The Punter's In-Play Blog: Is Spieth poised to win again?

Golfer Jordan Spieth
Jordan Spieth - the man to beat in Texas

There's a round to go at the Valero Texan Open and Jordan Spieth is in a great position to win for the first time in four years so read Steve's thoughts ahead of the fourth and final round here round here...

“We’ve had ten previous editions of the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio and we’ve only seen one winner come from off the pace. And that was when the course had a funky set up.”

10:55 - April 4, 2021

After a slow start to round three, Jordan Spieth birdied five of his last seven holes to draw alongside in-play pick Matt Wallace at the Valero Texas Open and the pair are two strokes clear of course specialist, Charley Hoffman. Here's the 54-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 10:50.

Jordan Spieth -12 2.26/5
Matt Wallace -12 3.55
Charley Hoffman -10 6.25/1
Cameron Tringale -8 21.020/1
Anirban Lahiri -7 85.084/1
-6 and 90.089/1 bar

We've had ten previous editions of the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio and we've only seen one winner come from off the pace. And that was when the course had a funky set up.

Martin Laird shot 63 on Sunday to come from five back and tied seventh in 2013 when the course was set up to replicate conditions at Augusta on the first occasion that the tournament preceded the US Masters. With hindsight it was deemed a rather pointless exercise and they didn't replicate it in 2019, when the tournament was again played in the week before the US Masters, and they haven't bothered this time either.

With the usual course set up, six of the nine winners have either led or co-led after three rounds and the three exceptions, Adam Scott in 2010, Charley Hoffman in 2016 and Corey Conners in 2019, were hardly mikes back. Scott trailed by three, Hoffman by two, and Conners by one.

Given the stats, we probably can't look outside the front-four and having layed him in the win, top-5 and top-10 markets yesterday, I'm more than happy to continue to oppose Cameron Tringale, who looked decidedly wobbly in round three. I've backed him back, just because I layed him at such a short price but I'd be very surprised if he bounced back to win and I'm hopeful he'll continue to slide.

Hoffman is a fascinating runner. The 2016 winner has also finished runner-up here twice and after trailing by 11 after round one, he's shot the best round of the day on both Friday and Saturday.

In addition to clearly liking this track, he also plays Augusta really well and I just wonder if the added pressure of needing to win here to get into the field next week will hinder his chances? Trailing by two, he can't afford any early mistakes but at 6.25/1, he's a fair price against the front two, who both have their own pressures to overcome.

Matt Wallace is looking to win on the PGA Tour for the first time and he's looking to win for the first time since 2018. He's also been a bit wobbly in-contention of late too. Wallace has only converted one of his last 54-hole leads or co-leads and he blew a three-stroke advantage at the Scottish Championship in October.

There is a difference here though. Wallace was the man to beat in Scotland, but the expectations are all on Spieth here and he too has struggled a bit in-contention of late.

Spieth has led or been within two of the lead eight times since he scrambled to victory at the Open Championship in 2017 (his last win) but he's been beaten every time and on the last six occasions, he's shot 76, 72, 71, 72, 70 and 75. I'm not sure I'd want to take just a shade over even money.

Spieth was again struggling to find fairways and greens yesterday and as he showed here on the drivable 17th when he played this incredible second shot to make birdie, he's been relying on some magnificent scrambling and putting. Can that continue today?

That birdie kept up his momentum and it meant my 3-ball bet on Wallace ended in a tie so that was a bit frustrating but yesterday's plays have put me in a nice position. In addition to backing Tringale back, I've also layed some Wallace back (having backed him yesterday at 10.09/1) and I'm just going to sit back and enjoy tonight, although a win for Wallace would still be a very welcome result.

I'll be back later today with my US Masters preview.

11:35 - April 3, 2021

On another blustery day in San Antonio, scores at the Valero Texas Open ranged for 66 to 82 yesterday and there was carnage on the leaderboard with seven of the top-nine after round one shooting a two-over-par 74 or worse.

