Valero Texas Open: Harman and Henley chanced at 45/1 and 59/1

Golfer Brian Harman
Brian Harman after his Open win last year

With just one week to go before the US Masters, the PGA Tour skips from Houston to San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open and our man has the lowdown here...

  • Rory favourite in Texas

  • Hot putting essential at San Antonio

  • Read Dave Tindall's US Masters guide here


  • Tournament History

    Having first been 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 four years, the Valero Texas Open is the last event before the year's first major championship - the US Masters - next week at Augusta.

    Venue

    TPC San Antonio (Oaks Course), San Antonio, Texas.

    Course Details

    Par 72, 7,438 yards. Stroke Index in 2023 - 72.09

    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 made a 16th 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 Corey Conners amassed a 20-under-par total when he won the title for the first time in 2019 and the course averaged only 71.24. Both are records and won the title for a second time last year with a 15-under-par total.

    Having experienced very little wind throughout the week, the course was then softened by rain overnight in 2019 and after play had been delayed for two hours, the course was very receptive on Sunday. Connors 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 13 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.


    Weather Forecast


    TV Coverage

    Live on Sky Sports all four days, starting at 13:15 on Thursday.

    Last Eight Winners with Pre-event Prices

    • 2023 - Corey Connors -15 30.029/1
    • 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 Texas Open?

    You don't need to be monstrous long to win here and the last seven winners have ranked 52nd, 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 and Connors ranked third for DA last year but in the four renewals in-between, 25 players finished inside the top-five and ties and only four of them ranked inside the top 20 for Driving Accuracy.

    The 2018 winner, Andrew Landry, topped the Greens In Regulation stats and Corey Conners has topped the GIR stats on the two occasions he's took the title.

    TPC SAN ANTONIO 2023 2.jpg

    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 in 2022.

    Nothing really sticks out statistically, but a good week with the putter is usually essential...

    Connors only ranked 33rd for Putting Average last year but the runner-up, Sam Stevens, ranked first and most winners rank very highly for that stat.

    The 2017 winner, Kevin Chappell, only ranked 14th for Putting Average but seven of the last nine winners have ranked inside the top-five for that stat and in each of those seven years, either the top ranked or second ranked for Putting Average finished inside the top-three places.

    The three winners before Conners won the title for a second time 12 months ago all topped the Putting Average rankings. Conners averaged just 1.53 in 2019, Jordan Spieth 1.52 in 2021, and JJ Spaun averaged 1.54 two years ago.

    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 nine renewals, but I don't think we can class it as absolutely critical given Spaun only ranked 57th two years ago and Conners, ranked only 70th in 2019!

    Spaun ranked fifth for Strokes Gained: Tee to Green and only 23rd for Strokes Gained: Approach two years ago but Connors ranked ninth and first last year and the four winners before Spaun all ranked inside the top-four for those two metrics.

    Is There an Angle In?

    Form at the Sony Open, the Puerto Rico Open, the World Wide Technology Championship, (when it was staged at Mayakoba) and the Fortinet Championship is worthy of consideration.

    Spaun finished 12th in the Sony in January, having sat second at halfway and Spieth and Conners have both finished third in the event.

    Corey Conners wins in Texas.jpg

    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 fve 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 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 in the World Wide Technology Championship in Mexico, when it was staged at El Camaleón Golf Course (2007-2022).

    The 2018 winner, Matt Kuchar (who also won the 2019 Sony Open) traded at odds-on here in 2014 and he was second in 2022, 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 El Camaleón is a wind-affected Greg Norman design.

    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, the 2022 winner, Spaun, also franked the correlation - he was third at Mayakoba in 2018.

    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 last year and he traded at a low of 2.285/4 in-running here in 2021 before eventually finishing third behind Spieth.

    And finally, Silverado, venue of the Fortinet Championship, is a course that appears to correlate too.

    San Antonio winners, Brendon Steele and Jimmy Walker, have won there, the 2018 Fortinet winner, Kevin Tway, has finished third here, and the 2014 Valero Texas open champ, Steven Bowditch, finished runner-up at Silverado in the same year.

    Kizzire led the 2016 edition of the Fortinet with a round to before finishing runner-up to Steele so with all that correlating course form, it's hardly surprising that he finished ninth here on debut three years ago.

    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 of the top-four were Texans that year, and 11 of the last 26 Valero Texas Open winners have been Texans.

    Spieth wins in Texas.jpg


    Spieth went of favourite three years ago, Scott was well-fancied in 2010, and so was Jimmy Walker in 2015.

