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Steve Bamford's Valero Texas Open Tips 2019

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With the 2019 WGC Dell Technologies Match Play in the rear-view mirror (congratulations to Kevin Kisner backers), we’ve almost made it to the hallowed grounds of Augusta National. Just a single week separates us from what has to be the most anticipated Masters for years with Rory McIlroy, Dustin Johnson, Justin Rose and Tiger Woods heading the betting. My 2019 Masters betting preview is ready to read here with my full betting tips preview out early next week.

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 the last time it was played the week before The Masters was is in 2013 when Martin Laird won at 100/1. The last Masters invite is also up for grabs for any non-qualified winner this week.

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Before we talk the Valero Texas Open, the number of new visitors to Golf Betting System is increasing in the inevitable build-up to The Masters. Welcome to you all and let me point you in the direction of our weekly Golf Betting System podcast (published Tuesday) our Golf Betting Show on YouTube and our hugely popular private group on Facebook – you can Join Here. Masters lovers will also enjoy our Ante-post Masters Podcast.

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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 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. 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 firmness of the course, and it looks like the field this week are in for another tough and particularly hot test.

AT&T 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. 2018: 72.37 (+0.35), Difficulty Rank of 12 of 51 courses.

Fairway Widths (yards): Below are the fairway widths for the AT&T 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; 275:33; 300:32; 325:29 350:20.
  • Bay Hill: 250 yards from the tee: 33 yards wide; 275:34; 300:34; 325:39 350:29.
  • PGA National: 250 yards from the tee: 29 yards wide; 275:27; 300:25; 325:26 350:25.
  • Riviera: 250 yards from the tee: 34 yards wide; 275:29; 300:25; 325:27 350:27.
  • Pebble Beach: 250 yards from the tee: 41 yards wide; 275:37; 300:33; 325:34 350:30.
  • TPC Scottsdale: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:30; 300:29; 325:29 350:29.
  • Torrey Pines South: 250 yards from the tee: 27 yards wide; 275:27; 300:26; 325:25 350:23.
  • TPC Stadium: 250 yards from the tee: 31 yards wide; 275:30; 300:29; 325:29; 350:27.
  • Waialae: 250 yards from the tee: 35 yards wide; 275:32; 300:33; 325:37; 350:34.
  • Plantation Course: 250 yards from the tee: 54 yards wide; 275:58; 300:62; 325:57; 350:61.

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

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

Course Overview: The Oaks Course layout is undoubtedly a brute, although it was hard to see that 12 months ago when organisers watered 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 -17/271 total. But make no mistake, the Oaks Course is one of the tougher courses on Tour. A mixture of course length, intimidating tee shots, all manner of off-fairway hazards and tough, undulating green complexes make the 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 were the 9th hardest to hit on the PGA Tour last season.

Up until the last renewal 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 3 of the previous 6 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. 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 290 yard hitters can win around here. Runners-up Trey Mullinax and Sean O’Hair were still very high up in the par-5 scoring that week though and it’s worth noting that 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 5 on Tour for par-5 Birdie or Better Conversion, we need to look for players who are at the top of their ball-striking power right now.

Winners: 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).

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 | 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 Matt Kuchar, Luke List, Jordan Spieth, Jim Furyk, Jhonattan Vegas, Tony Finau, Jason Kokrak, Rickie Fowler, Charley Hoffman and D.J. Trahan.

Recent Player Skill Rankings: These rankings are based on an 8-tournament window that stretches back to the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, which includes 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:

  • Driving Accuracy: 1) Jim Furyk; 2) Brian Gay; 3) Jim Herman; 4) Russell Henley / Kenny Perry; 6) Tyler Duncan / Scott Langley; 8) Ryan Armour / Davis Love III; 10) K.J. Choi; 11) Ben Silverman; 12) Matt Kuchar; 13) Daniel Berger / Kyle Stanley; 15) George McNeill; 16) Abraham Ancer / Kyle Jones; 18) Kramer Hickok / Brady Schnell; 20) Vaughn Taylor.
  • Greens in Regulation: 1) Jason Kokrak / Matt Kuchar; 3) Jim Furyk; 4) Rickie Fowler; 5) Lucas Glover; 6) Wyndham Clark; 7) Hank Lebioda / Brendan Steele; 9) Lucas Bjerregaard; 10) Sepp Straka; 11) Nick Taylor; 12) J.J. Henry / Joaquin Niemann / Carlos Ortiz; 15) George McNeill; 16) K.H. Lee / Ryan Palmer / Jhonattan Vegas; 19) Scott Stallings; 20) Byeong-Hun An; 21) Charley Hoffman.
  • Putting Average (Putts per GIR): 1) Vaughn Taylor; 2) Jonathan Byrd; 3) Wyndham Clark; 4) Rickie Fowler; 5) Ollie Schniederjans; 6) Jordan Spieth; 7) Tony Finau; 8) D.J. Trahan; 9) Charley Hoffman / Rory Sabbatini; 11) Scott Langley; 12) Seth Reeves; 13) Aaron Baddeley / Freddie Jacobson / Curtis Luck; 16) Billy Horschel / Si Woo Kim; 18) Kenny Perry; 19) Roger Sloan; 20) Scott Stallings. 21) Matt Jones.

