Dates: March 30, 2023 to April 2, 2023
Location: Texas, USA
Course: TPC San Antonio (Oaks)
Course Par: 72
Course Length: 7438 yards
Prize Purse: $8900000
With just one week to go until the first major of the season, the appetiser comes in the form of the Valero Texas Open. JJ Spaun returns to defend his title against a weaker field than has been the case in previous years, with most of the world’s best players already having fine-tuned their games during the recent set of early season elevated events.
The traditional curtain raiser to Masters week feels a bit different this year with a far weaker field than usual. Tyrrell Hatton heads the field from a rankings perspective, although it’d be hard to be confident about his chances having picked up a wrist injury last week and failing to get out of his bracket in the Matchplay. The fact that Rickie Fowler looks set to go off second favourite tells you all you need to know about the (lack of) strength in depth, so it should be one of those weeks where less heralded players see it as a good opportunity to pick up some cash and ranking/FedEx points.
There’s no standout stat for performance at San Antonio. Not over-long, it favours accuracy over distance off the tee, with narrow, tree-lined fairways. And a tidy game on and around the greens is also high on our list of priorities in trying to find the value. It’s notable that the par 3s are all fairly long, so we’ve also had a look down the list of par 3 scoring stats as we’ve narrowed down the field. Decent performances at either the Shriners or Genesis would also seem to correlate well for the Oaks course, so we’ve been hunting for those as well.
|Player||Points||Type||UK Odds||Places||Outright US Odds|
|Nick Taylor||2.5||each way||60/1||8||+6000|
|Matt Kuchar||2.5||each way||28/1||8||+3300|
|JJ Spaun||2||each way||35/1||8||+3500|
|Ben Griffin||2||each way||40/1||8||+4500|
|Kazuki Higa||1||each way||150/1||8||+15000|
|Chesson Hadley||1||each way||200/1||8||+20000|
Our first pick and certainly the best value this week is Nick Taylor (2.5pts each way, 60/1, 8 places). We’ve had him on our radar for a few weeks now and his stats firmly suggest that he should be getting more respect than the market is giving him, with two top 10s in his last 5 starts. He played nicely enough in the Matchplay despite not qualifying from his bracket and a top 30 in the Genesis (against a far stronger field than he faces this week) looks good form as well. He has no course form to speak of, but we’re not too worried about that given the improvement trend he’s been showing.
Next up is a proper course specialist in the shape of Matt Kuchar (2.5pts each way, 28/1, 8 places). Kooch must love this place as much as anywhere on Tour, having three top 10s and two further top 20s on his CV since 2014, and we should bear in mind that the fields for this event used to be deeper. He also showed up well in the Genesis (top 10) and looked to be in good form in the Matchplay, qualifying from his bracket and only narrowly going down to Jason Day on the 18th in the knockout round. Few in this field can get anywhere near to his course form, so he’s easy to include in the staking plan despite the price not being huge.
It’s always worth taking a second look at last year’s winner and JJ Spaun (2pts each way, 35/1, 8 places) can certainly be given decent prospects of a repeat. He took down a difficult-looking group in the Matchplay 3-0, going 15 under for the 46 holes he played, while there was no shame in going down to Xander in the last 16. The price is ok, so we’ll include him.
Ben Griffin (2pts each way, 40/1, 8 places) is another we’ve been following closely in recent times. He sits 8th in the field in overall true strokes gained in the last six months, with his short game in particular in tremendous shape. He should be closer to the market leaders than he is and looks very much like one of the likelier up and comers who could post a win in one of these weaker events in his current form. Driving accuracy would be a minor concern, but by no means enough to put me off getting involved.
Finally we’ll have small stakes on a couple of lively outsiders in the shape of Kazuki Higa (1pt each way, 150/1, 8 places) and Chesson Hadley (1pt each way, 200/1, 8 places). Higa has been plying his trade successfully on the Japan Tour, with multiple wins, and more recently on the DP World Tour, where he’s had a string of decent finishes without winning. He’s stepping up in class again now, but his price makes him interesting given his form trend. Hadley is definitely a wildcard, but has tended to outperform expectations in this event, with a couple of top 25s on his CV and his recent form isn’t too bad (two recent top 30s). Sure he’s an unlikely winner, but I can certainly see him making the weekend, and he could be an interesting top 20 play.
While we wouldn’t have Hatton on our mind this week in light of his recent injury, any of Fowler, Conners, Matsuyama, Si Woo could be expected to go very well, but we just couldn’t find a standout amongst them at the prices on offer. Enjoy, and tune in next week as we preview the first major of the season!