PGA CHEAT SHEET: VALERO TEXAS OPEN

The Cheat Sheet provides fantasy golf players with course info, player history and the most noteworthy trends of the week to help them with their roster selections.
BY: GEOFF ULRICH | DRAFTKINGS PLAYBOOK

LAST WEEK

The young guard just kept on winning last week, as Wes Bryan won his first PGA Tour event on his very first visit to Hilton Head. Bryan wasn’t the only talented young player to have a good week as he was pursued down the stretch by both Patrick Cantlay and Ollie Schneiderjans, both of whom look to have hugely promising careers ahead of them. Bryan’s win knocks him all the way up to No. 37 in the world rankings. The tour ends its Southeast swing and heads to Texas this week as we start the slow build towards the Players in May and the US Open in mid-June.


THE FIELD

This week the field gets bigger with 150 or more golfers on the start list. While we lose some of the international talents we had last week, they’ll be a few new faces teeing things up in Texas, including Jimmy Walker, Brooks Koepka and Patrick Reed. These three will all be in the field along with a couple studs from last week: Matt Kuchar and Luke Donald. For fantasy purposes, it will be interesting to see how a lot of these top players do after either being in contention or taking a week of rest after the Masters. As usual, the cut will take place after Friday’s round (top 70 and ties make the weekend). With a larger field getting 6/6 players through the cut on DraftKings will be tougher, but should prove more rewarding in big tournaments where the casualty rate will be much higher than the last few events.

The early weather forecast looks relatively calm with some possible showers on Friday and Saturday which could hamper play. Checking later in the week for potential draw bias could be helpful this week.


THE COURSE

TPC San Antonio (Oaks Course)
Par 72, 7,435 yards

TPC San Antonio is a long par 72 that plays over 7,400 yards but is always ranked as one of the tougher par 72s on tour. The conditions the past couple of years were extremely volatile as the wind can really pick up here quickly and make things crazy. Back in 2015, half the field got exposed to gale force winds for a round and only the afternoon wave golfers really had a chance to win. This year, high winds aren’t in the forecast as of now but thunderstorms could halt play later in the week. With a decent forecast, it’s quite possible things may break towards the course playing easier overall.

TPC San Antonio was designed by Greg Norman and has been the host of this event since 2010. The course sets up long and last year played to a 72.206 scoring average, the 17th toughest on tour. There are four par 5s but three of them come in at just under or just over 600 yards and play as three shot holes for almost everyone. Fairways here are fairly narrow but going a bit offline generally won’t kill a golfer as the course plays wide open in many spots and has almost no water on it. Some spots are more penal than others though as Kevin Na found out in 2011 when he took 16 strokes to complete one of the par 4s. The greens here are known to be tough too with lots of sharp falloffs and contours the players have to navigate. The last few winners of this event have all been fairly big hitters off the tee but either scrambled or putted extremely well in the year of their respective victory.

The course also features four par 3s — three of which all come in well over 200 yards in length — and an additional five par 4s that will measure over 440 yards each. Overall, TPC San Antonio seems to be a place where good long iron and tee to green play will be crucial given the difficulty of many these longer holes and where a good week putting could prove the difference between a decent finish and a great one.


LAST 5 WINNERS

2016—Charley Hoffman -12 (over Patrick Reed -11)
2015—Jimmy Walker -11 (over Jordan Spieth -7)
2014—Steven Bowditch -8 (over Daniel Summerhays -7)
2013—Martin Laird -14 (over Rory McIlroy -12)
2012—Ben Curtis -9 (over matt Every and John Huh)


WINNING TRENDS

  • Of the last 7 winners at the Valero Texas Open only two had recorded a top-10 in a PGA tour event (in the same year) before their win.
  • Since the tournament moved to TPC San Antonio, five of the last six winners of this event have ranked 19th or better in driving distance.

KEY STATS

Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
Par 5 Scoring

This can be a tougher course to analyze statistically as we have a small sample size of only six years on the current course. With that being said since 2011 when the course moved to TPC San Antonio, the worst a winner has finished for the week in terms of Strokes Gained: Tee to Green was 11th, and that was a quite unlikely winner in Ben Curtis in 2012. TPC San Antonio is known for being one of the tougher tracks on tour and top finishers here almost always rank well in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green for the week.

Par 5 scoring is also a decent stat to view this week. The course features four such holes, although at least two of them will not necessarily be birdie chances; in fact, three of the four par 5s at TPC San Antonio measure in at just under or just over 600 yards. Regardless, this has been a stat that has seemed to pop for many players with high finishes here. Since the course moved to TPC San Antonio in 2011, four of the six winners of this event have ranked second or better in par 5 scoring for the week of their win.


