VALERO TEXAS OPEN
Winner's Share: $1,134,000
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Course: The Oaks Course, TPC San Antonio
2015 champion: Charley Hoffman
They say that everything in Texas is big, and the Valero Texas Open surely fits the bill. This is a titan of tournaments on the PGA Tour, having debuted 95 years ago in 1922. That makes it the third oldest event on Tour and the sixth oldest pro golf tourney in the world. The Oaks is a brute of course at nearly 7,500 yards, with two holes more than 600 and a third just shy. Even the field is as big as it gets, with a return to the 156-man format. That, of course, complicates fantasy matters significantly from last week's tidy 132. Twenty-four more scrubs to consider when, invariably, not all of them will be so scrubby. What also complicates matters is another post-Masters weak field. Only five of the top-25 in the OWGR are on hand, led by -- and we use that term loosely -- No. 15 Patrick Reed. The San Antonio native is looking to find his game, having gone seven months without a top-10 in a full-field event. No. 17 Matt Kuchar, No. 21 Branden Grace, No. 24 Brooks Koepka and No. 25 Jimmy Walker round out the biggest names, though the favorite may be defending champion Charley Hoffman, the most successful golfer since the tournament moved to the Oaks in 2010. We'll take a closer look at what Hoffman or anyone else will have to do to win in the Champion's Profile below.
Besides being just long, there is more "Texas big" to the Oaks: There are towering oak trees that line the narrow fairways and some enormous bunkers, two of about 8,000 square feet (bigger than many PGA Tour greens). One of those bunkers guards the shared green for the 2nd and 7th holes. Many greens have undulations and multiple levels, and historically golfers who have solved them have done well.
The course offers potential for a fun finish, with No. 17 a drivable par-4 at 347 yards and the 18th a par-5 of almost 600 yards. The hardest hole last year was the par-4, 474-yard 9th, on which Kevin Na famously shot a 16 six years ago while entangled in the native lands that are prominent on the course. There have been years in which TPC San Antonio has been among the toughest handful of courses on Tour. Last year, though, it was ranked 17th out of 50, likely because the famed Texas wind never materialized in full force. The forecast calls for similarly mild wind this year, with the only significant chance of rain on Saturday morning.
Key Stats to Winning at TPC San Antonio
• Putting average/strokes gained putting
• Greens in regulation
• Driving distance
• Scrambling/sand saves
2016 - Charley Hoffman
2015 - Jimmy Walker
2014 - Steven Bowditch
2013 - Martin Laird
2012 - Ben Curtis
2011 - Brendan Steele
2010 - Adam Scott
We look back only since 2010, when the tournament shifted to TPC San Antonio. Every winner save Ben Curtis has finished the week top-20 in driving distance -- and Hoffman, Walker and Scott were top-5. While it's harder to succeed here without bombing it off the tee, there are more important metrics to consider. The last four winners have all finished top-5 in putting average (putts per GIR), and many others on the first page of the leaderboard also have been able to solve the difficult greens. Freddie Jacobson finished top-20 the first five years the tournament was played at the Oaks, and he was an elite putter back then (Jacobson is in the field, but far from his best days). Greens in regulation is always an important consideration -- every single week on Tour -- and Walker and Curtis finished the week first in GIR. The last four winners have not needed great scrambling skills to win, but many other high finishers have scrambled well. As a final consideration, sand saves for some of the cavernous bunkers that even the most accurate of iron players will find at some point during the tournament.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS (Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap)
Tier 1 Values
Charley Hoffman - $10,700 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 20-1)
We trembled when seeing Hoffman at this price -- how's that for an endorsement? -- but there's no denying his success here: a win, a second, a third, and no finish worse than T13. His numbers don't correlate to doing well here, but there's no denying course history. That said, we'll likely pass on Hoffman when we formulate our one DraftKings lineup, as we can't see pulling the trigger on a good but not great golfer at such a high price -- much like last week, when Russell Henley was tagged with a similarly exorbitant price. You may feel otherwise.
Jimmy Walker - $10,500 (25-1)
Walker is someone we have not been high on in the past year, though the Texan is playing a bit better of late. He won here two years ago, but missed the cut last year, when his game started to slide. He's made seven straight cuts overall on Tour, which four top-25s, including T18 at the Masters. But that doesn't warrant $10,000-plus. The funny thing about constructing a DK lineup is that you are largely forced to pick one or more high-priced guys, or fill our your roster thousands of dollars short of the $50,000 cap.
Brendan Steele - $9,900 (25-1)
Now, we're talking. Here's another former champ (2011), but one at a slightly more sensible price. Steele also has a T4, a T8 and, last year, a T13 here. He's T30 in driving distance, 24th in GIR, first in scrambling and 13th in sand saves. The bad news is, he will be highly owned.
