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The PGA TOUR stays in Texas for another week as they head to San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open.
With major-championship season getting started next week, some have already made their way to Georgia while others are trying to fine-tune or build some confidence this week at TPC San Antonio.
There are 144 golfers to start the week at the Valero while the usual cut rules apply, the Low 36 and Ties will advance on to play the weekend.
Let’s hop right in and talk about the host course.
The Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio is the layout this week. It has hosted the VTO since the 2010 edition and also stepped up on the Korn Ferry Tour last year to host an event.
A quick glance at the scorecard shows up a par 72 that stretches to 7,438 yards. That would be classified a bit on the long side.
This is a Greg Norman design while Sergio Garcia acted as a player consultant.
Off the tee, players describe the course as generous even though the widths are smaller than TOUR average. With the greens typically playing very firm, it’s a nice advantage to be attacking from the fairways.
The flip side to that argument is that with the tournament played the week before the Masters, they trim the overseeded rough to mimic next week’s conditions a bit. Perhaps that is why golfers say it’s generous off the tee, because you don’t have a large penalty for missing the fairways. The obvious exception would be if you find the native area with Kevin Na and his ’16’ being the prime outlier example of big numbers possible here. There are some rocky areas that you need to get lucky to avoid as well but otherwise you can play just fine out of the rough.
As you get closer to the pin, the differences between TPC San Antonio and Augusta National get larger, though. They do overseed the bermuda with poa triv but they can’t match the green speeds of Augusta National. The target stimp at TPC San Antonio sits around 11 feet which is slower than TOUR average.
The main defense of the golf course actually comes from Mother Nature. It’s rare to have a calm day here so the wind keeps things spicy.
Those San Antonio winds do a great job of protecting par. If that is something you care about. Only one edition of the VTO has featured a field average under par while the average score sits at 72.88 (+0.88 RTP).
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Quotes on the Course
Charley Hoffman: “You’ve got to shape tee shots. You’ve got to be in certain spots hitting iron shots into the green…You’ve got to hit right to left, left to right and make a few putts.”
Rickie Fowler: “It’s fairly generous off the tee until you get some wind blowing out here, which I know it can, but it’s very much a second-shot golf course. No, there’s some tough but fun second shots out here.”
Jimmy Walker: “You’ve got a couple of tough tee shots, but it’s really all about the greens are pretty small in spots so it’s about hitting your irons really well, I think.”
Scottie Scheffler: “I don’t hit as many full drivers as I usually do, a lot of teed down shots.”
Joel Dahmen: “It is a hair on the long side…You have to drive the ball in play out here. The fairways are somewhat wide, but if you miss the fairways you’re in trouble. “
Golfer talk about shot shaping, firm greens, and battling the wind.
Using historical data from this week’s venue, we can look for other courses across the PGA TOUR schedule with crossover success (or failure). Here are the courses that pop up frequently:
CC of Jackson
Muirfield Village GC
The theme that pops out here are courses that don’t promote bomb-and-gouge but put a lot of mid- to long-irons in your hand.
Thursday: Mostly Sunny with a high of 79 degrees. Winds at 6 to 10 MPH.
Friday: Partly Sunny with a high of 81 degrees. Winds at 10 to 15 MPH.
At press time, it looks like Friday will be the tougher of the two days in terms of wind. Make sure you check that forecast in the days leading up to the event, though.
Golfers to Watch
McIlroy is the class of the field but he hasn’t played here since a runner-up finish in 2013. He’s finished T33 or better in all five worldwide starts in 2022.
There are some major health question marks with Matsuyama this week as he withdrew ahead of THE PLAYERS with neck/back injury. Was he just trying to be cautious ahead of his Masters defense or could that injury still be lingering?
He is the fan-favorite anytime the TOUR heads to the Lone Star State. He also happens to be the defending champ this week as he carded three rounds of 67 or better last year en route to slipping on the champion’s boots. His game is in a very different state compared to last year, though. Spieth was arriving with four top 15s in his last five stoke-play starts before winning while this year he’s finished outside of the top 20 in five of his last six starts.
He made a nice run at the WGC-Match Play last week and now gets a home game at TPC San Antonio. His local knowledge hasn’t helped too much in the past as he’s 4-for-4 here but a T23 last year is his best VTO finish with the other three going for T42, T58, and T42.
He took out Ancer in last week’s WGC event which lead to a couple of extra matches played. Could fatigue be an issue? Perhaps if he were trying to learn a new course but Conners is a past champ at TPC San Antonio with a T26 and T14 also on his resume. The Canadian should be able to have a light pre-tournament workload and still feel comfortable come Thursday.
Nearly won in his last start, at the Valspar, and also won at the Oaks Course last year on the Korn Ferry circuit. The bookmakers did not let that fact slip through the cracks which explains why he’s on a different price tier than usual. There is upside here but the starting expectations are also higher than usual if you want him to pay off in weekly fantasy leagues.
Ranking the Field
1. Rory McIlroy
2. Hideki Matsuyama
3. Jordan Spieth
4. Corey Conners
5. Gary Woodland
6. Maverick McNealy
7. Abraham Ancer
8. Jhonattan Vegas
9. Keegan Bradley
10. Adam Hadwin
11. Chris Kirk
12. Si Woo Kim
13. Luke List
14. Bryson DeChambeau
15. Russell Knox
16. Tony Finau
17. Matt Kuchar
18. Kevin Streelman
19. Jason Day
20. Richard Bland