Valero Texas Open
By Lewis Pacelli + Andy Taylor
Well here we are, just 1 week away from the Masters and we hope you are as excited as we are! But first, we have the small matter of the Valero Texas Open. Played at the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio, this is the fourth year it has been hosted here. The winner, if not already qualified, will get an invitation to the Masters, so anyone without a spot at Augusta will be desperate to do well here. This seems like one of those tracks where once you do well here, you continue to do so.
The course is 7,522 yards, so it’s no short track. But just as it is long, it is narrow. It’s one of the toughest on the tour off the tee, with the rough being very severe in parts and native vegetation on most holes. So of course length off the tee combined with accuracy would be nice, but finding those fairways will be most important this week. After 2 tough previous years for the golfers, the course has been made easier in parts. 4 of the greens out there have been changed and flattened out (1,4, 10 & 12), whilst the fairways on 2 of the hardest holes, no.1 and no.4 have been widened. The rough is also 1 inch shorter this year whilst chipping areas around the greens have been lengthened to stop severe punishment for missed greens.
Green in regulation will be vital if you are to finish high here, with some bunkers as deep as 12 feet. Naturally this means the better scramblers out there will also fair better with bogey avoidance being key. This certainly won’t be a birdie-fest! As always on the longer courses, par 5 performance is something to look at as every birdie opportunity needs to be taken advantage of.
The weather is always windy here in Texas, but other than that, the sun should shine for all 4 days! Late entry Rory Mcilroy perhaps might regret his decision to play here with the constant wind and his naturally high ball flight leading to a very tough week. But if anyone can overcome the odds, it would be Rory. With all eyes on the Masters next week, it is hard to see any of the big boys having the passion to win here (Schwartzel is perfect for this course), so expect someone with odds of at least 25/1 or more to take this.
Fredrik Jacobson (25/1 Ladbrokes)
We have never hidden from the fact the big Swede is one of our favourite golfers on tour, his relaxed style and easy-going attitude towards the game is infectious. Plus, he is one of the meanest putters in the game. In contrast to our 3rd pick this week, Freddie is so calm on the greens and you are at ease when he is standing over any putt, but especially the short 5-10 footers (15th on tour) and the longer 15-10 footers (2nd on tour). The fact he is 6th for putts per round and 4th for strokes gained in putting, you realise how good he actually is. This is why he is many peoples outside interest for that small tournament taking place next week. He has taken a month out to work on other aspects of his game and it seems he feels confident enough to take on a course he has played at well in the past in preparation for Augusta. T18 last year, T5 in 2011 and outright 2nd in 2010, shows how it is hard to ignore him this week. His driving stats are not hugely encouraging, but he is 5th in scrambling and if there is a bit of wind, it could be important to have an ability to draw the ball and Freddie is 4th for left tendency off the tee. Once in the fairway he has the ability to put the ball where he wants to, 5th in proximity to the hole and even with the inconsistent length off the tee, he is 15th for par 5 birdie or better.
There could be the factor he will not want to exert himself too much, but after not playing for a while, we can only imagine his desire to come back and take on the course again.
Cameron Tringale (33/1 Bet365)
Cameron’s name has been on our lips the last few weeks and was unlucky not to make our picks for the Shell Houston. 3 top 30’s in 3 weeks including a 3rd place at the Tampa Bay Championship means Cameron is pretty much in the form of his life. He came into this last year with previous results of T46, MC and 8th, so 2013 has been much better for him. He ticks every box, with his course form reading 8th, 5th and 28th. Statistically, you can’t ask for much more than what the American offers. 18th in GIR, 55th in Driving Accuracy, 287 yards off the tee, 34th total driving and 24th all round ranking. He will have no problem getting birdies out there either, 8th in par 5 performance and 13th in total birdies whilst he is ranked 8th in scrambling and 28th in sand saves, so he’s got the all-round package for this course! We’ve got a few quick statistics from last week at the Shell Houston as well. Tringale was 1st in GIR and 8th in scrambling. He was also 1st strokes gained-putting 2 weeks ago at the Tampa Bay, so he’s definitely on it right now. Expect him to go close.
Charley Hoffman (40/1 Various)
First things first, we must tell you that if you back Charley Hoffman, not to get confused with Morgan Hoffman when you look at the leaderboard on your return home from work. If you get all excited then realise it’s the wrong one, it hurts. (We’re thinking of you Ross and Oliver Fisher…) Secondly, we would rarely back someone with the putting capabilities Hoffman possesses. One of the most frustrating things in watching your bets is someone playing very consistently tee to green then missing putts for fun. (We’re thinking of you Lee Westwood…) BUT there are several signs that point towards him doing well this week and our gut instinct kept telling us he is a must. He absolutely loves this course, his worst finish T13, which he achieved last year, after a T2 in 2011 and another T13 in 2010. There is a reason the phrase ‘horses for courses’ exists! His form this year has been relatively inconsistent, but he will definitely take confidence from a T20 on the difficult Redstone course last week. After a 68 on the first day, he found himself T5 and even though he didn’t shoot over par at all, he never made a charge. That confidence could really push him here though, at a place he knows so well. And it is no surprise he plays well here, he regularly drives the ball 290 yards and is 40th for total driving, whilst he is 51st for scrambling, all pointing towards a potential high finish for the American. We are quietly confident on who we are now dubbing ‘The Hoff’ and if, IF he can putt well, a 3rd PGA title could be on the cards.
P.S We apologise in advance if The Hoff takes his hat off, the hair doo is not pretty underneath there…
Kevin Chappell (70/1 Bet365)
Chappell comes in as our 4th and final pick, and at 70/1 you can argue he is our outsider. But his statistics and form surely deserve lower odds than that, as we will show you. After a withdrawal last year at +4, Chappell managed to finish 2nd here on his debut in 2011. If you watched the Shell Houston last week, you would know the 6foot American was in great form, eventually finishing T6, just 3 shots off winner D.A. Points. That was his best finish since the back end of 2011. Kevin is one of those players who has short periods of great form, as previous to his 6th last week he had missed 5 consecutive cuts. But prior to that, he had 2 top 25’s in 3 starts, including a T8 at the Humana Challenge. His statistics that shone out to us last week at the Shell Houston were 5th in total driving, 27th in GIR and 17th strokes gained-putting. On the PGA Tour he seems to be good in all departments, 28th driving distance, 4th sand saves, 27th total driving, 24th scrambling, 11th par 4 performance (of which there are 8) and 1st in approaches from 50-125yards. If you wondered whether he can take advantage of the par 5’s, Kevin got 2 birdies and 2 eagles on the 1st round par 5’s here last year, the best of the day. Perhaps a gamble this one considering he has missed 5 cuts before last week, but he is one of those you have to jump on when he hits form!