The Valero Texas Open tees off Thursday morning from the Oaks course at TPC San Antonio. A solid field includes a number of the top Americans in the world, with one notable exception, a certain #1-ranked Texan (Jordan Spieth). There are still plenty of tough choices to be made, so here are a few golfers in every price range I think could end up being useful.
Matt Kuchar ($10,700) – He is coming off a weekend at Harbour Town in which he led off with a 67 and let that carry him all the way to a T9 without a single other round under par. He has never finished outside the top-22 in four tries on this course, and he already has five top-25 performances in 2016. He is as reliable as you can hope for as a pillar of any cash lineup this weekend, and the fact that he could just go out and win it means there is plenty of upside there as well.
Brooks Koepka ($10,400) – Stats are a funny thing: I could tell you that he hasn’t been inside the top-20 since Pebble Beach more than two months ago, or I could tell you that he has only been outside the top-26 twice in 2016, and either way, I’d be telling the truth. But what that all tells me is that Koepka is a golfer who hasn’t necessarily had his A-game this season (since his A-game led to eight top-10s in 2015), but has had the mental toughness to grind out respectable performances anyway. That kind of resilience makes him safe enough for any kind of contest, with the upside of winning the tournament and leading all comers in fantasy points by double-digits.
“He stepped up his game with a T4 last weekend in his first official tournament as a pro…”
Bryson DeChambreau ($9,800) – I don’t know about you, but I am buying in. After finishing T27 at the Arnold Palmer and T24 at the Masters, he stepped up his game with a T4 last weekend in his first official tournament as a pro. And while I don’t think he will make every cut and finish inside the top-25 or so every weekend, he is no longer a novelty. He is a professional golfer who is playing really well right now, which means you need to be at least considering him.
Charley Hoffman ($9,600) – He finished T14 last weekend, giving you at least one demonstration that his game is in good form right now. And knowing that, you can look to his history on the course: in the six times the event has been held on this course, he has finished T13 (twice), T11 (twice), T3 and T2. Apparently he likes it here, and even if you don’t think he is primed to finally break through for that win, he seems like a worthy target in any kind of contest as the eleventh most expensive on the board.
Jason Kokrak ($9,300) – He has finished inside the top-15 here twice in his last three tries, showing an ability to shoot par on a course that had the highest scoring average (74.5) among all non-majors last season. The big problem here is hitting greens – but that doesn’t mean, necessarily, that you want guys who traditionally hit greens well. That might seem counter-intuitive, but it makes sense if you truly factor in the difficulty of this course: even guys who hit lots of greens on “traditional” courses are going to struggle here, so it’s less of an advantage than it might be on other weeks. I might give more weight to course history this weekend than I do elsewhere, so Kokrak’s track record is definitely worth noting.
Chris Kirk ($9,000) – He shot 74 on Sunday last weekend, which dropped him from a top-ten performance to the mid-twenties, but if you want some confidence in him as a fantasy option this time around, focus instead on the 66 he shot on Friday. He missed the cut at Augusta, but that was bookended by that T23 at RBC Heritage and a T12 at the Arnold Palmer. If he is putting well this weekend, he has the kind of balanced game that could find success at TPC San Antonio as well.
Daniel Summerhays ($8,300) – Another “horse for the course,” he has finished T7 or better in each of the last three editions of this tournament. He has never shot higher than a 73 in those twelve rounds, and remember, it is a course where the average score was higher than 74. If you’re going to rely on course history to help guide your choices this weekend, it is going to lead you straight to Summerhays, especially at this price.
Freddie Jacobson ($8,100) – Earlier I said that this course presented so many issues for players getting from the tee to the green that traditionally high GIR % players would struggle along with everyone else. But that doesn’t only mean you need to pay attention to course history; it also means that players who putt well always seem to thrive here. Four of the six winners of this event have finished inside the top-five in Strokes Gained: Putting for the weekend, the single best stat for gauging how a player is performing on the greens. Jacobson is currently sitting at 26th in the category, evidence of a career spent relying on his putter and an easy way to explain how he has managed to finish inside the top-20 here five times in six years.
Si Woo Kim ($7,600) – He finished T14 last weekend, good for his second top-15 performance in a row (T13 at the Houston Open). He was #2 in the field at RBC Heritage in putts per GIR, which also boosted his Strokes Gained: Putting ranking. But this weekend, getting the GIR presents so many difficulties that you really just have to take advantage of the scoring opportunities when they present themselves, and Kim’s recent play indicates that he could be up to the challenge.
Aaron Baddeley ($7,400) – Baddeley has two missed cuts and two top-10s in his last four outings since the Arnold Palmer in mid-March. But if you’re trying to decide which one of those guys is going to show up this weekend in San Antonio, he has never missed a cut here, and has been in the top-20 in three of his four attempts. If that means a repeat of one of his better performances from the past few weeks is more likely, you could be looked at a 80+ fantasy point performance, real upside for the price.
“He jumped from a pseudo-respectable 105th in the world before the tournament to 36th, up almost 70 spots.”
Ernie Els ($6,900) – If putting is the key to this course, and if Strokes Gained: Putting is the easiest stat to track it (it is), then you have to be looking at Els. He isn’t just a veteran player who played well last weekend; he is a veteran player who putted exceptionally well last weekend. He jumped from a pseudo-respectable 105th in the world before the tournament to 36th, up almost 70 spots. He’s fortunate Augusta doesn’t track that stat, but still, he bounced back in a big way from that infamous six-putt by finishing third in the field in Strokes Gained: Putting at the RBC Heritage. If that continues, it will serve him well this weekend, and you should look to take advantage of a veteran performing well before that changes.
Nick Taylor ($5,900) – This isn’t the safest option, but most guys under $6,000 aren’t. By getting Taylor in your lineup, it allows you to spend up to roster one of the top-priced golfers. Also, Taylor has this going for him: he has the mid-range game to stay alive on this course, but historically, when he is playing well, he is doing it with his putter. He tied for 5th in a similar field just a month ago at the Puerto Rico Open (and scored 95 DKFP in the process). He got that far up the leaderboard by recording 16 birdies and two eagles, making every trip to the green count (2nd in the field in putts per GIR).