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Valero Texas Open picks 2021: Why our experts like Spieth or Finau to snap their win droughts


Ben Jared

For golf bettors, the Valero Texas Open feels like the ultimate look-ahead spot. On the schedule next week: the Alabama Crimson Tide of golf (the Masters). On the schedule this week: The Citadel.

Our promise to you: We are taking The Citadel very, very seriously. We’re watching the tape, we’re sticking around after practice for extra work, and we’re treating the Valero like it’s the biggest game of the year. There’s still money to be made, and we want to help you do just that.

Citadel jokes aside, Jordan Spieth, Scottie Scheffler and Tony Finau are still in this field, so it’s not as weak of an event as you think. Will one of the big boys get a big win before Augusta National, or will we see a player with mid-range or longshot odds earn his breakthrough victory, which has become a common theme in this event? Also something to keep note of in your handicapping is who is playing for a Masters invitation, which is probably a bigger motivation factor for a lot of these guys than the winner’s check, though that’s nice, too.

You’ve clicked on the most useful golf gambling column in the industry. Like each week, we have analysis from an anonymous tour caddie reporting from the WGC-Match Play; three of the best data scientists in the industry (Pat Mayo of Mayo Media Network/DraftKings; Brandon Gdula of numberFire/FanDuel and Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com); plus expert handicapper Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports to help us make our picks.

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Read on to see who we like this week at the 2021 Valero Texas Open.

Valero Texas Open 2021 expert picks: Our Experts’ Outright Predictions (Odds from William Hill)

Anonymous Caddie Picker of the week: Ryan Palmer (28-1) — Ryan has been playing consistently well for the past year, and he remains hungry for that next PGA Tour title. He knows Texas is a great place for him to pick up a long-awaited individual title (his last individual win was the 2010 Sony Open).

Pat Mayo, DraftKings/Fantasy National, Mayo Media Network analyst: Cameron Tringale (35-1) — Valero has been a spot for mid-tier players in great form to see their breakthrough before, so why not Tringale? He’s posted top-31 finishes in six of his last seven events and has flashed upside at TPC San Antonio in his career. He’s been inconsistent, but has churned out three top-20 finishes in nine starts.

Brandon Gdula, FanDuel/numberFire managing editor: Tony Finau (16-1) — Despite Finau’s status as the best long-term golfer in this field over the past year, he’s not the favorite, but my models really like his odds relative to the others in this field. He’s not even a particularly great value at 16-1 but is the lone standout this week. He’s the best long-term tee-to-green player and is a neutral Bermuda putter, as well.

Rick Gehman, data scientist and RickRunGood.com founder: Brendan Steele (33-1) — Steele was the highest-ranked player to miss making the WGC field last week. He’s been playing great, and had a week off after his T-3 at the Honda Classic, extending his cut streak to eight consecutive starts. Always a great ball-striker, Steele will look to relive the magic he had in 2011 when he won this event. He has earned two more top-10s at TPC San Antonio since that victory and is in excellent form.

Stephen Hennessey, Golf Digest dep. managing editor: Jordan Spieth (11-1) — I was fortunate to bet this number Monday before Dustin Johnson withdrew, getting him at 14-1. This is a tough number, and I don’t blame you for passing it up. But I really think this all comes together for Spieth this week. Since February, Spieth is the best iron player in this field—gaining more than 22 strokes on the field. What better place to break through for his first win since 2017 than his home state of Texas?

Christopher Powers, Golf Digest assistant editor: Chris Kirk (35-1) — I figured Kirk would be a bold outright selection for our picks column, but after scrolling Twitter for all of five minutes I quickly realized everyone is on Kirk this week, which means he’ll MC. Screw it, let’s get another community W. The story would be tremendous, and if he somehow pulls it off he’d play his way into his first Masters since 2016, and his first major since 2018. As a four-time winner on tour, we already know he has what it takes to get it done. Plus, he’s played inspired golf as of late, having gained strokes tee-to-green and off-the-tee in four straight starts, as well as on approach in five of his last seven. As is the case with a lot of these mid-range guys, he’s a hot putting week away from career victory No. 5.