Winners & Prices: 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 5 Renewals Average: 128/1; Overall Average: 135/1.

Historical Weather:

  • 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. March has been a dry month in San Antonio, so unless it rains on Wednesday evening (there’s a 50% chance), I’m expecting the same firm and fast fairway conditions as we saw here 12 months ago when even the likes of Zach Johnson was well over 300 yards off the tee. Conditions look pretty ideal across Thursday and Friday with little wind and temperatures up to 28 degrees Celsius. Saturday though is where things change with a passing front passing through the area. A 60% chance of thunderstorms and winds up to 30 mph will likely see play delayed or suspended in the morning. When the rain stops, strong winds remain a feature for the rest of the day. Things calm right down on Sunday, with potentially a softer course and little wind to hurt scoring.

Tournament Trends & Key Factors: Analysing the final stats of the 9 winners since 2010 gives us a little more insight into the requirements for this:

  • 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).
  • 2012, Ben Curtis (-9). 269 yards (74th), 73.2% fairways (2nd), 68.1% greens in regulation (1st), proximity to hole 31’3″ (2nd), 73.9% scrambling (4th), 1.69 putts per GIR (15th).
  • 2011, Brendan Steele (-8). 303 yards (10th), 64.3% fairways (7th), 58.3% greens in regulation (40th), proximity to hole 39’5″ (51st), 73.3% scrambling (2nd), 1.69 putts per GIR (13th).
  • 2010, Adam Scott (-14). 306 yards (5th), 53.6% fairways (40th), 66.7% greens in regulation (19th), proximity to hole 37’3″ (38th), 79.2% scrambling (2nd), 1.69 putts per GIR (15th).

Tournament Skill Average:

  • Driving Distance: 22nd, Driving Accuracy: 24th, Greens in Regulation: 12th, Proximity to Hole: 29th, Scrambling: 17th, Putting Average 9th.

Strokes Gained Tournament Trends:

  • 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: 7th, SG Approach: 6th, SG Around the Green: 38th, SG Tee to Green: 4th, SG Putting: 11th.

Let’s take a view from players as to how the AT&T Oaks Course sets up and what skill sets the course favours:

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 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 last 9 Valero Texas Open winners:

  • 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 last 9 Valero winners and where they were positioned in terms of shots from the lead during the tournament:

  • 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.

Incoming form of winners since 2010:

  • 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.

  • 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 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.

Pre-Major tournaments always have a slightly strange feel to them and the week prior to The Masters is perennially difficult to read. Most of the field are ignoring Augusta on the basis that they haven’t qualified: Ian Poulter (2017), Russell Henley (2016) and Jim Herman (2016) fall into this category across the past 3 years played at the GC of Houston; 2014 also saw Matt Jones win this 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 6 of the past 7 winners of the Masters warm-up event weren’t already in the field for the following week’s main event.

My selections are as follows:

Abraham Ancer 1.5pts EW 45/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Sportingbet

In Brendan Steele, Steven Bowditch, Kevin Chappell and Andrew Landry, we have players who have used the Valero Texas Open as a launchpad to capture their first PGA Tour title. And in San Antonio local Abraham Ancer, I think we could see another maiden victor at a course he must know very well.

