Strong putting the key to success at San Antonio
Locals and longshots thrive around the Oaks
Last chance to shine ahead of the year's first major
First staged in 1922, and always played in the San Antonio area of Texas, the Valero Texas Open is one of the older events on the PGA Tour.
The tournament was staged at La Cantera Golf Club between 1995 and 2009 before switching to its current venue, TPC San Antonio, back in 2010, and having signed up until 2028, this is going to be the host course for some time to come.
There was no event in 2020 because of the pandemic but as was the case in 2013, and for the last three years, the Valero Texas Open is the last event before the year's first major championship - the US Masters - next week at Augusta.
TPC San Antonio (Oaks Course), San Antonio, Texas.
Par 72, 7,438 yards. Stroke Index in 2022 - 71.76
This tough Greg Norman-designed track opened in January 2010 and fellow Aussie, Adam Scott, won the inaugural staging here just a few months later.
As you'd imagine with a course called the Oaks, the track winds its way through stands of oak trees.
Although fairway widths vary, it's not an especially tight track but avoiding the trees is essential. Just ask Kevin Na! He racked up a 16 on the ninth hole in 2011.
A unique feature of the course is that all downhill holes play into the prevailing wind, while the uphill holes play downwind. TPC San Antonio is yet another track laid to Bermuda grass and the greens, which are overseeded with bentgrass and poa, usually run at around 11 on the Stimpmeter.
In usual windy conditions, this is a tough venue but the 2019 winner, Corey Conners, amassed a 20-under-par total and the course averaged only 71.24. Both were records.
Having experienced very little wind throughout the week, the course was then softened by rain overnight and after play had been delayed for two hours, the course was very receptive on Sunday. The winner made nine birdies and there were two rounds of 64 but it's usually a grind here by the time we get to Sunday.
We've had 12 renewals here to date and we're yet to witness a playoff.
The Oaks also hosted the TPC San Antonio Championship on the Korn Ferry Tour in July 2020.
Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 20:00 UK time on Thursday.
Last Seven Winners with Pre-event Exchange Prices
2022 - J.J Spaun -13 220.0219/1
2021 - Jordan Spieth -18 15.014/1
2020 - Event Cancelled (Covid)
2019 - Corey Conners -20 260.0259/1
2018 - Andrew Landry -17 150.0149/1
2017 - Kevin Chappell -12 32.031/1
2016 - Charley Hoffman -12 30.029/1
What Will it Take to Win the Valero Texas Open?
This isn't an easy event to get to grips with statistically.
You don't need to be monstrous long to win here and the last six winners have ranked 46th, 23rd, 28th, 46th, 25th and fourth for Driving Distance.
Driving Accuracy was an important stat in 2019, with the top-five ranking tied-seventh, tied-seventh, first, 26th and fourth but that looks a one off.
In the last four renewals, 25 players have finished inside the top-five and ties and only four of them have ranked inside the top 20 for Driving Accuracy.
The 2018 and '19 winners, Andrew Landry and Corey Conners, both topped the Greens In Regulation stats and none of the top-five ranked any worse than sixth for that stat in 2017 but in 2016, none of the top-eight ranked any better than 10th. The 2021 winner, Jordan Spieth, ranked only 57th and Charles Howell III, who ranked ninth, was the only player inside the top-seven to rank inside the top-15 for GIR last year.
Nothing sticks out statistically, apart form the putting metrics...
If you're not averaging less than 1.7 putts per green for the week you may as well give up and although the 2017 winner, Kevin Chappell, only ranked 14th for Putting Average (1.69), seven of the last eight winners have ranked inside the top-five for Putting Average and in each of those seven years, either the top ranked or second ranked for Putting Average has finished inside the top-three places.
The last three winners have all topped the Putting Average rankings. Conners averaged just 1.53, Spieth 1.52, and Spaun averaged 1.54 last year.
Scrambling is often a key stat too. The front three in 2021 ranked fourth, second and first and at least one placed player has ranked fourth or better for Scrambling in each of the last eight renewals, but I don't think we can class it as absolutely critical given Spaun only ranked 57th 12 months ago and the winner in 2019, Conners, ranked only 70th!
Spaun ranked fifth for Strokes Gained Tee to Green and only 23rd for Strokes Gained Approach but the four winners before him all ranked inside the top-four for those two metrics.
Is There an Angle In?
Form at the Sony Open, the Puerto Rico Open and the now defunct, World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba, is well worth considering.
Spaun finished 12th in the Sony in January, having sat second at halfway and the two winners before him here, Spieth and Conners, have both finished third in the event.
The 2015 winner here, Jimmy Walker, has twice won the Sony Open and the 2011 victor, Brendan Steele, has traded at odds-on in two of the last four renewals of the Sony. A number of other players have performed well at both here and Waialae Country Club - home of the Sony - and that looks like a great angle in.
No player has yet won this event and the Puerto Rico Open but I've noted in the past that several players with solid records in Puerto Rico have fared well here and that makes sense. Both venues are wind-affected and both have produced more than their fair share of experienced winners but the best angle in is to look at form at the World Wide Technology Championship at Mayakoba in Mexico.
The 2018 Mayakoba winner, Matt Kuchar (who also won the 2019 Sony Open) traded at odds-on here in 2014 and he was second last year, the 2016 Texas Open champ, Charley Hoffman, won at Mayakoba in 2015, the 2012 Mayakoba winner, John Huh, was runner-up here in the same year, and the 2016 winner, Pat Perez, has very respectable figures at this course too. It's no surprise that form at the Mayakoba correlates nicely though as that event was also played at a wind-affected Greg Norman design course - El Camaleón.