    Last year's winner, Connors, the 2017 winner, Chappell, and the 2016 winner, Charley Hoffman, all 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 when he won here the first time in 2019, Conners was matched at a high of 420.0419/1 when he first entered the market after Monday qualifying.

    As many as four of the last six winners were all winning their first event on the PGA Tour but experience has often counted for plenty here too.

    Winner's Position and Price Pre-Round Four

    • 2023 - Corey Conner- solo 2nd trailing by one 2.89/5
    • 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

    In-Play Tactics

    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 three winners have been inside the top-five and within three strokes after every round and being up with the pace appears almost essential here...

    Connors sat first or second after every round last year and in the 13 renewals here to date, ten winners have been inside the first three places at halfway. Connors sat solo second last year, as he did in 2019, but eight of the 13 winners here 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 eighth time in nine years, and the drivable par four 17th ranked the second 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 last year, and in both 2015 and 2017 it was the third easiest on the course and it was the fourth easiest in 2019, 2021, and 2022.

    Keep an eye on the Masters market

    Anyone that plays well here will shorten up significantly for next week's US Masters so be prepared to jump on anyone you like for next week if they start nicely here.

    Market Leaders

    With Scottie Scheffler taking the week off following his near miss in Houston on Sunday, the world number two, Rory McIlroy, is the highest ranked player in the field this week.

    With just seven days to go before a major - in this case, the US Masters - it's always difficult to weigh up just how seriously the world's best are going to compete. But if they're in-contention heading into the weekend their focus will most definitely be on winning.

    Rory came very close to winning here back in 2013 when a final round 63 by Martin Laird denied him victory but on his only other appearance, two years ago, he missed the cut.

    I'm not surprised to see him here given his current form figures read an underwhelming 66-24-21-21-19 since he defended his Dubai Desert Classic but I'm happy to swerve him.

    The US Masters is the only major to have eluded him so far and he'll be desperate to find something ahead of next week but Augusta will surely be his main focus.

    Ludvig Aberg went to college in Texas so he's familiar with the track, but he missed the cut here when a tournament invite two years ago.

    He arrives in fine fettle, with 2024 form figures reading 47-30-9-2-19-25-8, but he's short enough at only 14.013/1.

    Hideki Matsuyama finished 30th here in 2021, the week before he won the US Masters, so it's no surprise to see him in the line-up.

    The Japanese withdrew injured in 2022 and he finished only 15th last year but he has form at a couple of correlating courses, and he arrives in fair form.

    Since his impressive off the pace victory at Riviera, he's finished 12th in the Arnold Plamer Invitational and sixth in the Players Championship so his chance is obvious.

    The out-of-form 2021 winner Jordan Spieth, who was also second here in 2015, is the only other player trading at less than 30.029/1. The defending champ, Corey Conners, who's in reasonable form having finished 18th in the Arnold Palmer and 13th in the Players, is arguably a better bet but I'm happy to swerve all the market leaders.

    Selections

    Brian Harman finished 12th in the Scottish Open the week before he won the Open Championship last year, so he was always going to play the week before the next major championship.

    Harman sat second at halfway at Augusta back in 2021 so, although he's missed the cut there in each of the last two editions, he'll have a live chance next week. But I like his chances here first.

    Harman missed the cut at the Valspar Championship last time out but he was in fine fettle prior to that, finishing 12th in the Arnold Palmer and second in the Players, where his approach and putting figures were excellent.

    His course form figures read a regressive 18-22-16-MC-51-MC but he has form at both Waialae and El Cameleon and he's overpriced at 46.045/1.

    Back Brian Harman @ 46.045/1

    Bet here

    Russell Henley has won at both of those venues, and he too looks overpriced at 60.059/1 given he's already won in Texas the week before the US Masters.

    Henley won the Houston Open back in 2017 before going on to finish 11th at Augusta and he's been putting superbly of late.

    Russell Henley in Mexico.jpg

    He missed the cut on debut here in 2016 and he finished only 52nd on his only other visit in 2019. He also missed the cut last time out at the Players, so there are negatives, but he's still a very fair price.

    Prior to his weekend off at Sawgrass, Henley ranked fourth for Scrambling and seventh for Putting Average when finishing fourth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. A return to that level of form will see him contend.

    Back Russell Henley @ 60.059/1

    Bet here

    Read Dave Tindall's US Masters guide here


    *You can follow me on Twitter @SteveThePunter


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