Ancer has dual American and Mexican citizenship and is based in San Antonio. He’s also played some fantastic golf over the past 12 months. 2017/18 was undoubtedly a breakout season for the upwardly mobile World Number 58 who started to rack up top-5 and top-10 results aplenty. 9th at El Camaleon, 8th at the Golf Club of Houston, 4th at TPC Potomac, 5th at Glen Abbey and 7th at TPC Boston were delivered by a strong driving and tee-to-green game – ideal for the challenge of the AT&T Oaks Course this week. TPC Boston was his biggest performance on the PGA Tour to date as he led after 54 holes at a tournament which included the biggest names in golf. The Mexican continued to kick on across the late part of 2018 with 5th at the CIMB Classic in Malaysia and 4th at the Shriners Open at TPC Summerlin, the pre-cursor to his Australian Open victory, which saw him beat the likes of Matt Kuchar, Cameron Smith, Brandt Snedeker, Byeong-Hun An and Brendan Steele.

2019 had been relatively quiet until his last 2 outings. Opening rounds of 69-66 put him in 3rd place after 36 holes at The Players and he kept in contention across the weekend, eventually finishing 12th. An undoubtedly strong first appearance in the white heat of a Players Championship where he ranked 6th for Total Driving, 11th for SG Off the Tee, 7th for Ball Striking and 8th for SG Tee to Green. From Florida he travelled back to his Home ‘Lone Star’ State for his debut in the WGC Dell Match Play tournament, where he was drawn as the lowest seed in Group 10 with Paul Casey, Charles Howell III and Cameron Smith. Match 2 and 3 wins over Charles and Cameron can have only boosted his confidence arriving back in San Antonio. 42nd (2016) and 58th (2018) here in his 2 appearances, Ancer is up 133 spots in the OWGR since his last outing here and his strong tee-to-green game should really suit. RESULT T42

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Jhonattan Vegas 1.5pts EW 50/1 (7EW, 1/5) with Sportingbet

Jhonattan Vegas is another ‘Lone Star’ based player who I think deserves respect this week. You could think of Vegas as a resort course bully, a player who only contends on flat tracks, but he’s better than that. A 3-time PGA Tour winner, Vegas is equally adept around tough, classical courses. 3rd at Torrey Pines in 2011, 7th at TPC Sawgrass in 2012, 4th at Congressional in 2012, 10th at Silverado on 2015, 4th at PGA National in 2016, 3rd at Glen Oaks 2017; we can also fast-forward to 2019 where he’s finished 10th at TPC Scottsdale, 16th at PGA National and 3rd at TPC Sawgrass on his second to last appearance. He’s undoubtedly playing some great stuff right now, but he’s on the outside looking in at The Masters, plus all of the 2019 Majors, WGCs and vitally for him, The President’s Cup.

At 80th in the OWGR he’s upwardly mobile (up 45 places since the turn of 2018), but he’s not at the top table of golf, as he was just 12 months ago. So I think he will be more than motivated to play well in San Antonio this week. 34th here in 2017, Vegas was in the top 20 throughout the opening 54 holes and Jhonattan at this precise moment is playing on a different level to what he was then, especially with the putter where he has ranked 6th (Honda Classic) and 7th (The Players) for SG Putting in recent outings. It’s also noticeable that Vegas was 10th at TPC Scottsdale and 3rd at TPC Sawgrass; both courses with green complexes which feature Bermudagrass overseeded with Velvet Bentgrass and Poa Trivialis. RESULT T30

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Scott Stallings 1pt EW 100/1 (8EW, 1/5) with Betfair

Scott Stallings tends to pop up on tougher tracks and he’s playing far better golf in 2019 than he has done for a while. 3rd at the AT&T Pebble Beach in February, Stallings was also 9th last time out at Copperhead where he was 3rd after 36 holes and 4th after 54 holes. 18th for SG on Approach, 8th for Greens in Regulation, 9th for SG Tee to Green and his Achilles Heel the putter also performed well as he was 13th for Putting Average and in the top 30 for SG Putting. All of that makes him an attractive proposition this week at a course where he’s finished 11th in 2011 (as a rookie) and 13th in 2016. The latter performance was off the back of 6 straight missed cuts and Scott was 1st for SG Approach and 2nd for SG Tee to Green across that particular week.

The sort who tends to hold form for a short space of consecutive appearances, the Tennessee man has a number of consecutive top-10 and each-way payouts to his name across his career. 2 of his 3 PGA Tour wins have come at grinding scores of -10/270 (2011 Greenbrier Classic) and -9/281 (2014 Farmers Insurance Open).  Strong results across PGA West, Colonial, Deere Run and Sea Island also link in well with previous winners here in Andrew Landry and Kevin Chappell. RESULT T23

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Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 18:20BST 1.4.19 but naturally subject to fluctuation.