The final tune-up before the Masters is here! The Valero Texas Open is the last chance to punch your ticket to Augusta National if you haven’t already. This event dates back to 1922 and has been played at TPC San Antonio since 2010.
TPC San Antonio is a Greg Norman-designed course with the assistance of Sergio Garcia. Per the RickRunGood.com course model, strokes gained/around the green has had a strong correlation to success over the years—as does proficiency off the tee at this 7,400-yard par 72. That makes sense considering that there are 64 bunkers on the course and plenty of areas designed to imitate the closely mown collection areas around the greens at Augusta National.
This event was cancelled in 2020, so Corey Conners remains the defending champion. He will be joined by a few notables in Tony Finau, Scottie Scheffler and Jordan Spieth. What we’ve seen from past winners (Conners, Andrew Landry, Kevin Chappell, Charley Hoffman, etc.)—they are great ball-strikers who can get a hot putter.
Here are my favorite plays (and fades) for this week’s 2021 Valero Texas Open.
Price range: $9,000+
High Upside: Brendan Steele ($9,100 DraftKings | $10,600 FanDuel)
Steele was the last man out of the Match Play last week, the highest-ranked player to not qualify for the event. He has yet to miss a cut in 2021, currently at eight consecutive starts and is coming off a T-3 at the Honda Classic in his last start. Steele will look to rekindle the magic from 2011 when he was victorious at TPC San Antonio. He’s earned two more top 10s at this event since his victory.
Safest Option: Ryan Palmer ($9,400 DraftKings | $10,700 FanDuel)
The native Texan has missed two cuts in a row at the Texas Open, but he had three straight top-six finishes from 2015-’17. Palmer went the distance, and then some, in his match-play group last week. He went to extra holes with Jon Rahm to decide the winner before falling to the No. 3 player in the world. That’s certainly no knock on Palmer, who had a top 20 at The Players in his last stroke-play start.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Matt Kuchar ($9,000 DraftKings | $10,100 FanDuel)
Kuchar played in the maximum number of matches last week, finishing third at the WGC-Match Play. The grueling schedule required the play of seven matches over five days, including four rounds over Saturday and Sunday alone. That’s a lot of golf to be played by anyone, let alone the 42-year-old Kuchar. He still hasn’t earned a top 10 in a stroke-play event since his T-2 at the 2020 Genesis Invitational, over a year ago. Everything seems stacked against him to break that streak this week in Texas.
Pick To Win: Jordan Spieth ($10,700 DraftKings | $11,500 FanDuel)
Spieth seems to be peaking at the right time with his eyes set on Augusta National next week. However, he won’t look past this event in his home state, where he’s earned two top 10s in his last three trips. The big metric for Spieth is SG/approach—he’s gained strokes in that category in 22 of his past 24 rounds, dating back to the Farmers Insurance Open. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, Spieth’s is gaining on average 1.11 strokes on approach in that stretch. The current 2021 season leader is Collin Morikawa, who is averaging +1.24 strokes per round. Spieth’s the favorite on the odds board at a lot of books with Dustin Johnson WDing . . . and that might be warranted.
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$8,000 to $9,000
High Upside: Joel Dahmen ($8,200 DraftKings | $9,600 FanDuel)
Did Dahmen find something in Puntacana? Fresh off his victory, Dahmen will head to San Antonio this week with unfinished business. He had been mired in a slump that resulted in him failing to make the weekend in six of his seven starts before the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship. It wouldn’t be rare to see Dahmen’s name near the top of the leader board—before the shutdown last summer he had converted three consecutive top 15s at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am, the Genesis Invitational and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. The only way for him to get into the Masters next week is with a victory.
Safest Option: Chris Kirk ($8,600 DraftKings | $10,300 FanDuel)
Kirk has been excellent from tee to green in 2021, ranking second of all golfers in this field with at least 25 rounds (per the RickRunGood.com golf database). Not only do the metrics look good, but they’ve turned into results, which is not always the case! The former Georgia Bulldog has missed only one cut in seven starts—and he has five top-25 finishes in there, plus two top-10s. He didn’t play this event in 2019, but finished T-8 in 2018, T-13 in 2016 and T-8 in 2015.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Rickie Fowler ($8,100 DraftKings |$9,500 FanDuel)
The objective is clear for Fowler: win and earn a spot in the Masters next week. If he doesn’t, it’ll be the first time he hasn’t qualified for the field in a decade. Unfortunately, no matter how clear the goal, he’s still battling his own golf swing. SG/ball-striking is an unofficial stat, composed of SG/off the tee and SG/approach. Per the RickRunGood.com golf database, Fowler has lost a total of 16.93 strokes in that category over his last 16 rounds. It’s been devastating to his results, and he hasn’t shown signs of turning it around.
