The PGA Tour returns to Texas for the second time in the last four weeks, as they head to TPC San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open.
This event has occupied different spots on the PGA Tour schedule, since its inauguration in 1922. Previously part of the Tour’s Fall Series, running alongside the Presidents and Ryder Cups, the event was then moved to the week after the Masters in 2011. In 2013 this event was staged the week before the Masters, meaning the course was setup to mimic Augusta, much like the Shell Houston Open is now. That was the only year this was the case however, as for the next two years, the event moved to 2 weeks prior to the Masters, giving a mini Texas-Swing before the year’s first major.
Any “Masters Hangover’s” should now be blown away and this event very much becomes its own intriguing event, for the second year running. TPC San Antonio has only played host since 2010, so although those who play it annually should be used to this test, it still has the potential to throw in some surprises. With 2013 a very different test than other years, due to its “Augusta setup”, that is already one year to almost disregard in its relatively short span as the host course.
The Course and what it will take to win
TPC San Antonio (Oaks Course), 7,435 yards, Par 72
The Oaks Course here at TPC San Antonio was designed by Australia’s, Greg Norman who is also responsible for El Camaleon in Mayakoba, Mexico – the host of the OHL Classic.
It was Norman’s compatriot, Adam Scott who won the inaugural staging here in 2010 and he preceded 2013 winner Martin Laird as the only two international winners of this event since the turn of the century. Before that Nick Price won, what was then the H.E.B Texas Open, but generally this is an event dominated by Americans.
Jimmy Walker and Steven Bowditch, two Texas residents have won here in the last five years, so home field advantage does seem to apply here, as expected.
The four par-4’s here that are over 450+ yards cause a lot of problems, so much like in Houston and at Augusta, it is important to score well on those, because if you do, you are going to gain strokes on the field.
There are also two par-5’s that stretch over 600 yards which are actually more likely to throw out bogeys than eagles, so again scoring well here is going to help your chances a lot. Here are the last seven winners, their winning scores and where they ranked in Par 5 Performance for the week.
2016 (Hoffman -12) – T1 (-9)
2015 (Walker -11) – 1st (-12)
2014 (Bowditch -8) – T15 (he was -4 and those who tied 1st were -6)
2013 (Laird -14) – 1st (-10)
2012 (Curtis -9) – T32 (he was -2, and Frank Lickliter II was -8)
2011 (Steele -8) – T1 (-7)
2010 (Scott -14) – 11th (-5)
So it is clear how key Par 5 scoring is most years. Four of the last seven winners have ranked 1st and only one (Curtis) ranked outside the top-15 over the long holes that week. Curtis ranked 2nd on the Par 3’s (-4), in addition to going -3 on the Par 4’s, so he had a very well rounded week. Bowditch (2nd) and Scott (5th) both ranked inside the top-5 on Par-4 scoring, with Bowditch going -4 and Scott going -6, so there’s a multitude of ways to get the job done round this course. Taking advantage of the Par-5’s is the most common way to go about business though, here in San Antonio.
A hot putter will be essential also, with Bowditch (65th) the only player to rank worse than 12th in Strokes Gained: Putting for the week, and him and Scott were the only two to rank worse than 5th.
Something else to keep in mind, much like last week is the windy conditions. A breeze can certainly get up here, with the 2015 renewal the strongest evidence of that. In Round One that year, the morning wave averaged over 78, which dropped roughly four strokes for those in the afternoon groupings.
The OHL Classic is a good correlating event, as the winners of each event tend to do enjoy success in both events. Charley Hoffman has won both, whilst Pat Perez who won the most recent renewal in Mayakoba has form figures of 21-5-11 here in San Antonio. John Huh who won the 2012 OHL Classic finished 2nd here in the same year also. It is an obvious link, bearing in mind Norman was the architect of both, as well as the similar weather conditions.
With all this in mind, here are my picks for the 2017 Valero Texas Open.
Kevin Chappell 40/1 (Coral) 1pt e/w:
Kevin Chappell had been in horrible form in 2017, finishing no better than T44 in a stroke-play event this year, before finishing T7 at the Masters. This top finish reminded everyone just how good he is, and hopefully he can build on that and return to th form he showed last year.
In 2016, Chappell had three 2nd’s, a 3rd and a host of top-10’s but still remains win-less on the PGA Tour. Many have touted him as the best player on Tour without a win, and it certainly looks like a case of when, not if he does get that first PGA Tour win.
Chappell has endured some mixed fortunes at TPC San Antonio, but a 4th here last year, a 2nd in 2010 and a 15th in 2013 suggests he can contend here, especially when in form.
Despite a lack of form this season, Chappell still ranks T38 in Par 5 performance and he can go low on those holes this week.
Whilst based on his season so far, 40/1 may look short and a slight overreaction to his Masters finish, it was his play when in-form last year that justify his odds. Chappell has not suddenly become a bad player, he was just going through a bad patch (not surprising given his run last year), and he may just have found his form again at Augusta. It is worth remembering Chappell’s strong showing at the FedEx Cup play-offs, finishing 2nd at the season-ending Tour Championship and 8th at the Deutsche Bank Championship, proving he has plenty of game, on the biggest of stages.
John Peterson 200/1 (General) 0.5pt e/w:
I put Peterson up for the other event in his home state, the Shell Houston Open, just for him to withdraw before the off, but I like chances that bit more here, at the same price.
Last week, Peterson turned up to the RBC Heritage off the back of some travelling issues and a weekend in Vegas, but this time the father-to-be looks to be in better focus.
In a reply to a tweet effectively asking him if there will be any pre-tournament distractions this week, he stated “Nah. Can’t afford to have another week like last week bud. Working Hard.”. Now tweets alone are not enough to go by, but I do believe him. With a baby on the way, Peterson needs to start cashing cheques and realising his potential, something a lot of players tend to do when facing parenthood for the first time.
There are other indicators that this can be a good sport for Peterson also. He finished T15 at the OHL Classic earlier in the season, which we know is another Norman design and this is his second best finish of the season. Peterson’s best finish of the year came at the Phoenix Open (T12) but a T24 at the Puerto Rico Open, another event where we see similar leaderboards to the ones here in San Antonio is also pleasing.
The LSU graduate ranks 14th in Greens in Regulation and 28th in Driving Accuracy in 2016/17, so he is striking the ball exceptionally well (18th in Ball Striking). A big reason, Peterson is not contending more is his putting. He currently ranks 193rd out of a possible 207 in Strokes Gained: Putting, and therein itself lies the problem.
A hot week with the putter (hopefully he has found the putting coach he was seeking on Twitter), could well see him contend, at a course he finished 11th at two years ago. At 200/1, I am happy to take a chance on a guy that is playing in his home state and really does have all the ability in the world if he can just knuckle down and focus, which he slowly appears to be realising himself.
Total Points staked this week: 3
Profit/Loss for 2017: – 50