Welcome to the final stop on Tour before the crowned jewel of the golf calendar. After a fantastic week of match play in Austin, the Tour rolls a couple hours south to TPC San Antonio for the Valero Texas Open.
Last year the Texas Open was canceled due to COVID. That makes Corey Conners your defending champion. Back in 2019, Conners made history by becoming a rare Monday qualifier to win on the PGA Tour. Only 4 players have ever accomplished the feat, and it was worth that much more because it allowed to him to claim the last spot in the following week's Masters. That same opportunity is there for anybody to win this week who hasn't already qualified (looking at you Rickie). Otherwise the field is set.
The 2019 Leaderboard
The AT&T Oaks Course is a Par 72 resort course measuring 7,435 yards and has hosted the Texas Open since 2010. Designed by Greg Norman, it features tree-lined fairways and some extraordinarily narrow greens. It's not that the greens are small. They're plenty deep. It's that they're not particularly wide. I've tried like hell to shoot low on this course on PGA Tour 2K21 and it's really damn tough to consistently hit greens. As if my video game analysis isn't enough, it's tough for these players too. It's annually among the course with the lowest GIR rate of any on Tour, historically around 57%.
To make matters tougher, wind has been known to be a significant factor at this course, some years more than others. If you can flight the ball down and power it through the wind, you're going to have an advantage on the field. The course is designed to play downhill when the wind is typically in your face, and vice versa when playing uphill. Regardless, there's never been a cut line under par since this tournament moved to this course. So yeah, this course has the potential to play pretty tough.
Best Hole - 16th Hole Par 3, 183 yards
Bunker in the middle of the dancefloor? Bunker in the middle of the dancefloor. You really only see this twice a year. Here, and Riviera's 6th hole. It's a fun wrinkle. You can treat the green as 4 different quadrants, which I expect the Tour to do in terms of pin placements. Hitting an adjacent quadrant from the pin is as good as a missed green. Always fun to see the guys get creative and pull a wedge out on the short stuff and try to flop it over the sand. Greenskeepers may not like it, but you gotta do whatcha gotta do. Awesome view of the clubhouse/resort coming in too. The 18th is a quality finishing hole as well featuring a creek cutting vertically through the fairway, so that deserves an honorable mention.
Wind is definitely there and is definitely going to be a factor. Forecast doesn't show that it will be gusting too strongly, but that's always something that evolves as the days draw nearer. Not as warm as one would expect from south Texas, so don't be surprised if you see some QZ's out there in the mornings.
It's another Golf Channel and NBC weekend.
Thursday: Golf Channel 4-7 ET
Friday: Golf Channel 4-7 ET
Saturday: Golf Channel 1-3:30, NBC 3:30-6 ET
Sunday: Golf Channel 1-3, NBC 3-6 ET
This is a pretty sweet looking trophy here. Local skyline with the Alamo up front, outline of the state of Texas in the background… it's honestly perfect for what this tournament is. It's not overly gaudy, doesn't try to be more than what it is. This is the Texas Open and this trophy captures that to a T. Bonus points for the boots gives this a 7.8.
Given its positioning on the schedule right before the Masters, the field for this event is usually a mediocre one. It briefly looked like that might not be the case when Dustin Johnson committed to playing after an early exit in Austin last week, but withdrew on Monday to rest up for his Augusta title defense.
That leaves my guy Tony Finau as the betting favorite at +1000 at the Barstool Sportsbook. Could this really be his week? He had been sniffing around that W earlier this year including that heartbreaking playoff loss to Max Homa at Riviera. But he's followed that up with some inconsistent play, including a MC at Sawgrass and failing to make it out of his group at the Match Play. He's made the cut all 3 times he's played here, including a 3rd place finish in 2017, but I just don't think this is his week.
You'll find Jordan Spieth as the betting favorite at a lot of books as well. Yeah, everyone knows he is very back and he is a Texas native and all that, but I actually don't love this course fit for him as I obviously do next week, so I'm laying off him.
I'm gonna roll with another guy who is overdue for a win, and that's Abraham Ancer +1800. He's been hitting the ball well in recent weeks, but can't putt for his life right now. Putting is a statistic that can flip on a dime, so I'm banking on him figuring it out here against a relatively weak field.
Rickie Fowler To Win +7000 - There's really no reason to believe he'll actually turn it around this week, but maybe the desperation brings it out of him. Fuggit, why not.
Corey Conners Top 5 +400 - Lost in all the talk about him defending this title is that he's played a lot of great golf recently, including a 3rd place finish at the API and a Top 10 at THE PLAYERS.
Charley Hoffman Top 10 +335 - He's Mr. Texas Open. The results reflect that.
Gary Woodland Top 20 +300 - Windy course like this? I'll take a guy with a stinger like Gary's all day.
Danny Willet Top Euro +800 - Contended in the Dominican at the alternate field event last week, and you know he's gearing up for Augusta. Surprisingly weak group of Euro's here and I like his chances to get dialed in.
Matt Kuchar Group D +350 (over Hadwin/Kirk/Davis/Howell) - Coming off a semifinal finish last week? Yeah sign me up.
Tony Finau +1000 to win - You thought I wouldn't? (WARNING: This is merely a FOMO pick. Been chasing that Tony win for like 4 fucking years and there's just no way I'm going to miss the boat. This pick will be a mainstay here for the foreseeable future, ride or don't.)
Enjoy the Texas Open.