Lee Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Charley Hoffman (33-1) — C’mon, let’s rename this the Charley Hoffman Open. He’s got his win and four top-three combined finishes at TPC San Antonio. He ranks fourth in this field in Opportunities Gained over the past two months, per Fantasy National, and due to his excellent off-the-tee game, ranks eighth in FanShare’s course-suitability ranking.

Results from last season: Golf Digest's betting panel is RED-HOT. Our experts have now predicted four of the past eight winners—after going up 225.30 units last season. As we’ve said, our crew gets hot and tends to stay hot, so don’t miss out on our picks! At The Players, Christopher Powers hit Justin Thomas’ victory (18-1) as did Rick Gehman. That’s each of their second accurate predictions of 2021, with Powers hitting Koepka (50-1) and Gehman calling Daniel Berger at Pebble Beach (14-1). Pat Mayo nailed Collin Morikawa at the WGC-Workday three events ago at 33-1 in addition to Koepka at the WMPO. And Brandon Gdula also called Berger’s win at Pebble Beach. We’ll stop there! Be sure to check this column every week for picks from the hottest betting panel in golf!

Valero Texas Open 2021 expert picks: Sleepers/Dark Horses Who Could Win (Odds from William Hill)

Caddie: Adam Long (80-1) — Long isn’t afraid of the winners circle. Every time he’s had an opportunity he’s either won or come close to winning. The kid is tenacious—he went toe to toe with DJ last week—he’s getting better and better.

Mayo: Branden Grace (50-1) — The South African has slowly been morphing his game back to look more like the guy with 10 worldwide wins in his career. The irons had been clicking until some untimely dips in the water in the second round at the Players, but this venue has always meshed well with Grace. He’s never missed a cut in four tries and owns top 10s in his last two appearances.

Gdula: John Huh (60-1) — Huh isn’t particularly long, which is a stat I like this week, but that’s something he can overcome by being accurate and striping the irons, which he typically does well. He’s just a lot better than these odds imply.

Gehman: Patton Kizzire (90-1) — Kizzire offers an intriguing buy-low option for this week, coming off a missed cut at the Honda Classic. That was his first missed cut in 13 starts, so he certainly hasn’t made a habit of skipping the weekend. During that stretch, he had three top-11 finishes, which shows that he can assert his name on the first page of the leader board. It’s his first trip to the Texas Open, but he has plenty of upside compared to similarly priced peers.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Doug Ghim (80-1) — Ghim ranks sixth in this field in SG/approach over the past 36 rounds, per Fantasy National; 13th in Birdies or Better gained and 12th in Good Drives Gained, which brings the 24-year-old up to 12th in my model this week. This line has value to me.

Powers, Golf Digest: Andrew Putnam (60-1) — PUTTnam has quietly finished inside the top seven in three of his last six starts, including the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He then missed the cut at the Players, but MCs at the Players happen to the best of ‘em. I think we see pre-Players Putnam this week at Valero, where he finished eighth in 2018.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Jim Furyk (100-1) — In his five appearances here, Furyk has four finishes of T-26 or better, including a sixth and a third-place finish. He comes into this event ranked 19th in SG/tee to green over the past two months and 22nd for Opportunities Gained, per Fantasy National.

Valero Texas Open 2021 expert picks: Players to Fade This Week (who will disappoint)

Caddie: Corey Conners (22-1) — At some point the young Canadian has to get a little tired. After very strong showings at Bay Hill and TPC, he had a small letdown last week—and I think it’ll be a little more exhausting defending his title this week.

Mayo: Scottie Scheffler (16-1) — Odds are just too steep coming off a daunting week at the Match Play. Plus, his short irons won’t do him any favors on these three-shot par 5s.

