One week to go until the first major championship of the year and a choice to be made by those heading to Augusta National for The Masters after the match play shootout in Austin: To rest before the big one or to get test themselves competitively? For most it is the former, but the tournament’s defending champion Jordan Spieth has always enjoyed playing the week before a major and Rory McIlroy has decided that it is worth a crack in his on-going quest to complete the career grand slam. For those not (already) making their way to Georgia, this week is an opportunity to win, place or get a foothold in the FedExCup rankings.
Last time out
An excellent week all round. Our top free pick Scottie Scheffler won the tournament, our fade Bryson DeChambeau struggled, and we highlighted that no-one in the field had more win on the course than eventual runner-up Kevin Kisner.
Here’s are some entirely FREE suggestions for you this week with MORE for subscribers (DraftKings Prices)
|A list||C. Conners||$9,800|
Corey Conners ($9,800): The Canadian is in quite the sweet spot. Last week he finished third in the World Golf Championship – Dell Technologies Match Play, this week he plays as a former champion, and next week he tees it up at Augusta National as a two-time top 10 finisher in the last couple of years. He ranks third this season for Greens in Regulation and that course win is a huge plus on this track where he’s played three times and always land a top 30.
Danny Lee ($6,800) He finished T–7 on the course in 2019 and has also been second after 18 holes and made the cut after getting off to an appalling start (T–126 after 18 holes). He has 13 top 25 finishes from 32 starts in Texas and won in the state on the Korn Ferry Tour. He’s made his last three cuts (not counting a withdrawal at Sawgrass) and featured on leaderboards during the week at two of them.
Hideki Matsuyama ($10,800) A big wage for a man with a lot on his mind. He defends in Augusta National next week which will be creating all sorts of fuss around his management team and media responsibilities. He’s not keen on that sort of stuff. He’s also dealing with injury problems. A week to look elsewhere with the big bucks.
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The Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio
This Greg Norman design plays to a par of 72 and a yardage of 7,494. In theory, the set up is ‘Augusta-like’, with swift greens and shaved run-offs, but Phil Mickelson has noted that it’s not probably the best place to get ready for the Masters in that: “It’s very windy and tight. Can’t really unleash drivers the way you want to at Augusta so I probably used other weeks to get ready.” There are also Bermuda greens which there haven’t been at Augusta since the early 1980s.
That wind is, of course, something of a Texas constant. It also somehwat narrows the width of the fairways here. Without any breeze they are not especially difficult to find. As Charley Hoffman explains: “It gives you plenty of room out there but if you start hitting it unsolid you can find the native area very quickly and, if that happens, you’re just trying to get it back in play and hopefully have a putt for par or make a bogey and get out.”
He, perhaps crucially, adds: “You tend to see guys make a big number trying to pull off a miracle shot and I think I played here enough to know if I get in a bad spot, take an unplayable, don’t try to pull off the miracle shot.” It’s not just the difficult of where they are hitting from, but also that the medium-sized greens have small targets. “There’s some tough, but fun second shots out here,” Rickie Fowler said – and he was speaking of from the fairway.
Past winner Kevin Chappell says: “I believe I was third last year in Greens in Regulation and it’s such a difficult scrambling course because of the wind and how severe some of the runoffs are around the greens. It’s important to get the ball on the green when you can and not necessarily force a shot in there to try to get a birdie look because there’s not many out there.”
The weather forecast for San Antonio, Texas is that it will be sunny for the first two rounds and cloudy at the weekend. Temperatures will climb from high 60s to mid-to-high 70s. It will get blustery on Friday and a little less so on Sunday.
Past Winners of The Valero Texas Open
It is precisely 100 years since the first-ever edition of the Texas Open, won by Bob MacDonald. It’s a venerable event that has been claimed in subsequent years by greats such as Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer (he won three in a row), Ben Crenshaw and Lee Trevino.
By the 1990s it was losing lustre, held most often late in the season at LaCantera. It was moved to the Oaks Course at San Antonio in 2010 and earlier in the season, in recent times gaining this pre-Masters slot.
Adam Scott, already a two-time winner in Texas, claimed the title in that first visit to the course and he often says that Aussies enjoy playing in Texas. Stephen Bowditch backed that up by lifting the trophy in 2014. A year earlier the Scot Martin Laird triumphed and Canada’s Corey Conners won in 2019. Other than those four, however, it has been a good layout for Americans.