Pick To Win: Cameron Davis ($8,800 DraftKings | $9,800 FanDuel)
I’ve spent a ton of energy writing about Davis over the past few months because his raw talent is so appealing. Over the last 35 rounds, Davis ranks seventh in SG/off the tee and 19th in SG/approach in this field. Those are the cornerstones of contending on a regular basis and if he can put together four solid rounds with the putter, he’ll hoist a trophy for the first time in his career.
$7,000 to $8,000
High Upside: Andrew Putnam ($7,600 DraftKings | $9,500 FanDuel)
Putnam is coming off a missed cut at The Players but don’t let that fool you, he’s been rolling. He has made the cut in the seven previous events, including three top-seven finishes at the Waste Management Phoenix Open, the Puerto Rico Open and the Arnold Palmer Invitational. If that wasn’t enough, he’s made three cuts in a row at TPC San Antonio with a T-8 in 2018 as his best finish.
Safest Option: Ryan Moore ($7,900 DraftKings | $9,700 FanDuel)
Moore has been excellent at TPC San Antonio in his career. He’s teed it up four times at this event and hasn’t finished worse than T-18 in any trip. His two most recent finishes have been his best—third in 2019 and seventh in 2018. The problem is that he’s failed to make the weekend in six of his past eight starts. So, the “safe” designation is for all you lovers of horses for courses.
Most Likely To Disappoint: Gary Woodland ($7,600 DraftKings | $9,400 FanDuel)
Woodland has failed to make the weekend in three of his past four events, but the struggles go back further than that. Woodland hasn’t earned a top-15 finish since the Workday Charity Open in July. That was 17 events ago for Woodland, who has battled his entire game during that stretch. His best asset, his driver, has left him, and he has lost a combined 10.03 strokes/putting over his past four measured starts.
Pick To Win: Patton Kizzire ($7,200 DraftKings | $8,700 FanDuel)
I’m ready to buy low on Kizzire who missed the cut at the Honda Classic in his last start. That missed cut was his first in 13 starts—he had earned three top-11 finishes during that stretch. That level of upside is incredibly appealing in this price range and few of Kizzire’s peers possess the same ceiling. This will be his debut at the Texas Open.
$6,900 and below
High Upside: Michael Gligic ($6,200 DraftKings | $7,300 FanDuel)
Gligic was excellent at the end of 2020, but his results fell off a cliff to begin 2021. He had missed seven of eight cuts before his T-4 finish in Puntacana last week. That recent finish is much more reminiscent of the form we would expect from Gligic. If he’s found something, he makes for an interesting dart throw at this price.
Safest Option: Roger Sloan ($6,700 DraftKings | $8,400 FanDuel)
Sloan enters this week with three consecutive top-25 finishes, and he’s the only golfer under $7,000 that can boast that feat. He’s been leaning on his ball-striking, which currently ranks 26th on tour. He also ranks 29th in SG/tee to green, meaning that his one downfall is the flat stick. If you’re going to have one weakness, that’s the weakness to have!
Most Likely To Disappoint: Graeme McDowell ($6,700 DraftKings |$8,300 FanDuel)
McDowell is a familiar name coming off a T-4 finish, so I expect many DFS players to consider him as their value play for the week. Zooming out a bit, McDowell’s great finish last week might be the outlier considering he didn’t have a top-50 finish in his previous 10 starts. In fact, his result last week was his only top-20 finish in 27 starts, while missing the cut in 18 events during that stretch.
Pick To Win: Scott Harrington ($6,300 DraftKings | $7,100 FanDuel)
After a slow start to 2021, Harrington has made five consecutive cuts on the PGA Tour. His T-26 at Riviera was his most impressive, but he also found the weekend at the Honda Classic and The Players. The best part of Harrington’s game is his short game, which has been one of the more highly correlated stats to success at TPC San Antonio. There are plenty of bunkers lurking alongside areas that make getting up and down quite difficult. If you’re able to survive and make par when you’re in those situations, you’ll have an edge on the field.
Rick Gehman, founder of RickRunGood.com and the RickRunGood YouTube Channel, is one of the industry’s leading experts on golf DFS and gambling. Gehman is co-host of the First Cut Podcast and appears regularly on the Pat Mayo Experience golf podcasts. Follow him on Twitter: @RickRunGood.