Gdula: Brendan Steele (33-1) — Steele is a fine bet to lead the field in strokes gained: tee to green but isn’t someone I’d prioritize at this number with the names around him being what they are. He’s been putting above his long-term baseline recently, which is generally a warning sign that regression will hit.

Gehman: Matt Kuchar (50-1) — Kuchar was impressive last week at the WGC-Match Play, going the distance and finishing third. That run included seven matches over five days and four matches alone between Saturday and Sunday. That’s a grueling schedule for any player in the field, let alone a 42-year-old. That result for Kuchar seems like an outlier, considering he hasn’t cashed a top 10 since the 2020 Genesis Invitational, over a year ago.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Scottie Scheffler (16-1) — No one would fault Scheffler for checking out mentally here and prepping for Augusta. Last week was so grueling. Powers said it on our podcast, I think +300 for a missed cut has some value.

Powers, Golf Digest: Scottie Scheffler (16-1) — We saw how burned out he was on Sunday, and I’d imagine he’s still going to be feeling the effects on Thursday. The best course of action for him would be to MC and rest up for the Masters, but we know these guys don’t think that way. Still, I’ll pass on him in the teens this week and then take a long hard look at him for next week at Augusta, where he tied for 19th in November.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Hideki Matsuyama (18-1) — Matsuyama ranks just 44th in the field this week in Opportunities Gained over the past two months. He has not had a top-10 finish in any of his past 10 events.

Valero Texas Open 2021 expert picks: Matchups

Caddie: Matt Kuchar (-114) over Charles Howell III (DraftKings) — It wasn’t just how Kuch advanced to the Final Four of the WGC-Match Play, but how he did it—posting some of the best stroke-play scores to make the weekend. He talked about his confidence afterward—watch for a nice run out of him.

Mayo: Tony Finau (-115) over Scottie Scheffler (Bet365) — Again, poor short irons and a long week are the ripe combination to get upended by Finau coming off a week where he started slow and kept building every day at the Match Play.

Gdula: Lanto Griffin (-122) over Branden Grace (FanDuel) — I see a pretty big gap between these two in the overall data, so I’ll lean toward Lanto, who has a win in Texas to his name and a statistical edge virtually across the board.

Gehman: Chris Kirk (-110) over Lanto Griffin (DraftKings) — Kirk enters the week in excellent form, making the cut in 10 of his past 11 starts while notching six top 25s along the way. He’s been an excellent ball-striker during that stretch and will return to TPC San Antonio, where he has plenty of good vibes. He’s only played here four times since 2015, but has a T-13 and two T-8s.

Hennessey: Chris Kirk (-125) over Zach Johnson (William Hill) — No disrespect to our podcast guest Zach Johnson this week … but Chris Kirk should be more like a -140 favorite in this matchup. Kirk’s eighth in my model this week, doing everything so consistently well at the moment. Whereas ZJ’s 44th in my model and is just middle of the pack in this field in big stats like SG/approach (41st) and SG/off the tee (77th, per the last 36 rounds, Fantasy National).

Powers: Abraham Ancer (-103) over Hideki Matsuyama (DraftKings) — It’s a shame Ancer has been putting so poorly lately, because he might have picked off a win with a hot putting week based off the rest of his stats. He’s gained on approach in six straight starts, and gained off the tee in four of his last five. Matsuyama has shown flashes of late, but hasn’t strung together four solid rounds in a row, and hasn’t finished in the top 10 since early November as a result.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Jordan Spieth (-125) over Hideki Matsuyama (Bet365) — Spieth comes into this event in great form and loves the course. Matsuyama is struggling, especially with his putter. Statistically Matsuyama is giving Spieth a 0.4 shot headstart on the greens per round.

