For the third time in five weeks, The PGA Tour lands in The Lone Star State. The Valero Texas Open and TPC San Antonio provide one of the season’s more arduous tasks with both a demanding course and challenging elements.
There are difficult golf courses and there are difficult playing conditions. At The Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio, the site of this week’s Valero Texas Open, one will find both. A common by-product of the transition from winter to spring in the Southwestern United States is wind and we will once again be getting some this week in Texas. One of the oldest tournaments on The PGA Tour, The Valero Texas Open, moved to TPC San Antonio in 2010. In the last three seasons, it has been one of the hardest courses on the schedule in terms of scoring, averaging more than a shot over par.
The Oaks Course is a Greg Norman design with help from player consultant, Sergio Garcia. I find it interesting that Norman and Garcia, a couple of the best to ever play the game, neither with many flaws in their games, doing just about everything very well – have created a golf course that too asks one to be very good in all aspects. In its short history of hosting the tournament, the golf course has not yielded a truly definitive set of skills that stand out above the rest as guaranteed indicators of success. Driving Accuracy is important. Trees line the fairways but the fairways are pretty wide. Driving Distance has arguably been more important here than accuracy. Scoring on the Par 5’s is definitely something that will need to be done this week in order to climb up the leaderboard. The course features one of the hardest collection of long holes on Tour. Greens In Regulation will be crucial as it always is and in conjunction, so will Scrambling. With the wind in the forecast expected to blow in the neighborhood of 15-to-20 MPH, it is going to blow some shots off line and missing greens in regulation will not be uncommon – thus scrambling becomes a factor.
Maybe another 5-to-10 years from now, we will see a more clear cut pattern of skills that determine success here at TPC San Antonio but in the mean time, we do have an indicator course that can aid in our handicap and that is El Camaleon – the host golf course for the Tour’s OHL Classic at Mayakoba. This is another wind-swept Greg Norman design in Playa Del Carmen, near Cancun. Watch for players that have done well here to have some crossover success this week in Texas.
Sergio Garcia (+14.55 Bookmaker) El Nino has not played here since the golf course’s debut in 2010 when he finished 45th. Contributing to the design has to give him some exclusive insight and before his unraveling at the 15th hole at The Masters, he put together three Top 10 finishes in March.
Matt Kuchar (+18.56 Pinnacle) Kuchar hasn’t missed a cut all season and hasn’t missed a cut here in six straight trips to the new venue, TPC San Antonio. In those six visits, he’s finished Top 25 four times.
Charley Hoffman (+20.58 Bookmaker) The UNLV Rebel is the all-time money leader at The Valero Texas Open and won it here just two years ago. Hoffman credits his days in Las Vegas with learning how to play in the wind. He was 40th here last year but in seven trips prior to that, he’s never been worse than 13th.
Ryan Moore (+28.17 Bookmaker) Moore is another who played his college golf at UNLV. He’s been playing very well as of late, going 16-28-and-5 in his last three starts. He’s been here twice, finishing 8th in 2012 and 18th last year. Moore was also 6th at Mayakoba in November.
Brendan Steele (+33.00 5Dimes) Missing the cut at The Masters was the first all season for Brendan Steele. He won The Valero Texas Open in 2011 and has added three Top 15 finishes here since then.
Billy Horschel (+35.26 Bookmaker) Going back to Pebble Beach in February, Horschel has missed five cuts in his last seven starts but he turned that around last week with a 5th at Harbour Town. He may just be gearing up for Texas, where he has finished Top 5 in three out of the last five years.
The Long Shots
Zach Johnson (+45.00 5Dimes) A two-time Major Champion, Zach continues to show up in this column as he is having himself one very good 2018 season. He hasn’t missed a cut since the summer of 2017 and he was 23rd earlier this season at Mayakoba. Before the event moved to The Oaks Course, Johnson won here in 2008. He was 6th at this course in 2014.
Jamie Lovemark (+49.79 Pinnacle) Lovemark comes in on a good run and took 24th in Texas three weeks ago at The Houston Open. His strengths match up well here as he is good from tee to green and scrambles very well. He took 40th at this event last year.
Scott Piercy (+66.00 Bookmaker) Similar line for Piercy as he finished 40th here in 2015 in brutal conditions and also comes in playing well, having taken 16th last week in Hilton Head and 24th in Houston. A Las Vegas native, Piercy is accustom to that southwest wind.
Pat Perez (+39.82 Bookmaker) The Arizona State Sundevil has had quite a resurgence in his career the past two years and he’s recorded victories in each of those last two seasons, one being at The OHL Classic in Mayakoba. Spending much of his youth in San Diego and playing at ASU, he is familiar with this week’s southwestern parts. On Tour, Perez is 11th in Driving Accuracy, 4th in Greens In Regulation, 5th in Birdie Average, 36th in Strokes Gained: Putting, and 14th in Par 5 Scoring. He hasn’t played this event in a couple of years but in four appearances at The Oaks Course, he’s gone 20-11-5-and-22. I like the good fortune for Pat Perez to continue this week.
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