HORSES FOR COURSES

  • Charley Hoffman has a sterling record at the Valero Texas Open. Since the course moved to TPC San Antonio he has seven finishes of 13th or better at this event, including a sixth, third, second and a win from last season. He’s the top horse this week.
  • Billy Horschel hasn’t been as consistent as Hoffman but in six appearances at this course, he’s made five cuts and recorded three top-five finishes, including a T4 from last season. He’s been inconsistent over his last few starts but that’s a trend I would anticipate changing this week.
  • Brendan Steele is a former winner of this event and another player who has taken to the course quite well. In six appearances he has only missed one cut and also has three finishes of eighth or better, including the aforementioned win in 2011. He finished T13 here last season.
  • Daniel Summerhays is also worthy of a mention this week as he’s now reeled off four top-15 finishes at this event and finished second in 2014. Summerhays has struggled in 2017 but he’s made two consecutive cuts now, including his first ever at Augusta two weeks ago.

DFS STRATEGY

Cash Games: Even though the record of Charley Hoffman makes him extremely attractive this week, I would sooner pay up for the consistency of Matt Kuchar ($11,500). Since missing the cut in a rain-soaked Houston Open, Kuchar has put up monster weekends in his last two starts and looks primed to reel off a string of top-10 performances. While I’d also feel good about rostering in-form players like Adam Hadwin and Brendan Steele, my other two favorite high-priced targets would likely be Kevin Chappell and Branden Grace, who seem to be finding mid-season form and have great records at this event. Other potential targets include Tony Finau ($8,400), Ryan Palmer ($8,600), JJ Spaun ($7,700) and JT Poston ($6,700).

Tournaments: Branden Grace and Kevin Chappell remain two of my favorite targets for big tournaments as I doubt either will go highly owned. Outside of those two, Billy Horschel has a great record at this event and should be quite low-owned as well after a bad missed cut at the Heritage. My favorite target for tournaments is Byeong Hun-An who hits it a mile off the tee and has been excellent tee to green most of the season. He’s coming off his best finish ever at Augusta and hasn’t missed a cut all year. Other potential low-owned targets include JJ Spaun, Nick Watney, Cameron Smith, John Peterson and Martin Flores.


RECENT FORM

Top Recent Form (Overall):

1. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar has now finished T4 and T11 over the last two weeks and shot a field-best 64 in his final round at Hilton Head.
2. Ryan Moore: Moore has now made five straight cuts in a row and is coming off a T9 at the year’s first major, his best career finish at Augusta.
3. Sam Saunders: Now 31-under over his last 12 rounds of competitive play. Has gone T5, T20 and T11 over his last three starts overall.

Top Strokes Gained: Tee to Green from last week
1. Adam Hadwin
2. Ian Poulter
3. Ollie Schniederjans

Top Strokes Gained: Putting from last week
1. Jonas Blixt
2. Brian Gay
3. Danny Lee


MY PICK: KEVIN CHAPPELL ($9,400)

Chappell had a slow start to the season, but over the past few weeks, he has seen a big resurgence in his game. While most will point to his big Masters week (T7) as the breakthrough, Chappell was actually hitting the ball much better in the tournaments prior to that week and had ranked sixth and 16th in Strokes Gained: Tee to Green in his two previous starts. Statistically, Chappell also seems to suit the TPC San Antonio course well as he ranks inside the top-40 in both Driving Distance and par 5 scoring, even after his poor start to the year. To top things off, Chappell already has a better than average record at TPC San Antonio with a runner-up finish from back in 2011 and a T4 from last season where he closed with a four under 68. As only the ninth most expensive player in the field this week I think Chappell represents good/great DraftKings value and like an NBA player banking in his 3-pointer at the buzzer I am even calling for him to pick up his first PGA Tour victory here, too.


MY SLEEPER: JOHN PETERSON ($6,900)

John Peterson has proven himself to an interesting character in his few years out on tour. Last week on Twitter (@JohnPetersonPGA) he proclaimed the following directly after missing the cut: “It’s best to not do a 3-day bender in Vegas right before a PGA tour event. Just for the 3 of you wondering. #trunkslam”. While the behavior may not inspire confidence, a quick peek at his record this season suggests that a bounce back may be in order this week. So far this year, over seven events, Peterson has yet to miss two cuts in a row and has always followed up his missed cuts by making the weekend in his next start. And while there are no guarantees that trend continues, the extra public humiliation Peterson put on himself, and the fact he finished T11 at TPC San Antonio back in 2015, suggests it might. In a weak field, Peterson is definitely a player you can consider on DraftKings as his past record, and propensity for quick bounce backs lines him up for a potentially big week.

 


I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is wavegoodbye) and may sometimes play on my personal account in the games that I offer advice on. Although I have expressed my personal view on the games and strategies above, they do not necessarily reflect the view(s) of DraftKings and I may also deploy different players and strategies than what I recommend above.