Matchup results from the WGC-Match Play: Gdula: 1 for 1 (Kevin Kisner (+130) over Louis Oosthuizen); Alldrick: 1 for 1 (Antoine Rozner (+130) over Si Woo Kim); Caddie: 1 for 1 (Brian Harman (+115) over Hideki Matsuyama); Hennessey: 1 for 1 (Jason Kokrak (+115) over Will Zalatoris); Powers: 1 for 1 (Scottie Scheffler (+110) over Jason Day); Mayo, Gehman: 0 for 1.

Matchup Results this season (Wins-Losses-Pushes): Alldrick: 15-8-1 (up 5.97 units); Hennessey: 13-9-1 (up 3.13 units); Gdula: 13-11-0 (up 1.08 units); Mayo: 11-11-1 (down 0.58 units); Powers: 10-10-4 (down 0.71 units); Gehman: 7-15-2 (down 7.39 units); Caddie: 6-15-3 (down 7.93 units).

Valero Texas Open 2021 expert picks: Top 10 (Odds from William Hill)

Caddie: Scottie Scheffler (+150) — When he’s playing well, it seems as though he has an opportunity every week. He’ll have extreme confidence after last week’s runner-up at the WGC. He seems to thrive in Texas.

Mayo: Keegan Bradley (+400) — Eventually he’ll have a week where some of the putts drop, right? Maybe that’s asking too much. TPC San Antonio is a course with one of the highest one-putt percentages in the rotation, though. So if Keegs keeps up the elite ball striking, he may make enough to end up top 10.

Gdula: Cameron Tringale (+300) — Tringale was marching toward a top 10 at the Honda before a Sunday 72. He’s seventh in my database in adjusted strokes gained over the past year and doesn’t really have any holes in his game relative to a field like this. He’s also a good Bermuda putter.

Gehman: Ryan Palmer (+240) — It took extra holes for Jon Rahm to dispose of Palmer at last week’s WGC-Match Play. Going toe-to-toe with the No. 3-ranked player in the world certainly illustrates the state of Palmer’s game. Palmer hasn’t missed a cut since the U.S. Open, finished T-2 at the Farmers and had a top-20 at The Players. While Palmer has missed the cut in two straight trips to San Antonio, he had three straight top-six finishes in the three years prior.

Hennessey, Golf Digest: Chris Kirk (+400) — Kirk clearly likes this golf course ... His most recent finishes: T-8 in 2018; T-13 in 2016 and T-8 in 2015. He’s a ball-striker with nice touch around the greens, so that should be no surprise.

Powers, Golf Digest: Harold Varner III (+450) — HV3 gained strokes in every major category at the Honda, where he finished inside the top 20. Most impressively, he gained seven strokes tee-to-green, an indication he’s striking it very well through the whole bag.

Alldrick, FanShare Sports: Cameron Tringale (+300) — Tringale has two career top 10s at TPC San Antonio and is arguably in the best form of his life. He ranks fifth in the field for SG/tee to green and fifth for SG/total over the past two years.

Top-10 results from this season: Gehman: 6 for 23 (up 15.1 units); Powers: 2 for 23 (down 6 units); Hennessey: 3 for 23 (down 8 units); Mayo: 2 for 23 (down 8 units); Tour caddie: 3 for 23 (down 10.45 units); Gdula: 2 for 23 (down 10 units); Alldrick: 0 for 22 (down 22 units).

Valero Texas Open 2021 expert picks: One and Done picks

Gehman: Jordan Spieth — While I’m a believer in Spieth’s game moving forward, I’m not quite ready to use him at a major. The better scenario would be to use him at an event that offers a weaker field in which Spieth is one of the favorites. Cue the Texas Open! He’s turned a corner with his approach game, now gaining strokes in that category in 22 of his last 24 rounds (per the RickRunGood.com golf database). Spieth feels like he’s on the verge of winning for the first time since 2017, and this would be the perfect spot for him to break through.

Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Joel Dahmen; U.S. Open: Jon Rahm; Corales: Denny McCarthy. Sanderson: Sebastian Munoz. Shriners: Matthew Wolff. CJ Cup: Xander Schauffele. Zozo: Bubba Watson. Bermuda: Rasmus Hojgaard. Houston: Lanto Griffin. Masters: Rory McIlroy. RSM: Webb Simpson. Sentry TOC: Patrick Reed. Sony: Abraham Ancer. AMEX: Patrick Cantlay. Torrey: Jon Rahm. Waste Management: Webb Simpson. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis Invitational: Rory McIlroy. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Bryson DeChambeau; Honda Classic: Sungjae Im. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed.

Hennessey: Chris Kirk — Take your pick from Kirk or Charley Hoffman.

Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Phil Mickelson; U.S. Open: Hideki Matsuyama; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Harris English. CJ Cup: Kevin Na. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Doc Redman. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Tyrrell Hatton. RSM: Brian Harman. Sentry TOC: Justin Thomas. Sony: Ryan Palmer. AMEX: Scottie Scheffler. Torrey: Sungjae Im. Waste Management: Daniel Berger. AT&T Pebble Beach: Francesco Molinari. Genesis Invitational: Tony Finau. WGC-Workday: Xander Schauffele. The Players: Jordan Spieth. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Patrick Reed.

Powers: Chris Kirk — I have zero need for Chris Kirk the rest of the year, so this feels like a good spot with him A) playing really well right now and B) playing for a Masters invitation.

Previous weeks: Safeway Open: Brendan Steele; U.S. Open: Louis Oosthuizen; Corales: Adam Long. Sanderson: Sam Burns. Shriners: Jason Kokrak. CJ Cup: Daniel Berger. Zozo: Joaquin Niemann. Bermuda: Denny McCarthy. Houston: Russell Henley. Masters: Bubba Watson. RSM: Brian Harman. Mayakoba: Corey Conners. Sentry TOC: Harris English. Sony: Zach Johnson. AMEX: Matthew Wolff. Torrey: Tony Finau. Waste Management: Sungjae Im. AT&T Pebble Beach: Jason Day. Genesis: Hideki Matsuyama. WGC-Workday: Tyrrell Hatton. The Players: Tommy Fleetwood. Honda Classic: Adam Scott. WGC-Match Play: Matt Fitzpatrick.

By The Numbers:

Courtesy of Rick Gehman of RickRunGood.com:

99 The number of years since the first Texas Open. Bob MacDonald won the first edition in 1922, earning $1,633.

+1.11 — The average number of strokes gained by Jordan Spieth per round on approach since Torrey Pines.

14 — The number of consecutive cuts made by Charley Hoffman at the Texas Open. He’s never missed the cut, has six top 10s and won in 2016.

About our experts

Pat Mayo is an award-winning video host and producer of long and short-form content, owner of the Mayo Media Network and host of The Pat Mayo Experience. (Subscribe for video or audio. Mayo (@ThePME) won the 2020 Fantasy Sports Writing Association Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year and Golf Writer of the Year awards, along with the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Best Sports Betting Analyst award, and was finalist for four FSWA Awards in 2020 (Best Podcast, Best Video, Daily Fantasy Writer of the Year, Golf Writer of the Year). His 21 FSWA nominations lead all writers this decade and are third-most all-time. Mayo is on the board of governors at www.fantasynational.com.

Brandon Gdula, managing editor and analyst for NumberFire, a FanDuel daily-fantasy analysis company, recently won the 2018 fantasy sports-writers association Golf Writer of the Year *(congrats, Brandon!)*. Gdula also co-hosts the DFS Heat Check podcast.

Rick Gehman is the 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.

Lee Alldrick of FanShare Sports started out writing an article highlighting the best bargain plays for fantasy golf under his twitter handle @DKGolfBargains. His success at this prompted FanShare Sports to enlist him as a guest writer, which evolved into him writing the weekly Under The Radar article. As a U.K.-based expert, Alldrick’s insight into European Tour regulars and low priced, low owned plays has provided an invaluable edge for readers when it comes to DFS GPPs.