Adam Hadwin - $9,100 (25-1)
Hadwin's price continues to rise, but there's no denying his superior putting can lead to a high finish here. He's played San Antonio only once before, missing the cut two years ago. We can discount that, as Hadwin is light years better today. He's a not-too-shabby 80th in driving distance, 51st in GIR, 3rd in scrambling, 6th in sand saves and his bread-and-butter 18th in SGP. He hasn't missed a cut since the season opener in October. The one thing that gives us pause is this is Hadwin's third straight week, including the Masters. But he navigated five in a row earlier this season without a trunk-slam.
Tier 2 Values
Billy Horschel - $8,900 (30-1)
We picked Horschel last week and he went home early, though he may have had something else on his mind: the birth of his second child earlier in the week. He's also quite pricey, but he's finished top-4 here three of the past four years (along with an MC). He's got great numbers -- T43 in driving distance, 11th in GIR -- until he gets on the green. But he's been upticking slightly in putting, now 108th in SGP, and somehow has managed to do very well here. Again, course history.
Tony Finau - $8,400 (40-1)
If Finau could putt, he could win this tournament. He's 13th in driving distance and seventh in GIR. Finau has played the tournament just once, tying for 68th two years ago, but he's a far more accomplished golfer now. He's T105 in putting average this season, and even a small improvement there could lead to a high finish this week.
Ollie Schniederjans - $8,200 (40-1)
Schniederjans is bigger than he looks on TV (maybe because he doesn't wear a hat), and he hits the ball a long way -- 38th in driving distance. He's also 99th in GIR, T93 in SGP and T88 in scrambling -- all mediocre numbers. But he putted better last week, when he finished a career-best T3 at the RBC Heritage.
Jhonattan Vegas - $8,100 (60-1)
Vegas is Finau like in that he's been terrific until arriving on the putting surface: T41 in driving distance, 30th in GIR, even 67th in scrambling. But he's a woeful 159th in SGP. Still, the Masters was his first MC since September, and he has cobbled together four top-20s since February. Course history here is poor, but we're counting on Vegas arriving as a better golfer than he was in prior years.
Tier 3 Values
Harold Varner III - $7,800 (80-1)
Varner tied for ninth in his maiden visit to San Antonio last year. But that alone doesn't cut it. He's been rounding into form of late, with four straight cashes, two of them top-25s. Always long off the tee -- Varner is 28th in driving distance -- he's becoming more accurate with his irons, now 66th in GIR. Putting? Don't ask.
Luke List - $7,600 (50-1)
What's that old idiom -- Luke List sinks ships? We kid, we kid. Ol' favorite List sank us with an MC last week, but we are jumping back on board. He had a nice run of five straight cashes broken, and he was 29th last year at TPC San Antonio. List is third in driving distance, 36th in GIR, 46th in scrambling and even an improved T53 in PA. At this price, we don't need a win or even a top-5 to have him pay off, as is the case with the Tier 1 guys.
Nick Watney - $7,500 (80-1)
If Watney is healthy, we like him in this slot. We wonder because he's played only once since early March, and that was a missed cut at Houston. Watney entered the season on a medical exemption for a back injury, but there has been no report of a recurrence. Before that MC, Watney had a nice run going, with three top-15s in a four-tournament span. He's 55th in driving distance, 83rd in GIR and an okay 120th in SGP.
Jamie Lovemark - $7,200 (80-1)
Lovemark hasn't played San Antonio since a T36 three years ago. Recently, he's made three straight cuts, with two top-30s and one MDF. He arrives with good-to-mediocre numbers: 25th in driving distance, 104th in GIR, 92nd in SGP.
Sam Saunders - $7,000 (Field, 8-5)
Saunders has never played the tournament before, but he is on the best roll of his young career: three straight top-20s, including T11 last week at Hilton Head. The burst coincides with his missed cut at Bay Hill, so maybe his deep disappointment there has spurred him on. His season-long numbers aren't great, but of course they are on the rise. Saunders is not a long hitter (142nd in driving distance), but he's up to 10th in GIR and 52nd in PA.
Seung-Yul Noh - $6,800 (Field, 8-5)
Before missing the cut here last year, Noh had four straight cashes, two of them top-20s. His numbers line up nicely for a long-shot pick: 41st in driving distance, 108th in GIR and 65th in SGP. Noh has six MCs this season, but only one since January.
Michael Kim - $6,700 (Field, 8-5)
Kim is a premier putter we've jumped on a few times this season. And with a T21 in his tournament debut last year, we're doing it again. Kim is 12th in SGP along with not-terrible tee-to-green numbers: 124th in driving distance, 123rd in GIR. He missed the cut last week, but notched top-20s in his two previous starts.
Blayne Barber - $6,300 (Field, 8-5)
Barber has made only 7-of-13 cuts this season, but he's run off five cashes in a row, including a T26 last week at Hilton Head. He's had only one start at TPC San Antonio, a missed cut two years ago. His numbers look good for a better showing this time around: an impressive 35th in SGP, while 74th in GIR.