To play or not to play? That is the question as the PGA Tour shifts from match play back to stroke play this week for the Valero Texas Open
With the year’s first major looming, only three of the top 20 players in the world have decided to tee it up in San Antonio to prepare for the Masters.
Rickie Fowler headlines the field at TPC San Antonio after skipping the WGC-Dell Match Play. He’ll be joined by Jordan Spieth, who remais in a profound slump: he has no top 10’s in his last 14 starts and has dropped to No. 32 in the world rankings.
This week marks the last chance for players to earn a spot in the Masters. Only 17 golfers in the Valero field have booked their ticket to Augusta, which means there are 127 guys fighting for one last Masters berth.
The A&T Oaks course is long and could be a beast if the Texas winds kick up. The golf course features some of the toughest greens to hold on tour, so statistics like greens in regulation percentage and scrambling will be key factors in determining this week’s winner.
Nuts and bolts
Course: TPC San Antonio, AT&T Oaks Course (7,435 yards, par 72)
Defending champ: Andrew Landry (-17, 271)
Weather forecast: Partly cloudy highs in the low 80’s. Chance of showers on Saturday.
Matt Kuchar (14/1 $12,100)
It was quite the eventful week for Kuchar in Austin as his runner up finish was overshadowed by yet another controversy. This time it was with Sergio Garcia, though the two, as of Monday, appear to have patched things up after their match play mishap over the weekend. Kuchar is playing some brilliant golf and the only question is whether he’ll run out of gas after a long week at the match play. I’m betting Kuch has plenty left in the tank, and statistically he fits the Valero perfectly, ranking first on tour in greens in regulation at a 75.9 % clip. He’s had three top 15’s over his last seven appearances in San Antonio and hasn’t missed the cut in the event since 2008.
Lucas Glover (22/1, $10, 800)
At 22/1 Glover doesn’t quite qualify as a value play, but his statistics and trends still make him a solid play this week. First the stats: Glover is in the midst of the best ball striking year of his career ranking 10th in greens in regulation and 20th in strokes gained approaching the green. When he does miss the green, he’s been a scrambling machine, ranking third on tour in the scrambling category this season. Four of his last five starts have been top 15’s, and he has the added Augusta motivation, as the 2009 U.S. Open champion is looking to make it back to the Masters for the first time since 2014.
Jim Furyk(25/1, $10,900)
At 48 years old, Furyk continues to defy the odds and has now jumped 171 spots in the world rankings since the start of the year. After winning two of his three matches in Austin, Furyk heads to the Valero, where he’s never missed the cut and has two top-10 finishes in five starts. He currently ranks 10th in proximity to the hole and 15th in greens in regulation, and he hasn’t finished outside of the top 20 in any event since mid February.
DJ Trahan (200/1, $8,000)
After missing the cut at the Desert Classic in January, Trahan has run off three consecutive top-20’s, including a T10 at the Punta Cana Championship last week. His sample size this season is small, having played in just six PGA Tour events, but Trahan currently ranks seventh on tour in greens in regulation, 18th in strokes gained tee to green an 19th in strokes gained approach.
Rickie Fowler (9/1, $12,500)
The betting favorite and highest ranked (No. 8) player in the field has other things on his mind this week…like winning his first major title next week in Augusta. Spending the week fine tuning his game will likely payoff in some form at the Masters, I’m just not sure it will help him win in San Antonio. This week marks Fowler’s first visit to the Valero and he comes in having failed to crack the top 35 in each of his last two starts.