Although in-play pick, Sung Kang, played his first eight holes in two-under-par yesterday, and he was matched at a low of 11.521/2, he lost the plot after that, but he wasn't alone. The average score was only 73.15 but most of the leaders went backwards and last week's WGC Dell Matchplay runner-up, Scottie Scheffler, fell 54 places after a six-over-par 78!

In contrast to Kang, Cameron Tringale, who played the back nine first, started his second round poorly, bogeying his first two holes, but he found his form soon after that, rattling off five birdies in-a-row from the 13th and although he dropped shots at the sixth and the ninth at the end of his round, the 32-year-old leads by two. Here's the 36-hole leaderboard with prices to back at 11:25.

Cameron Tringale -9 3.55/2
Jordan Spieth -7 3.814/5
Matt Wallace -7 10.09/1
Erik Van Rooyen -5 22.021/1
Brandt Snedeker -5 32.031/1
Kyle Stanley -5 44.043/1
Kevin Stadler -5 150.0149/1
-4 and 29.028/1 bar

This is only the second time that Tringale has led at the halfway stage and he fared quite well last time - finishing runner-up at the 2014 Barclays (now the Northern Trust) - but I'm more than happy to oppose him, even though up with the pace is the place to be here.

In ten previous editions at TPC San Antonio, only two winners have won from outside the front three places and six of the ten have either been leading or within one of the lead but it's not always been plain sailing for the frontrunners.

Since 2010, 21 players have led or co-led at halfway and we have to go back to Jimmy Walker in 2015 to find the last one to go on to win. The six men to have led or co-led through 36 holes since Walker's win have finished 13th, 10th, third, seventh, fifth and fourth and I'm more than happy to oppose Tringale in the win market, and the place markets.

If the wheels fall off here, they tend to roll quite far from the vehicle and as many as seven players that have led or co-led the tournament since 2010 have finished outside the top-ten.

Jordan Spieth is the very obvious danger to the leader but his incredible putting appears to be holding everything together and he could very easily get jittery too given he's looking to win for the first time in four years. After two rounds, he ranks first for Putting Average but 121st for Greens In Regulation! His iron play surely needs improve if he's to win.

Alongside Spieth is Matt Wallace and there's every chance that he gets nervous given the enormity of the situation. Wallace hasn't been anywhere near as impressive in-contention as he once was and he's looking to win for the first time on the PGA Tour and for the first time in three years.

The tournament stats suggest one of these three will go on to win and despite my reservations, Wallace is the one that represents the value at this stage so I've had a very small bet on him to win the tournament at 10.09/1 and I've also backed him to win today's final three-ball.

I'm very keen to be against Tringale and Spieth could very easily unravel so odds in excess of 3/1 for the Englishman look fair although all three having a tough day can't be ruled out and a rare off the pace winner of the event has to be considered a possibility.

I'll be back tomorrow to see where we stand.

11:00 - April 2, 2021

As is the case on all Tours, the way the draw works prior to the halfway cut is that the morning starters on day one play in the afternoon on day two and vice versa, the PM starters on day one play in the morning on day two.

As the wind ordinarily gets up in the afternoon, in theory, that's the fairest way of doing things but every now and again we get a bias in favour of one side of the draw and that appears to be the case this week in Texas.

As highlighted yesterday, it looked like we may see a bit of a draw bias in favour of those drawn PM-AM and part one has materialised.

With the wind easing during the afternoon yesterday, the latter starters averaged 0.52 of a stroke less than the early starters and five of the top-six after round one began the event yesterday afternoon. Pre-event favourite, Jordan Spieth, is the odd man out and he may have his work cut out when he returns to the track this afternoon.

The forecast hasn't changed dramatically and with the wind doing the opposite to what it did yesterday, picking up throughout the day, today's early starters are set to get the better of the conditions today too. Here's the first round leaderboard with prices to back at 10:50.

