This article is part of our DraftKings PGA series.
VALERO TEXAS OPEN
Winner's Share: $1.386M
FedEx Cup Points: 500 to the Winner
Location: San Antonio, Texas
Course: TPC San Antonio (The Oaks Course)
2020 champion: None
The Texas Open is almost 100 years old. Almost. The venerable tournament was first played in 1922 – 99 years ago! – and it has been played every year since but two. It missed in 1943 because of World War II and last year because of you-know-what. After being booted around the schedule for years, the tournament was finally given the respect that one of the elder statesmen of the PGA Tour deserves. In 2019, it was slotted the week before the Masters.
The tournament has led quite a life, which tends to be the case when you're almost 100. It's been played in January, February, March, April, May, September, October and even November. The PGA Tour has bounced it around like it was Octavio Dotel. Now, with Valero – the sponsor of his event since 2002 – on board through 2028, it has some stability as the lead-in to Augusta.
There is so much history steeped in this tournament. It's the fourth-oldest event in the United States and the sixth-oldest in the world, behind only the Open Championship, U.S. Open, PGA Championship and the old Western (now BMW) and Canadian Opens. And of all the tournaments in the world, none has been played in just one place for its entire existence, like this one has in San Antonio. The tournament is so old it goes all the way to the days of Walter Hagen, who won the second edition in 1923. Corey Conners is the defending champion and, unlike Hagen, he had to qualify the Monday before. He is the only golfer to win a PGA Tour event in that situation since 2010.
Conners is back to defend in what largely is a lackluster 144-man field. And just when tournament organizers thought they had added a much-needed superstar, they had the rug pulled out from under them. World No. 1 Dustin Johnson was added to the field after it was published on Friday night, only to bow out Monday. Further, the move came after DraftKings released its prices, throwing much of the pricing system out of whack. We'll just have to adjust. To be sure, there are still some big names in native sons Jordan Spieth and Scottie Scheffler, plus Phil Mickelson and Rickie Fowler. Fowler is making a last-gasp effort to qualify for the Masters – the winner, presuming he's not already in the Masters field, gets in. All told, though, there are only three top-25 players in the world rankings – Tony Finau, Scheffler and Hideki Matsuyama – and eight of the top 50, including Texans Ryan Palmer and Abraham Ancer, Matt Kuchar, Bernd Wiesberger and Conners.
The Oaks, which opened in 2010, is a Greg Norman design "with assistance from Sergio Garcia," as the official website states. There's also another course at TPC San Antonio built by Pete Dye, so it's quite an honor for Norman that his is the championship 18. It's not especially long by today's standards, but there are some very long holes, including two 600-yarders and another par-5 at 591. There are five par-4s at about 450-plus. And three of the par-3s exceed 200 yards. Sounds like it would have suited Norman just fine back in the day.
There are towering oak trees that line the fairways; water on three holes; some enormous bunkers, two of which are bigger than many PGA Tour greens; and lots of native lands that can lead to very crooked numbers. Kevin Na infamously found a native area on the par-4, 474-yard 9th hole in 2011, and he eventually walked off with a 16. Despite all those pitfalls, the week could very well tip on the wind, and how hard it's blowing down around San Antone. The greens are Bermudagrass and above average in size at 6,400 square feet, and many have undulations and multiple levels. They did make things a bit easier in 2019, however, widening the fairways and cutting the rough, perhaps to better mimic Augusta. Whatever the reason, Conners shot 20-under, the highest winning score – by three shots – in the 10 years at The Oaks.
Weather-wise, we're looking at temperatures warming from the upper-60s to the upper-70s across the four days, with the chances of rain increasing on the weekend. As for the all-important wind: It's expected to be in the low double-digit mph across the week, which, if it holds, is not bad at all for Texas.
Key Stats to Winning at TCP San Antonio
The most important indicators every week are current form and course history. "Key Stats" follow in importance.
• Ball Striking/Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green
• Strokes Gained: Approach/Greens in Regulation
• Strokes Gained: Putting
• Birdie Average
For the first eight years at The Oaks, the winning score was between 8- and 14-under. Then it jumped to 17-under with Landry in 2018 and to 20-under with Conners in 2019. So we've definitely seen an increase in birdie importance. No matter who you're targeting this week, focus on guys with strong approach and tee-to-green games. Conners ranked fourth in Strokes Gained: Off-the-Tee, first in Approach and second in Tee-to-Green, and even pretty good on the greens at 26th in SG: Putting. Eight of the top-111 guys on the leaderboard ranked in the top-10 in both SG: Approach and Tee-to-Green. In 2017 and 2018, the top-5 finishers all ranked in the top-15 in SG: Tee-to-Green. Golfodds.com pegs the over/under for the winning score at 273.5 – 14.5 under par.
DRAFTKINGS VALUE PICKS
Based on Standard $50K Salary Cap
Tier 1 Values
Tony Finau - $11,000 (Winning odds at golfodds.com: 14-1)
With Dustin Johnson having pulled out, Finau is now at the top of the DK board – but without a top-guy price. He has come painfully close the past couple of months to ending his long winless streak. He was second three straight times: at Torrey Pines, Saudi Arabia and Riviera. Finau is 11th in SG: Off-the-Tee, seventh in Tee-to-Green and a much-better-than-expected 70th in Putting. He was far back at the Valero in 2019 but tied for third in 2017.
Hideki Matsuyama - $10,100 (18-1)
A ball-striking, tee-to-green machine, Matsuyama should be good enough in this field to generate a top-10 – even with his standard woeful putting. He is ranked 20th on Tour in SG: Tee-to-Green heading into his Valero debut.
