2021) across 7 appearances. Indeed across 2016-2021 events here he ranks 11th for Strokes Gained Total, which jumps to 8th for those who have played here multiple times. And let’s not forget that Chris has some great Texas results amongst his CV as well 2nd at the 2011 Houston Open was the week before The Masters that year. 16th (2011), 5th (2012), 1st (2015), 15th (2016) and 11th (2018) at Colonial Country Club also jumps from the page. He was also a Quarter Finalist at the 2016 WGC Dell Match Play which was the first one to be played at Austin Country Club.

Across my 8-week Strokes Gained Tracker in this field he ranks 11th for Off the Tee, 13th for Approach, 3rd for Tee to Green and 6th for Current Form, so he’s a must pick for me this week. RESULT: T35

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Jhonattan Vegas 1pt EW 45/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

I’ll stick with Jhonattan Vegas for another week. The former Texas Longhorn is sure to be on a high after seeing Scottie Scheffler win the WGC Dell World Match Play last week and climb to the top of the Official Golf World Rankings. He should also be very pleased with his own playing performance last week at the Corales Championship. Stuck on the wrong side of the draw, which lost over 2 strokes, he lost by 2 shots to Chad Ramey, who maximised the Thursday/Friday weather conditions which fell in his favour. Vegas shot –11/133 over the weekend proceedings in the Dominican Republic, but needs to keep his foot hard to the floor if he wants to make inroads into the reckoning for the President’s Cup International team.

TPC San Antonio suits top-level drivers of the golf ball in the main, and Vegas ranks 21st for Total Driving and 12th for Strokes Gained Off the Tee so far in season 2021/22. 7th and 15th for Greens in Regulation across both Valspar and Corales the past couple of weeks, Vegas has also ranked 17th and 9th for Ball Striking. ‘Johnnie’ was 4th here after 54 holes in 2019, before having a disappointing Sunday and finishing 30th.

2 of his last 3 outings in Texas are also fascinating. 9th at the Byron Nelson Championship last May at TPC Craig Ranch was strong, and Vegas was also 2nd after 54 holes at the stretching Memorial Park last November before falling back to 26th, so he likes playing in the Lone Star State, where he still lives (Houston in fact).  I can also remember Vegas finishing 4th at the 2016 Barbasol Championship and winning the RBC Canadian Open a week later at Glen Abbey GC, so let’s hope lightening strikes twice.RESULT: T18

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Doug Ghim 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with William Hill

Texas Longhorns (University of Texas golf team) players past and present, plus supporters, must be celebrating another huge achievement in the professional game right now.

Scottie Scheffler’s WGC Dell Technologies Match Play victory in Austin was huge on the basis that Scottie followed Jordan Spieth to the very summit of the professional game. That’s pretty incredible for a University that has already produced 2-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw, U.S. Open champion Tom Kite and 1997 Open champion Justin Leonard. Fellow Longhorns Dylan Frittelli, Kramer Hickok, Beau Hossler, Jhonattan Vegas and defending Valero Texas Open champion Jordan Spieth are all in the field this week, but I’m taking another team member Doug Ghim onto my card this week.

The 2018 Ben Hogan Award winner and ex-World Amateur No1 is into his 3rd season on the PGA Tour and is undoubtedly beginning to peak. Last season Strokes Gained-wise he ranked 45th for Off the Tee, 21st for Approach and 21st for Tee to Green. That 21st was a place better than Scottie Scheffler and was just behind the likes of Corey Conners, Hideki Matsuyama, Tony Finau and Xander Schauffele. Catch him at a tournament where he can putt even half decently and Ghim is a dangerous player.

44th here on his TPC San Antonio debut, Ghim gained a mammoth 9.1 strokes Tee to Green (he ranked 7th in that category) and lost an incredible 7.5 strokes putting. That’s Doug Ghim captured in a couple of seconds, but the 25 year-old must arrive in TPC San Antonio in the very best of spirits this week.

Last time we saw him, Doug was in the final group at The Players Championship starting Monday, just a single shot off leader Anirban Lahiri. 9th for Tee to Green that week in Florida, Ghim actually ranked in the top 12 after 54 holes for Putting, prior to the white hot heat of a Players Championship final round. Naturally the putter wasn’t nearly as compliant on Monday, but he hung around to finish 6th which has to be massive for confidence as he earned $675,000, 101 FedEx Cup points and his biggest ever helping of OWGR points.

5th at PGA West in 2021 correlates nicely with Valero champions Charley Hoffman and Andrew Landry, plus Doug was 14th last time he played in Texas at last year’s Charles Schwab Challenge at Colonial Country Club. He seems ready to have a big week. RESULT: MC

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Brendan Steele 1pt EW 80/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfred

I will close with Brendan Steele who fired very nicely at The Players Championship last time out. A prodigious driver off the golf ball, the Irvine, California native finished a fine 13th at TPC Sawgrass, powered by a pair of -3/69s in the mid-rounds. That backed up a 26th at Bay Hill, which ended a run of 6 missed cuts which had blighted his 2022 to date.

1st (2011), 4th (2012), 8th (2015) and 13th (2016) here across 10 appearances at TPC San Antonio, Steele has earned $1,748,000 on this golf course, so he clearly knows his way around – a little like Charley Hoffman. But whereas Hoffman’s game is in a poor current state, Steele has ranked 4th and 5th for Strokes Gained Tee to Green across his last 2 Florida starts. 2nd for Total Driving and 2nd for Ball Striking on the Stadium Course, is high level playing indeed.

The second best driver in this field over the past 8 weeks behind only Rory McIlroy in my 8 week Strokes Gained trackers, Brendan also ranks 17th in this field for Tee to Green over the same period. The sort of player who has played well on the same tracks throughout his career, Brendan has come very close to winning across both the 2020 and 2021 Sony Opens at Waialae, the 2020 Honda Classic at PGA National, plus the 2021 ZOZO Championship at Narashino CC in recent times. If the tee-to-green game remains elite and the putter warms on greens he knows very well this week, expect a contending performance. RESULT: T48

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 16:00BST 28.3.22 but are naturally subject to fluctuation.