A lot of strong players are in the field for this week’s final Masters tune-up during the Shell Houston Open…. wait, what? The Valero Texas Open?! That’s right golf fans, this year’s revamped schedule does not have the Shell Houston Open in front of the Masters. Thought to be a perfect tune-up event because of some of the course’s similarities to Augusta National, the Houston Open is no longer on the calendar.
As a result, we have a severely watered-down field for this week’s Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio. A lot of the players in the field are guys that either need a win to get into the Masters or guys that just want to smooth out the rough edges of their games before the first major of the season. Most of golf’s biggest names are taking a week off to prep for the Masters.
Odds from 5Dimes Sportsbook are on the right-hand side for our desktop viewers and below the comment box for our mobile viewers as we sink our teeth into the Valero Texas Open.
Well, as mentioned, it isn’t great. Rickie Fowler is the +910 favorite. Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau are the co-second favorites at +1600. Jordan Spieth, who hasn’t won since the 2017 Open Championship, is at +1800. No knock on Jim Furyk, but he is next up with Billy Horschel at +2500. Furky hasn’t won a tournament in since April 2015.
That means that we have no choice but to throw out some longer prices. This field even lacks some of the second and third-tier guys that we usually see on the PGA Tour. There are a lot of motivated players, so maybe this will be a more exciting tournament than how it looks on the surface, but the field looks more like that of an alternate event.
TPC San Antonio
The course looks a little bit different this week. The fairways are wider and the rough has been cut down. That’s just what the players need before going to Augusta. An easy course. The hazards here are not all that complicated either, as a lot of shallow sand traps represent the only areas that players want to avoid. Players are going to go really low here this week.
Andrew Landry’s 17-under winning score last year was the lowest since Zach Johnson’s 19-under in 2009. This has almost always been a tournament with a lesser field because it sat between the Masters and the US Open. With conditions made even easier for the players, look for a 20-under, even with a weakened field.
The wider fairways also mean that we want to look at the biggest hitters in this event. The shorter rough takes away some of the penalty for missing the short grass. This course sits up a tiny bit in elevation, which should add a little more distance for the bombers.
Fortunately, because a lot of the good players have skipped this event, it isn’t too hard to find guys in this week’s field with good finishes recently. Reigning champion Andrew Landry is +10000, so I’m sure he’ll take some money from somebody. Aaron Baddeley is 50/1 with three top-20 finishes over the last four years, including a fifth-place finish in 2017. Charley Hoffman won this back in 2016 and is also 50/1.
Billy Horschel is 25/1 and has three top-11 finishes in the last four years, including top-five results in 2015 and 2016. He has the second-best course form of anybody in this field. That honor belongs to Ryan Palmer, who did miss the cut last year, but was sixth, fourth, and sixth over the previous three years. The Amarillo native played his college golf at Texas A&M, so it isn’t a big surprise that he plays well in the Lone Star State. He ranks just outside the top 50 in strokes gained tee-to-green this season.
Trey Mullinax is a guy I had my eye on earlier in the season. The 26-year-old Alabama native hits the ball a country mile. He’s been terrible on the putting surface. Despite being 206th in driving accuracy, he is 47th in GIR%. That’s pretty impressive considering how often he’s been in the thicker grass. With the rough cut down this week, I really like him at 80/1. He should be able to get closer to the hole and he actually tied for second last year after an opening-round 74. He putted really well here last April.
This might also be the week for Luke List, whom I’ve tipped a fair amount this season. He’s 50/1 and also hits the ball a mile and a half. List is actually third in driving distance behind Cameron Champ and Bubba Watson. In weaker fields, he’s fared pretty well, with a fourth at the RSM and a fourth at the Safeway Open. Like Mullinax, he doesn’t hit fairways at a great clip, as he ranks 178th in driving accuracy, but is 52nd in GIR%. He’s 130th in putting.
His price doesn’t yield a lot of value, but Sungjae Im is worthy of a look. He needs a win to get into the Masters. He gave it a big effort last week in Punta Cana, but fell short on his 21st birthday weekend. With a Masters field right now of only 87 players, he could get an invitation, but he can remove all doubt with a win here. At 28/1, he’s as motivated as any player in the field.
The three guys I’ll start with this week are Palmer, Mullinax, and List. As the tournament goes along, check and see if guys like Horschel, Fowler, and Finau are in the hunt. I’d look to fade Matt Kuchar in matchups coming off of a very long week at the Dell Match Play.
Somebody like a Byeong Hun An might not be a bad in-tournament play, as he also hits it long, but I’d like a little more than 33/1 or at least more certainty about where he is throughout the weekend.