Valero Texas Open 2014

We are just two tournaments away from that trip to Augusta and after the Florida swing ended last week, we now head south for the Valero Texas Open.

In the past 40 years only three non-Americans have won this event, but one of them being Scottish stalwart Martin Laird, who won his third PGA Tour title last year with a quite remarkable -9 final day score.

What makes that Sunday finish particularly impressive is the fact that the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio is by no means a birdie-fest of a course.

The 16th at TPC San Antonio. Yes that is a bunker in the middle of the green

The 16th at TPC San Antonio. Yes that is a bunker in the middle of the green

It is one of the tougher tracks on Tour and although it was altered late in 2012, which made it slightly easier, it still caused havoc amongst the field last year.

The 7,435-yard par 72 has undulating, narrow fairways and incredibly deep bunkers dotted throughout the course. (some go as deep as 12-foot!)

From the tee, many players will be daunted by the tree-lined fairways and it is imperative to hit a safe and accurate drive because the second cut is notoriously horrendous and can be the difference on many shots.

Even with the steadiest GIR specialist, you have to take into account bunker players because it is inevitable that you will find the beaches at some point during the 4 days.

Overall you are looking for efficient tee to green players, who can scramble and can communicate the Bermuda greens with ease.

Billy Horschel (50/1 Ladbrokes)

Billy means business

Billy means business

We have struggled to find value in a weak field this week but Horschel, already a winner on the tour, looks like a great bet. His name has not really been branded around the DownThe18th boardroom a lot in 2014 but when you look at his stats, he does suit the course.

He comes to TPC San Antonio off the back of a T3 last year, and despite finished T43, some really solid play at the Arnold Palmer. Last week he ranked T19 driving distance, T3 accuracy and T12 GIR%. So everything is all in good working order, he just needs to putter to get hot. But as we saw in 2013 when he really burst on the scene, he is more than capable on the greens.

His best finish in 2014 so far was a T6 at the Hyundai Tournament of Champions which was a great result. And stats-wise on the tour he finds himself 4th total driving, 35th GIR% and 63rd strokes gained-putting. In a weak field, Horschel could go all the way.

Kevin Chappell (50/1 Betfred)

ChappellChappell is someone we backed a bit last year and has been on our radar for most of 2014.

His long game is really consistent and regularly finds himself in the top bracket of the stats. Like Horschel, his 2014 has not been what he would have hoped for with only 3 top 25s, but promisingly his best finish was last week! T14 around the tough Bay Hill track will give him confidence. He ranked 24th driving distance, T5 driving accuracy and 6th in putting average. Whilst on the Tour he is 20th total driving, 38th GIR% and 23rd ball striking.

The putter needs to improve if he is to mount a serious challenge but this course suits his eye, being 15th last year and 2nd back in 2011. Look out for him.

Freddie Jacobson (35/1 Bet365)

Freddie - the demon putter

Freddie – the demon putter

One of our old stalwarts Freddie Jacobson enters the fray this week mainly because of his outrageous course form.  He simply loves coming to Oak Hill – never dropped outside the top 20 in the four starts here.

Back in 2010 he finished second to Adam Scott after a superb 65 on the Saturday but he ended up 1 shot on the wrong side of the Australian.

We did back him here last year as well and whilst he finished T15, he never actually fully got into the top end of the leaderboard due to a really poor second day.

He had come in without much course time though, recovering from slight niggles, so it is encouraging to see he has played a couple of good rounds in the past couple of weeks – T20 2 tournaments ago and T10 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational, where he did look like contending at one point.

His putting was back to a high standard throughout the 4 days – 22nd in putting average and 7th in strokes gained putting on Tour. We all know how consistent he can be tee to green if everything falls into place, but his bunker play and scrambling is up there with the best and big reason as to why he has played well here in the past – 47th sand save and 45th scrambling.

We have been impressed with Jacobson before, lets just hope he can find that form again and come out of the 4/5 month slump he was in.


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