Camilo Villegas -8 16.015/1
Cameron Tringale -6 7.06/1
Sung Kang -6 46.045/1
Jordan Spieth -5 6.05/1
Hideki Matsuyama -5 7.87/1
Seung-Yul Noh -5 65.064/1
Scottie Scheffler -4 9.417/2
Sebastian Munoz -4 21.020/1
Tom Hoge -4 50.049/1
-3 and 42.041/1 bar

It's obviously a bit frustrating to see last week's strong fancy at the Corales Puntacana R&S Championship, Camilo Villegas, leading a week after missing the cut when carrying my cash but it's absolutely fantastic to see him building on his eighth place at the Honda last month.

He and his wife, Maria, have endured an unimaginable tragedy, losing their 22-month-old daughter, Mia, to cancer last year so getting a tiny bit of normality back must be a welcome tonic. Long may his form continue.

TPC San Antonio is a tough place at which to play catch-up and since Adam Scott won the first renewal of the Valero Texas Open here in 2010, having trailed by five in a tie for 25th, all nine winners have been within four strokes of the lead after round one, and Jimmy Walker, who sat sixth and four adrift after the opening round, is the only one of the nine not to be within three.

Up with the pace is most definitely the place to be but strangely, no first-round leader has gone on to win.

Despite that fact, Villegas is a tempting price at 16.015/1 so I'm happy to take a very small chance on him and I've also backed the two Koreans in-the-mix at very big prices.

Seung-Yul Noh is playing in just his 13th start since undergoing military service in his homeland so it would be quite something for him to win on the PGA Tour for the first time since 2014. Poor Sang Moon Bae hasn't been able to recapture his form since his enforced military service and I suspect Noh is going to struggle too but 70.069/1 was just too big to ignore given the potential draw bias.

I've only had very small bets on those two but the one I quite like at 46.045/1 is Sung Kang, who's already a winner in Texas having claimed the last edition of the AT&T Byron Nelson in 2019. Kang is drawn very early today and if he can kick on that price is going to look silly.

On the same score as Kang is talented American, Cameron Tringale, but he's hopeless in contention, is still looking for his first PGA Tour title and he's a 7.06/1 chance compared to Kang's 46.045/1. Win or lose, that's just wrong.

Of the other morning starters in-contention today, Hideki Matsuyama is an eye-catching contender but the Japanese star hasn't won for nearly four years so I'm happy to leave him alone for now too at less than 7/1.

I'll be back in the morning to take another look at halfway.

17:00 - April 1, 2021

The first round of this week's sole event, the Valero Texas Open, has started and the scoring's reasonably good, although my 85.084/1 pick, Branden Grace, looks out of it already after bogeying his first three holes!

Pre-event favourite, Jordan Spieth, has already hit the front, having raced to four-under-par through nine but it looks like he could be on the wrong side of the draw.

Although not extremely strong early on, the wind is due to drop fractionally in the afternoon today and it's going to be the other way around tomorrow, with the breeze increasing as the day goes on.

It doesn't look like being a huge bias but it's definitely worth bearing in mind if you're intending to trade in-running today and it's frustrating given all three Find Me a 100 Winner picks have also been assigned an AM-PM draw.

I'm going to wait and see what the forecast says in the morning before getting involved but as highlighted in the preview, it's not easy to come from too far off the pace here so I'll be concentrating on the leaders but I'll update again before the second round starts.

Pre-Event Selection:
Branden Grace @ 85.084/1

In-Play Trades:
Camilo Villegas @ 16.5
Sung Kang @ 46.045/1
Sung-Yul Noh @ 70.069/1

Matt Wallace @ 10.09/1
Matt Wallace to win Saturday 3 Ball @ 4.3100/30
Cameron Tringale layed @ 3.613/5
Cameron Tringale layed @ 1.491/2 Top 5 Finish
Cameron Tringale layed @ 1.21/5 Top 10 finish

Find Me a 100 Winner Selections:
Back Kevin Chappell 2u @ 160.0159/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back Patton Kizzire 2u @ 160.0159/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1
Back Graeme McDowell 2u @ 190.0189/1
Place order to lay 10u @ 10.09/1 & 10u @ 2.01/1

*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter

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