Mastering player mentality key at Valero Texas Open
5 Min Read
A smart bettor or fantasy player needs to be aware of the mentality of competitors at TPC San Antonio this week.
With the Masters Tournament on the horizon, the field at the Valero Texas Open has a variety of attitudes present and it is imperative you factor these into your decisions.
There are the players already exempt for Augusta National - 11 of the 144 in the current field at TPC San Antonio who are looking to tune things up before vying for the Green Jacket. Those are Cameron Champ, Corey Conners, Ryan Fox, Tyrrell Hatton, Kazuki Higa, Si Woo Kim, Chris Kirk, Hideki Matsuyama, Francesco Molinari, Alex Noren and Sepp Straka.
Hatton is the +1200 favorite with BetMGM Sportsbook, but I am not going to be advocating for the top dog this week. This is not to say Hatton isn’t capable, but with a poor performance at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play plus the worry of a possible hand/wrist complaint… I’m already wary. (And as you’ll see later in this column, apart from Jordan Spieth a few years ago, longshots have had some success at the Valero Texas Open.) And the PGA TOUR is so deep with quality players that even being one percent off your best can be the difference between contending for a win or battling on the cut line.
And we haven’t even discussed the possible thunderstorms this week – and as such potential delays.
So, while I can find many reasons to like former champion Conners, recent winner Kirk, and even Kiwi firebrand Fox… as a general rule I’m fading this group. Any play should be at minimal outlay.
Next are those not in the field for The Masters, but who have been regulars in the past, or who are in great form and feel highly motivated to grab the final ticket via a win in Texas. Rickie Fowler headlines this group that includes last week’s winner Matt Wallace (a win in Punta Cana did not qualify him for the Masters), and veterans Matt Kuchar, Luke Donald and Padraig Harrington.
Fowler is second on the betting lines at +1800 and has been rediscovering his form lately. Three top 10s this season, including a runner-up at the ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP, and a run of six finishes inside the top 31 coming into the week have him in good spirits.
He is looking to get back to Augusta National for the first time since 2020 where he’s had five top 12s and made the cut nine of 10 times. It’s an extra pressure point added to the already intense and stressful chase for TOUR wins. Not exactly what Fowler, who does have five wins to his name- but none since 2019- needs to be at his optimal performance.
I believe Fowler is a legitimate chance to contend, but I’d be leaning towards the top 10, 20 markets rather than going all the way.
And then there are the players who are not in the Masters and know that realistically it’s a stretch that they would be there… at least this season. These are the players to really watch this week in Texas as this is where recent history tells us the winner is most likely to emerge. They are targeting the 500 FedExCup points, two-year exemption on TOUR and $1,602,000 check presented to the winner rather than the Masters ticket.
Defending champion J.J. Spaun is one of six players to win his first TOUR event right here since 2011, with an opening price of 150 to 1. While Spieth’s winning effort from 12 to 1 was only a few years ago, we’ve also seen Conners (2019), Andrew Landry (2018) and Steven Bowditch (2014) at over 500 to 1.
So now it’s time to find the strongest tee-to-green performers that fit in this category and those who excel in par 5 scoring, and shots from 250+ yards. The last seven winners all ranked inside the top 12 of Stroked Gained: Tee-to-Green.
Before we get to longer shots… Cam Davis (+4000) intrigues me for many reasons. He ranks a respectable 51st in SG: Tee-to-Green despite having a run of five missed cuts due to early-season illness. Now healthy again, he’s coming off a T6 at THE PLAYERS and a respectable 2-1-0 record at Match Play. He is 17th in Par-5 Scoring but will need to be at his best from 250+ yards this week.
We can also look at Nick Taylor (+5000) in this realm as he sits 30th Tee-to-Green and proved he can take on the big names when he pushed Scottie Scheffler all the way at the WM Phoenix Open. Ben Griffin (+4500) and Aaron Rai (+5000) are also in the sweet spot with decent tee-to-green games going on this year.
At +15000, Kevin Tway ranks 11th on TOUR in approaches from 250-275 yards, where he’s managed to score at 10-under relative to par. Lee Hodges at +12500 is a distant 151st in proximity from the same distance, but he’s managed to be 14-under par regardless, when coming in from a long way out.
Hayden Buckley (+9000) is 8-under par from his 13 attempts outside 275 yards, is 57th Tee-To-Green and ranks fourth on TOUR Off-the-Tee. His all-around approach game though has been far from impressive, so he’ll need a big week in that regard.
At the end of the day, be wary of the favorites heading to Augusta despite all the numbers in their favor. Maybe hold back for the first round and reassess before jumping on board.
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