Brendan Steele triumphed on debut in 2012, but quickly added two top 10s. He was succeeded by another winning debutant, the 2003 British Open champion Ben Curtis.
Jimmy Walker was the champion in 2015, having already finished third in the past, beginning a recent trend for confirmed course specialists. Charley Hoffman and Kevin Chappell had shared second in 2011, and then won in 2016 and 2017 respectively. Jordan Spieth had been second behind Walker before claiming his comeback win 12 months ago.
Before him, Andrew Landry sprang a surprise in 2018 and the 2020 event was cancelled amid the Covid lockdown.
Consider what those player quotes relayed and specifically the words of Kevin Chappell about hitting greens. Then take a look at the stats and appreciate those sentiments. The last four winners all ranked top four for Strokes Gained Approach and three of the last four were top three for Greens in Regulation (as was Jimmy Walker in his 2015 win). Never overlook Texas specialists either. Time and time again they come to the fore whichever course is in play and wherever in the Lone Star State the Tour is playing.
Here’s A Line-up of Core Picks For The Valero Texas Open
|A list||C. Kirk||$9,400|
|B list||K. Streelman||$8,700|
|B list||C. Hoffman||$8,200|
|Deep dive||K. Chappell||$6,700|
Chris Kirk ($9,400) Form? He missed the cut at TPC Sawgrass, but before that finished T–14, T–7, T–5. Course form? He’s missed two cuts in his last six starts, but he’s also landed four finishes of T–13 or better. In Texas, on the PGA Tour, he has landed 12 top 25 finishes in 24 starts. He ranks a solid 45th in SG Approach, too, this season.
Kevin Streelman ($8,700) He’s been working himself into nice form through his last four starts, finishing top 25 at the Honda Classic, THE PLAYERS Championship and the Valspar Championship. In fact, he was T–7 in the latter. Good news for a very solid course proposition who has never missed a weekend in six visits and has three times landed a top 15 finish. Moreover, in his last two starts on the Oaks he finished top 10.
Charley Hoffman ($8,200) The Hoff is brilliant in Texas. He’s landed six top 25 finishes at Colonial Country Club, another six at Houston Country Club, six more at Las Colinas. At La Cantera? Three three top 15s in four visits. Best of all? Here on the Oaks: 11 starts, never missed a cut, nine top 15 finishes. Even better, he has five top three finishes, including three seconds and victory in 2016. A week to forgive two missed cuts and be happy they shave money off his salary.
Brendan Steele ($7,600) A bit like Streelman in that he has played nicely in recent week. In his case, T–26 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T–13 in THE PLAYERS Championship. Nice vibes ahead of a return to a fond hunting ground. He won on debut in 2011, has added another three top 15 finishes and has missed just one cut in a grand total of 10 visits.
Austin Smotherman ($6,800) He’s among those in this week’s field with sneaky course form, courtesy of a Korn Ferry Tour event in 2020. He led through 36 holes before finishing fourth. He’s made four of his last six cuts, three of them T–33 or better. Clincher? He ranks 12th for Strokes Gained Approach.
Kevin Chappell ($6,700) It’s a very low salary for a man who was second in 2011, the winner in 2017, T–4 in 2016, T–15 in 2013, and T–30 in 2018. There’s a reason for that: He’s made only one top 20 in 12 starts. But that was last time out in the Dominican Republic and his Greens in Reg numbers, which are what fuel his success on the track, are good: he ranks 43rd this season.
Other Player Options For The Valero Texas Open
• Others who thrived in that second tier event on the course two years ago? Davis Riley won it (and was second last time out) and Paul Barjon was tied second.
• Defending champion Jordan Spieth has won three times in 19 pre-major championship starts.
• Ryan Palmer is in poor form (no top 60 in four starts), but he is 8-for-11 on the course with six top 20s.
COVID-19 and Injury Warning:
Pro DFS players know it makes sense to stay up-to-date on Twitter, DraftKings, FanDuel and-or subscribe to any number of email feeds and whatever to remain up to speed with injuries or COVID-19 withdraws. Players that don’t make the cut are tough enough. Players that don’t play all four rounds (even when pulling out at the last minute) make for a pretty weak lineup.
Go win your lineups and then tell us how you did. Twitter (@FantasyDFSX) is a good place for that.
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