Valero Texas Open
Defending Champ: Charley Hoffman
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Valero Texas Open Field
156 Players | Top 70 and Ties Make the Cut
Congrats to WES-LEY Bryan, merely a trick shot aficionado NO MORE, he’s now a PGA winner. Plus, he looks pretty sharp in tartan, I must say. But that’s in the past. Now, we’re back in the Lone Star state for the Valero Texas Open.
After most of the world’s best skipped the event directly following Augusta, even more are taking a pass this week. None of the world’s Top 10 are making cameos in San Antonio. World No. 15, and local guy, Patrick Reed headlines the field, along with just eight others currently inside the Top 50 in the world rankings: Matt Kuchar (17), Branden Grace (21), Brooks Koepka (24), Jimmy Walker (25), Ryan Moore (28), Kevin Chappell (41), Adam Hadwin (46), and Charley Hoffman (49).
The Masters this is not.
The remainder of the field is comprised of PGA Tour regulars and the mid-carders of the international talent scene. Byeong-Hun An, Soren Kjeldsen, Anirban Lahiri, Graeme McDowell, Luke Donald, Danny Lee, Cameron Smith, BEEF, CT Pan, and Ian Poulter. After a T11 in Harbour Town last week, Poulter needs $30,000 to retain his TOUR Card, so that’s a storyline you’ll get sick of hearing if he’s on the Thursday/Friday coverage.
Also, if you play a drinking game for every time the commentators bring up Kevin Na’s infamous 16 from 2011, you’re going end up with the same fate as the 10th grader who chugs a pint of vodka at a house party – in the hospital getting your stomach pumped.
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Not all is lost, though. There is a solid contingent of young players padding the back end. Bryson Dechambeau has returned for his second appearance in San Antonio, and Ollie Schniederjans is making his tournament debut, fresh off contending for most of the final round on Sunday. We also get man-bun enthusiast, and U.S. and Asian Amateur champion, Curtis Luck making his first start as a professional. He’s ‘excited’ for money. Like everyone else on Earth. 22-year-old, University of Texas alum, Beau Hossler will be lurking around the grounds. As will Palmer Cup winner and Walker Cup participant ribbon owner Robby Shelton, and Jordan Niebrugge who you may remember from his T6 at The Open in 2015. Because nothing he’s done in between is all that noteworthy — seven consecutive missed cuts missed before a T46 on the Web.com Tour in March.
Valero Texas Open Key Stats
Strokes Gained: Off-The-Tee
Par 4 Efficiency 450-500
Birdies or Better 175-200 Yards
Valero Texas Open Course
TPC San Antonio | 7,435 Yards | Par 72
TPC San Antonio is sort of an amalgamation of the last two courses we’ve seen. Like Augusta, driving the ball is critical to success; similar to Harbour Town, scrambling is going to be essential with the difficult-to-hit greens. Oh, and wind has the potential to wreck anyone’s round. If you don’t believe me, just consult anyone who played in the morning draw round one in 2015. The course is long, the rough is short, and the opportunity to make birdies is just as easy as bogeys.
With over 40% of approach shots coming from 150-200 yards out, I’ll be targeting ball strikers, who do damage off the tee, who have tendencies to gain strokes on approaches from that range. Now, that’s not the only recipe for success, but it’s the one I find to be more consistently projectable. I mean, any player who heats up with the putter it’s going to contend.
For the design itself, Greg Norman (with an assist from Sergio Garcia) tailored a difficult layout, with 54 bunkers, and a blend of short and super long holes to test the field. Two of the Par 5s measure over 600 yards, taking more eagle chance out of play, and another that falls just under the 600-yard barrier. Generally, the easiest scoring holes on any course, two of the Par 5s at TPC San Antonio annually play over par. Then there’s the Par 3s, three of which play over 200 yards, yet aren’t that difficult. It’s a bizarre course.
Frankly, the biggest challenge is going to come on the lengthier Par 4s. There are only four which play over 450 yards, but those holes are four of the six toughest on the track. Playing them at par will suffice, but the Sunday leaderboard will be filled with those who can pile up a few birdies along the way.
Valero Texas Open Picks (Yahoo! Game)
Brendan Steele & Branden Grace – On the heels of an impressive Sunday at The Heritage, Grace seems to have finally righted his game. As will be the theme with many of the picks this week, the South African dominates off the tee and with his irons, but is lost on the greens. Hopefully he can figure that out for a week. Plus, he’s one of the best in the field on approaches from 150-200 yards… Former champ and course horse, Steele continues to churn out paychecks. He’s morphed into Kuchar-lite. You’d have to go back to July’s PGA Championship to find the last time he failed to play the weekend. He continues to be above average in every strokes gained metric, he just needs to avoid that one disastrous stretch which sinks him every week. At a familiar layout, where’s he had success in the past (13/8/MC/46/4/1), I feel like Steele can figure it out at his happy place.
Charley Hoffman, Jimmy Walker, Kevin Chappell & Ryan Moore – Hoffman has played TPC San Antonio every year since the Valero moved venues in 2010, and he’s never missed the cut. In fact, he’s never finished outside the Top 15. Oh, he’s the defending champ and -43 for his career at this venue too… Walker’s tough to figure out. The approaches haven’t been an issue, he’s gained strokes on the field in every 2017 event, but it’s been his off-the-tee work which has been disastrous. And, with that being so critical this week, it makes him a risky proposition despite his pedigree. However his play at The Masters has me thinking he’s started to get his driver corrected, and, if that’s the case, expect a slot on the Sunday leaderboard… Chappell has struggled through identical issues as Walker. He lost to the ability to drive the ball effectively. The irons, always on point. Short game and putting, not an problem. And like Walker, looked much improved at Augusta. Good enough for me in a weak field… I never like taking Moore, solely based on his on-course sartorial decisions, but here we are. He just crushes approaches from 175-200 yards. He’s not only the best in the field, but tops on TOUR in proximity from that range over his past 20 rounds. Normally, I’d be concerned with his driving, but he’s actually gained strokes on the field in his past three starts. If he makes it four, he could win.
Byeong-Hun An & Ryan Palmer – If we’re going to go with one ball striker who kills it off the tee while chipping and putting at the same level as me, why not double down? Both An and Palmer have been gaining strokes off-the-tee and on their approaches every event for the last two months. They simply CANNOT putt: An (193rd), Palmer (205th). I banking one of them pulls it together for one week.
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