This Week’s Event: 2018 Valero Texas OpenPat Mayo and Geoff Fienberg debate their 2018 Valero Texas open picks and the week in Fantasy and betting at this week’s PGA Tour stop at TPC San Antonio..
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2018 Valero Texas Open Picks: Show Index0:35 Heritage Recap
12:20 Valero Stats/Course
14:41 Valero Favorites
24:55 Rest of Valero Field
50:58 Quick Picks
53:49 One and Done Selections
2018 Valero Texas Open
156 Players | Top 70 & Ties Make The Cut
Defending Champ: Kevin Chappell | First Tee: 8:10 a.m. ET
After being blessed with a string of elite field events — we even got the world’s No. 1 at Harbour Town last week — we’re back to the slog days of the PGA Tour, as the top players get prepared for THE PLAYERS in a few weeks. And yes, THE PLAYERS shall always be spelled in ALL CAPS!!!!! Not entirely sure why, but that’s a thing they do.
The field of 156 players features just five of the world’s top-30 players: Sergio Garcia (10), Matt Kuchar (21), Pat Perez (22), Charley Hoffman (26), and Xander Schauffele (28). The second tier is filled with tour regulars like defending champ Kevin Chappell, Ryan Moore, Luke List, Adam Scott, Ollie Schniederjans, Brandt Snedeker, Zach Johnson, Bill Haas, Russell Knox, Ryan Palmer, Brendan Steele, Si WOOOO Kim, Jimmy Walker, Keegan Bradley, Chris Kirk, Chesson Hadley, Beau Hossler, and Jamie Lovemark. This is one of the weakest field of the year.
Fortunately, there is small, but solid overseas contingent from down the list to peak some interest. Indian Shubhankar Sharma will be in Houston. As will Euro Tour members Julian Suri, Dylan Frittelli, and Englishman Chris Paisley, making his first US start in 2018. In five starts in 2018, Paisley has a win, three Top fives, and no finish worse than T37. He’s vaulted from 282nd in the world to No. 78.
2018 Valero Texas Open Key Stats
Custom Stat POWER RANKINGS from FantasyNational.com
2018 Valero Texas Open Course
TPC San Antonio | 7,435 Yards | Par 72
Greens: Bermuda | Ranked 10/50 in 2017 Difficulty (+0.853)
If Harbour Town was very much the opposite of Augusta, TPC San Antonio is a cross between the two. The last seven Valero Texas Open champions have gained nearly a stroke per round in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee (+0.864). Additionally, five of the last seven champions have ranked inside of the Top 10 for SG: TEE, and six of the last seven have averaged over 295 yards in Driving Distance. So, driving here is essential. Plus, the rough is trimmed very low, so accuracy, unless you’re bombing it into the woods, won’t be overly problematic.
Like the Heritage, the green in regulation rate is well below tour average, but it doesn’t really have to do with tiny greens like Harbour Town. The putting surfaces in San Antonio are right around average, it’s all about that wind. Swirling gusts play a factor every year, one of the reasons the cut line has been over par each of the past six seasons, but it was especially pronounced in 2015. That year, the morning wave had a scoring average of 78.61, almost four strokes worse than the afternoon wave (74.86). Seven players withdrew over the first two rounds that year as well.
While 2015 is an extreme outlier, it showcases how brutal conditions can get at a moment’s notice. Since wind is so unpredictable, this is one of the few tournaments where you actively should be looking to stack some DraftKings rosters with the tee draw. It’s not necessary for every lineup, but picking what you believe to be the better draw (and even constructing a few on the other end of the draw), puts you in position to take advantage of a massive draw split in conditions should it occur. It never hurts to be prepared.
Primarily, I’ll be focusing on Strokes Gained: Ball Striking (a combination of SG: TEE and SG: Approach), along with Birdie or Better rate, and give a lean towards those with plus distance. A distance of 7,435 is fairly long to begin with. Crank the wind up to 11, and it can start playing a lot longer.
Historically, over 40 percent of approaches come from the 150-200-yard bucket, but placing too much emphasis on those specific ranges might not be wise. Since each player is more comfortable from different distances, coupled with the driving ability of each individual, it won’t be as predictive as you’d like it to be. It’s certainly worth looking at to see who’s awesome and who sucks from that range, but I wouldn’t cross off anyone who was merely average.
For TPC San Antonio’s design, Greg Norman churned out a difficult layout, with an assist from Sergio Garcia! There are 54 bunkers littered across the course, with a mixture of short and super long Par 4s to test the field. Two of the Par 5s walk out over 600 yards and another that falls just under the 600-yard barrier, reserving eagles for the super bombers and those who get lucky with hole outs. In 2017 only 13 eagles were made on the Par 5s. Comparatively, nine eagles were made on the two short Par 4s. Another reason to target those who’d really be something in one of those long drive contests. Finally there are three Par 3s measuring over 200 yards. It’s no guarantee distance makes you a winner in San Antonio, but it really can cut down on the overall difficulty. It’s just easier hitting a 7-Iron than a 4-Iron.
2018 Valero Texas Open Picks — Targets From Each Range
The win has to come soon for List, or it might never happen. One of the longest player’s on tour, and one of the year’s premiere ball-strikers (and one who’s shockingly good around the green), it’s very simple with List, just putt a little bit, and you’re going to win. He’s played eight consecutive weekends, never finishing more than T26, piling up three Top 10s over his past five starts. I do have one hesitation however. While he’s finished well at Farmers (T12), Shell (T24), and API (T7), his elite paydays have all comes at courses where you reign it in off the tee: Honda (T2), Heritage (T3), and Valspar (T16). It’s strange. Maybe a shorter Texas track like Colonial will be the breakthrough, but for Valero, List enters Top 5 in the field in SG: TEE, SG: APP, birdies or better gained, and driving distance gained over his past 24 rounds, while leading the field in ball-striking and Tee-to-Green. Most certainly, List can putt himself out of any event, but it’s just so close right now you have to keep riding his form.
Also from the school of can’t putt, Adam Scott!!! A past champ at TPC San Antonio, Scott does the exact same things well as List. Getting to the green isn’t an issue, making a few putts is the problem. Despite no lofty finishes in 2018, Scott has made five consecutive cuts, and the last time we saw him, he was rallying for a quality finish (T32) at Augusta. In a watered-down field, Scott presents some of the highest upside from the second tier. And, if he can strokes putting for the first time since last year’s Bridgestone, he could become a two-time Valero winner. Plus, Aussies in Texas, that’s a thing.
When Suri came to the States at Torrey Pines, the “pay way too much attention to golf” crowd was properly excited. An American bomber, playing primary on the European Tour, people just assumed Suri was Brooks Koepka 2.0. Hasn’t really panned out that way. Suri couldn’t muster anything better than a T63 in his first three starts, but the Match Play seemed to turn around his fortunes. He almost escaped his group, but was bested by eventual winner Bubba Watson. Then, Suri hit the road the next day and played his way into the Houston Open, where he finished T8. Already twice a winner across the pond (on both the Euro and Challenger Tours), Suri is a highly volatile player, but one with gigantic upside. Plus, his experience in Europe should be of assistance if the wind picks up.
Hoffman has gained the most strokes at this event over the past five years (45.07) — seven more than second-place Ryan Palmer. His results include a win and three other Top-11 finishes. Pretty solid. And, if there’s one thing you need to know about Charley, it’s he LOVESSSSS Texas. And, he’s entering with solid form. He’s posted T23/T12/T14 in his last three starts, and sits Top 15 in the field in ball-striking, Par 5s gained, and birdie or better gained over the past 24 rounds.
Generally worse off the tee than than you’d like, but he’s found himself gaining strokes with the smoke wagon again once the tour shifted away from less-than-driver tracks, picking up an average of 2.65 strokes gained off the tee at API and Houston. If that problem’s truly fixed — or at least won’t be a liability — Lovemark’s primed to tear apart TPC San Antonio. Over his past 24 rounds, he sits Top 25 in driving distance, Par 5s gained and ball-striking, with Top-10 grades in approach, tee-to-green, and Strokes Gained: Around-the-Green. Like Luke List, if the historic trend of low GIR rate continues this season, being able to save yourself with your short game might be the difference.Other notable names appearing near the top of stat models and the win simulator at FantasyNational.com: Sergio Garcia, Brendan Steele, Ryan Moore, Zach Johnson, Brandon Harkins, Kevin Chappell, Kevin Streelman
Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, and the host of The Pat Mayo Experience daily talk show. (Subscribe for video or audio). Mayo’s (@ThePME) 14 Fantasy Sports Writing Association nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo has been recognized across multiple sports (Football, Baseball & Golf), mediums (Video, Writing & Podcasting) and genre (humor). Beyond sports, Mayo covers everything from entertainment to pop culture to politics. If you have a fantasy question, general inquiry or snarky comment, ship it to Mayo at ThePatMayoExperience@gmail.com and the best will be addressed on the show.
I am a promoter at DraftKings and am also an avid fan and user (my username is ThePME) 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. I am not an employee of DraftKings and do not have access to any non-public information.