Abraham Ancer - $9,700 (20-1)
Ancer has shown a penchant for playing well in front of hometown fans. It's not always so easy to do. He's played well in Mexico and did pretty well last week in Austin. He hasn't played well here, however, making three cuts without a high finish. But he arrives with three straight top-25s, all in loaded fields at two WGCs and THE PLAYERS. Ancer is ranked 14th on Tour in greens in regulation and an impressive 19th in birdie average.
Corey Conners - $9,500 (20-1)
In retrospect, Conners winning this tournament, even as a Monday qualifier, was not a fluke. We know his ball striking is on par with the world's best, and he made a whopping 29 birdies back in 2019. Now this season he has greatly improved his putting. While the odds of going back-to-back are slim, this weak field just makes Conners' chances that much better.
Tier 2 Values
Ryan Palmer - $9,400 (25-1)
Palmer has played pretty well so far in 2021, with a solo fourth at Kapalua, a co-runner-up at Torrey Pines and a top-20 at THE PLAYERS. He's missed the last two cuts at San Antonio but before that ran off three straight top-10s. He is 18th on Tour in greens in regulation and an elite third in birdie average.
Charley Hoffman - $9,200 (30-1)
Not only is Hoffman a true horse for this course, he arrives with some pretty good form. He's been a Valero runner-up twice, including last year to Conners, and won it all in 2016. He's got a bunch of other top-15s through the years. Of late, Hoffman has tied for seventh at Pebble Beach, for 10th at Bay Hill and for 17th at THE PLAYERS. Not too shabby for the 44-year-old, who is ranked top-20 on Tour in SG: Approach.
Si Woo Kim - $8,900 (30-1)
Kim's bid to go wire-to-wire last year fell short after leading through 54 holes. He wound up tied for fourth. Kim won the Amex in January and was top-10 a few weeks back at THE PLAYERS but, truth be told, everything else in between was a mess. He ranks a decent 38th in SG: Tee-to-Green, but in this field that's bordering on elite.
Lanto Griffin - $8,700 (50-1)
Griffin impressively is ranked top-20 on Tour in both SG: Approach and Putting. But he doesn't have much to show for it. Sure, he had a top-10 at Torrey Pines and top-25s at the WGC-Workday and Bay Hill – all great fields – but top-20 in those two stats should be signaling some near title misses. Griffin has played the Valero just once, tying for 58th in 2018, but he's a far different player now.
Tier 3 Values
Sam Burns - $8,000 (40-1)
Let's see whether Burns has been humbled by consecutive missed cuts at Bay Hill at Sawgrass after his near-miss at Riviera (T3). The stats continue to shine: He's ranked 27th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 22nd in Putting. Burns finished T23 here in 2019 at 8-under (which happened to be a 30-shot improvement – THIRTY – over his 2015 trunk-slam).
Matt Wallace - $7,700 (100-1)
The Englishman has played only four times in the States through the first three months of 2021. He had an ugly missed cut at the oppo event in Puerto Rico but rebounded nicely with a top-20 at Bay Hill. Still, he is searching for the form that once got him into the top-25 OWGR. Right now, he's 60th. Wallace is ranked 22nd in SG: Approach in those limited appearances and 64th in Putting. Not bad. This will be his Valero debut.
Doug Ghim - $7,300 (80-1)
We finish off Tier 3 with two of our lower-price favorites. Ghim has six top-25s in his 14 starts this season, although he did miss the cut last time out at the Honda. Right before that, though, he tied for 29th at THE PLAYERS. Ghim is ranked 20th on Tour in SG: Approach and 28th in Tee-to-Green heading into his Valero debut.
Matthew NeSmith - $7,100 (80-1)
After a string of three straight top-20s, NeSmith missed consecutive cuts before stopping the bleeding with a T36 at the Honda. He's still second in greens in regulation, 10th in SG: Approach and 23rd in Tee-to-Green. Sure, his short-game numbers are an eyesore but we're at $7,100 here. This will be NeSmith's first foray into San Antonio.
Will Gordon - $6,800 (125-1)
The big-hitting Gordon has made seven of his past eight cuts, including at storied tracks like Torrey Pines, Bay Hill and PGA National. He is ranked sixth on Tour in driving distance but not very accurate – though he's still 72nd in greens in regulation. He's also top-50 in SG: Putting. Gordon has not played this event before.
Greyson Sigg - $6,800 (150-1)
The 26-year-old Augusta native plays mostly on the Korn Ferry Tour. He has played in five PGA Tour events over the past few seasons and just secured his best finish ever, a top-10 at the Dominican Republic last week. He's ranked sixth on the KF Tour in greens in regulation. Sigg is ranked 204th in the world, better than many others in the 144-man field.
Roger Sloan - $6,700 (150-1)
Sloan is a Canadian but he attended Texas-El Paso. He has top-25s in his past three starts, two oppo events plus the Honda. He's made five of his past six cuts. Sloan is ranked in the top-30 in both SG: Approach and Tee-to-Green, which was a real eye-opener to discover. He missed the cut in his Valero debut in 2019.
Cameron Percy - $6,600 (150-1)
The 46-year-old Aussie has made four of his past six cuts, including a top-30 at THE PLAYERS. He's also made four of six cuts at the Valero over the past decade, with a couple of top-25s a number of years back. Percy is ranked fourth on Tour in greens in regulation and 19th in SG: Approach.