Unfortunately, that Mexican venue has fallen out of favour with the PGA Tour, having hosted a LIV Golf event, but the form's still fairly fresh and well worth considering. Despite going off at huge odds, last year's winner, Spaun, also cemented the correlation - he was third at Mayakoba in 2018.
Last week's opposite field event, the Corales Puntacana R&C Championship, which is fairly new to the PGA Tour rota, may also be worth checking out as that correlates very well with the aforementioned events.
Matt Wallace won his first PGA Tour title there on Sunday and he traded at a low of 2.285/4 in-running here in 2021 before eventually finishing third behind Spieth.
Is There an Identikit Winner?
When I first read about the course, back in 2010, it was said to have an Aussie feel about it. The bunkers certainly have that sand belt look about them and Steven Bowditch confirmed the link when he won in 2014, saying that the course was like a lot of courses back home so it's perhaps not surprising that we've had a couple of Aussies win but the locals have fared best.
The 2021 winner, Spieth, is a Texan, the 2018 winner, Andrew Landry, was born in Port Neches, Texas, and he now lives in Austin, three off the top-four were Texans that year, and 11 of the last 25 Valero Texas Open winners have been Texans.
Spieth went of favourite two years ago, Scott was well-fancied in 2010, and so was Jimmy Walker in 2015. The 2017 winner, Chappell, and the 2016 winner, Charley Hoffman, both went off at around 30.029/1 but the other seven course winners all went off at a triple-figure price so don't be discouraged if you fancy an outsider and if he's a Texan then that's all the better.
Generally a 220.0219/1 chance at the off, Spaun was matched at a whopping 450.0449/1 when the market first opened and Conners was matched at a high of 420.0419/1 when he first entered the market after Monday qualifying four years ago.
As many as four of the last five winners were winning their first event on the PGA Tour but experience has often counted for plenty here too.
Winner's Position and Exchange Price Pre-Round Four
2022 - J.J Spaun - tied for the lead 8.07/1
2021 - Jordan Spieth - tied for the lead 2.26/5
2020 - Event Cancelled (Covid)
2019 - Corey Conner- solo 2nd trailing by one 5.04/1
2018 - Andrew Landry - tied for the lead 4.3100/30
2017 - Kevin Chappell - led by a stroke 5.49/2
2016 - Charley Hoffman - tied third trailing by two 8.07/1
The Lone Star State is notoriously windy so an ability to play well in breezy conditions is usually essential and we've seen some huge draw biases in the past.
The last two winners have been inside the top-five and within three strokes after every round and being up with the pace appears almost essential here...
In the 12 renewals here to date, nine winners have been inside the first three places at halfway and eight of the 12 have been leading or co-leading after three rounds.
The front nine is harder than the back-nine and the finish to the course offers up a few chances to score. The par five 14th was the easiest hole again last year, for the seventh time in eight years, and the drivable par four 17th ranked the third easiest. The par five 18th tends to vary from year to year depending on how they set it up.
It averaged over-par in 2018, ranking as the 11th easiest but in both 2015 and 2017 it was the third easiest on the course and it was the fourth easiest in 2019, 2021, and again last year - averaging 4.82.
Tyrrell Hatton heads a wide-open market and that makes sense given he's been trending towards a victory of late.
The 31-year-old Englishman is without a victory in more than two years but prior to his early exit in the WGC Match Play last week (lost all three group games), he had form figures reading 6-40-4-2.
With surprisingly ordinary form at Augusta that reads MC-44-56-MC-18-52, Hatton will be focusing hard on this week's event and although this is his first appearance in the event, he's highly likely to feature.
The 2019 winner, Corey Connors, is next up in the betting and he looks readily opposable.
Since winning, he's finished 14th and 35th in two subsequent appearances and he was 26th on debut in 2018 so he has a reasonable bank of form but his 2023 form reads an ordinary 18-12-50-61-21-MC-17.
Like Hatton, he failed to progress from the group stages last week and given his victory here four years ago remains his sole success on the PGA Tour, he's hard to fancy at around 20/1.
This year's Sony Open winner, Si Woo Kim, who has course form figures reading MC-22-45-4-23-13, hasn't set the world alight since he won in Hawaii but with four wins on the PGA Tour in the last eight years, the Korean has to be considered carefully.
Chris Kirk's form has understandably cooled off a bit since he won the Honda Classic in impressive fashion last month.
He finished only 39th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational the following week, having sat second after the opening round, and after missing the cut at the Players Championship, he managed only half a point at last week's Match Play, courtesy of a draw with Matt Kuchar, but I was happy to chance him modestly here at [40.0.].
With a third in the Sony behind Kim and a third in the American Express prior to his victory at the Honda, Kirk's already enjoyed a stellar 2023 but with course form figures here reading 48-8-13-MC-8-MC-6-35, he could deliver another high finish and 40.039/1 looked fair.
My only other selection is Denmark's Nicolai Hojgaard, who finished second to Matt Wallace in the Corales Puntacana Championship on Sunday.
The classy young Dane has yet to win on the PGA Tour and this is his first visit to the Valero Texas Open, but he'll be keen to better his twin's finish 12 month's ago.
Rasmus finished only 18th last year but he sat second after the opening round and that won't have escaped his competitive brother's attention.
Chris Kirk @ 40.039/1
Nicolai Hojgaard @ 60.059/1
I'll be back tomorrow with the Find Me a 100 Winner column.
*You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter