Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open

Valero Texas Open

It was yet another ‘so near, but so far’ week for us at the Houston Open as Taylor Moore gave us our third runner up finish in the last four events.

On the previous occasions we had seen Wyndham Clark and Xander Schauffele undone by the brilliance of Scottie Scheffler. On this occasion though it was the German Stephan Jaeger who kept his nose ahead of our man by one shot to bag his first tour win.

Moore no doubt had his chances on Sunday to match Jaeger’s -12 total and his failure to birdie two of the three pat fives proved particularly costly.

Congratulations to Jaeger then but definitely a case of ‘what might have been’ for us.

Moving on and the tour heads to San Antonio, Texas for the Valero Texas Open for the last stop before the first major of the year, The Masters.

As was the case in 2013, 2019 and for the last three years the tournament takes the slot of being the final event pre Masters whereas on other occasions the event has been held in the weeks following the Masters.

The AT & T Oaks course at TPC San Antonio has been host to the event since 2010.

As is usually the case many big names are choosing to swerve the event the week before a Major however there is still a pretty decent field in attendance with marquee name Rory McIlroy heading up the market at single figure odds.

The Northern Irishman is then followed in the market by Ludvig Aberg, Collin Morikawa, Hideki Matsuyama, Jordan Spieth and defending champion Corey Conners.



The course is a Greg Norman Design with consultation from Sergio Garcia. One angle therefore is to look at form at the other Greg Norman designs played on the PGA Tour which until recently included the El Cameleon course formerly used for the OHL Mayakoba along with Vidanta Vallarata course now used for the Mexico Open.

The course is a Par 72 and measures just over 7400 yards.

The greens are Bermudagrass over seeded with velvet bent grass & potrivialis.

The AT & T Oaks course historically has undoubtedly been one of the tougher par 72 cookies on the PGA Tour to crack.

Finding the fairways has always been key here as the rough has been penal and straying off line has lead to all kinds of trouble.

This is something Kevin Na will certainly vouch for as he memorably made a 16 here on the par 4 9th in 2011.

The last couple of editions have seen a noticeable change to the toughness of the test though with a previously unheard of -20 total winning last time out. This certainly in 2019 can be put down to changes that were made in an attempt to replicate Augusta conditions with fairways widened and rough shortened. In addition the level of winds, always a factor in Texas, affects scoring.

The course also features Pete Dye type run of areas around the greens and the chances with the event taking the pre Masters warm up slot these can be shaved in an attempt to replicate ‘Augusta type’ conditions around the greens.



As mentioned Above the AT & T Oaks Course has been the host course for this event since 2010 when the event moved across from La Cantera.

So let’s take a look at the winners here going back to 2011;


2023 Corey Conners

2022 JJ Spaun

2021 Jordan Spieth

2019 Corey Conners

2018 Andrew Landry

2017 Kevin Chappell

2016 Charley Hoffman

2015 Jimmy Walker

2014 Steven Bowditch

2013 Martin Laird

2012 Ben Curtis

2011 Brendan Steele


 As we can see from this list the main strengths of these players as a whole lie in the long game and/or players who have historically performed well on tough golf courses and this ties in to the nature of the course as outlined above.

The two ‘odd ones out’ on the winners list though are Ben Curtis and Steven Bowditch, while the 2021 winner Jordan Spieth would not really be classed in that category either in theory historically, however at the time of his win he was enjoying a renaissance and his long game that week was superb as he ranked third from tee to green and fourth in approach play.

Bowditch is a Texas resident and was able to handle a windy week when he won. You could also wonder if, [allowing for Adam Scott being a winner here as well] there is an Aussie link to the course style with Greg Norman being the designer.

As for Curtis, what can you say, he’s Ben Curtis! From what I remember of the year he won he got up and down from everywhere and holed everything.

Looking at this list of winners it would appear therefore that as a norm the ‘identikit’ winner is a solid ball striker who ‘gets it out there’ of the tee.

One other factor, which cannot be ignored here over recent years is the presence of players with Texas connections on the leaderboard with many Lone Star natives/residents or players who have attended college there making the frame.

These included Si Woo Kim, Danny Lee, Landry, O’Hair, Walker [x2], Gay, Palmer [x3], Piller, Spieth, Beau Hossler, Dylan Frittelli and most recently Sam Stevens last year.

In addition as noted above the 2014 edition was won by a Texas based Aussie, Steven Bowditch.

With the event now holding the pre Augusta slot it is also worth looking at the recent history of the Houston Open when it used to be held in this same slot and if we do that we’ll see that the last four editions were won by a player not yet in the Masters field, Poulter, Henley, Herman & Jones, whilst in 2013, when this event held that slot, Martin Laird grabbed an Augusta place with his victory.

More recently this event in 2019 was won by Corey Conners, a player who not only wasn’t in the Augusta field heading in to this week but wasn’t even in this field until he Monday qualified!

In 2021 this trend was bucked by former Masters Champion Spieth winning however having been winless in nearly four years as his game slumped he was certainly not focused on ‘building up to Augusta’ and was fully motivated on a return to the winners enclosure.

In 2022 though this ‘formula’ was apparent again as JJ Spaun punched his ticket to a trip up Magnolia Lane, however last year Conners who became a two time champion here was already in the Augusta field.

The obvious thing to conclude therefore is that this week is very much about motivation. If you are in the Augusta field already you are most likely to be tinkering with your game, thinking ahead to next week and in the case of big names, whether consciously or not, not wanting to peak too early. Whereas if you are not in Augusta you are quite simply here to win.

There have of course been exceptions to this over the years with players like Phil Mickelson not afraid to hack up the week before a Major and then win again the following week, however all in all I would much rather focus on players I see as motivated this week.

Course form here has proved a guide to a certain extent over the years, with the likes of Walker and Hoffman in particular course specialists and Chappell as well all having good form here prior to winning, while Spieth had previously finished runner up here. Conners had also put down a marker finishing 26th the previous year on debut. In addition of course he was winning for the second time here last year.

Equally though Landry and Bowditch had no ‘previous’ here to go on while 2022 winner Spaun had a best of 26th here in four visits with two missed cuts along the way so don’t be too put off if the man you fancy has not done much here before.

With regards to form coming in Conners arrived here on the back of four MC in five events in 2019 with one 41st place finish while last year he had only one finish better than 50th, a 21st at the API, since mid January.

The previous winner to Conners first triumph, Andrew Landry, had posted an almost identical run in with four MC and a 42nd place finish. Similarly Spaun had nothing better than 27th in his previous five starts so again being in great form coming in does certainly not appear to be too significant!

The winning score has varied over the years at the Oaks Course from -8 to -20 from Conners in 2019, while Spaun won with -13 last year, with the wind as well as changes to the course set up as noted earlier, which have eased the difficulty, being the differentiating factor.



The good news is that at the time of writing we look set for a dry sunny week with temperatures in the low 80s and no interruptions in the forecast.

Wind is invariably an issue in Texas and this week it looks to be a factor again with gusts of 20/25mph in the forecast over the course of the event particularly on Friday and Saturday.

As I always say though this could all change!



I have gone with six players this week as follows;


BILLY HORSCHEL – 30/1 - 2pts E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC

In a week where I am choosing to focus on players who are yet to punch their ticket to Augusta I shall start with a fairly obvious play on Billy Horschel.

Horschel as was well publicised suffered a slump in form in 2023, which saw him give an emotional press conference after hitting rock bottom with his game at Muirfield Village when posting an 84 as defending champion.

Credit to Horschel though following on from that he worked hard on his game and there were some glimmers of form towards the end of last season with a 13th at the 3M and then a fourth at the Wyndham.

Moving on then to 2024 and after a quietish start to the year Billy has found some momentum over recent weeks as he has backed up a ninth at the Cognizant Classic, with 12th place at the Valspar and then seventh in Houston in the past fortnight.

With momentum then always having been key to Horschel’s game, whenever he gets on a roll he becomes a man to follow as invariably over the years once he gets ‘hot’ he goes on to post a win.

In addition to the improvement in form there is plenty to like about Billy’s chances this week in relation to course suitability.

Firstly with two of his seven PGA Tour titles having come in the Lone Star State Billy is clearly comfortable in Texas. Secondly with three top four finishes and an 11th over his past seven visits here, there is no doubt the Florida Gator is comfortable at TPC San Antonio.

Horschel’s long game was trending nicely last week with a ranking of sixth in Driving Accuracy and 17th in GIR and having closed out the week in style with a 64 he should arrive in San Antonio in confident mood. In a week then when nothing but a win will do for Billy with regards to being at Augusta I’ll take him to deliver when it matters the most.


BEAU HOSSLER – 66/1 – 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 78th

Next up is the first of my three selections with Texas connections, Beau Hossler.

Hossler as long term readers will know is a player who always comes on to my radar when the tour hits Texas, his adopted home state. From that point of view Beau was very much in my thinking heading in to Houston last week, however his poor record at the Memorial Park was enough to have me leave him out.

Heading in to this week though with TPC San Antonio a venue he has had some past success at I am very keen to jump on board.

With regards to that past success and Beau has made the cut here on his last five visits with a best of fourth in 2022 when we were on board. Indeed with Beau having held the lead at the turn on Sunday that year things could have been much better for him, and indeed us, however sadly a double bogey seven on the 14th wrecked his chances.

Still though, add that to his agonising play off defeat in Houston in 2018, along with having been right in the hunt through 36 holes at the Charles Schwab Challenge in 2022 and also having finished 17th that year at the Byron Nelson on the back of three missed cuts, we know Beau comes to life in Texas.

2024 had seen Beau produce some really solid form prior to two missed cuts in Florida, however as we know the Sunshine State has never really been Hossler’s stomping ground so I am not overly concerned by that dip in form. Instead then I’ll focus on the fact that he hit the ball pretty nicely in Houston, ranking 33rd in Approach Play on his way to 57th.

With only those two missed cuts in Florida blotting Beau’s copybook in his last 15 starts Beau has been playing solid golf for a long while now, and I’ll take him to put in another big performance in Texas this week.


DAVIS RILEY –  100/1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC

Next up I’ll take the hint from the improved showing from Davis Riley last week in Houston and take my chances.

Go back a couple of years and Riley’s was the name on everyone lips as the next rookie looking a sure fire thing to win. Having landed a victory, albeit along side Nick Hardy in the Zurich pairs event, it has to be said though Davis has been hugely disappointing and prior to last weeks effort his best finish in all but a year was a 28th at the Shriners, while more often than not he has had the weekend off.

Last week though Riley produced his best golf in a long while in Houston to finish 14th ranking fourth in Approach Play and 21st off the tee.

Naturally as is always the case, when a player finds form out of the blue there is always the risk that it is a false dawn and we have to accept there is a possibility Riley reverts back to recent type this week. That said with him making his home in Dallas I’m happy to risk that a return to Texas has sparked him to life, particularly as he posted two top tens at the Byron Nelson and Charles Schwab in 2022.

In addition with regards to suitability for this track the ace in the pack is that he won here at TPC San Antonio on the Oaks Course when it hosted a Korn Ferry event in 2020. Therefore while he has done little here on his two visits on the PGA Tour we know he can handle the layout.

At his best Riley is clearly a class operator and at the odds on offer I am happy to take my chances on him here this week.


RYAN MOORE – 125/1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 45th

Next up and for the third week running I am happy to roll the dice on Ryan Moore.

As regular readers will know Ryan rewarded us handsomely at the Valspar recently to bag a full place at 175/1 and although he couldn’t produce another big finish in Houston last week there wasn’t too much wrong with his 31st place finish.

Looking more closely at the Houston effort and in hindsight it may well be that Memorial Park was just a bit too long of a track for Ryan to seriously compete on, however with a ranking of 1st in Driving Accuracy and second in Approach Play for the week Ryan continues to play superbly from tee to green as he did at the Valspar and TPC.

Heading in to this week then we have no such concern over the suitability of the track as Ryan has three top ten’s including a best of third place here in his last eight visits. Clearly then TPC San Antonio is a course Ryan is comfortable on.

It’s been a tough grind for Moore over the past few years and even the idea of teeing it up four weeks running would not have been an option for him a couple of years ago as he nursed a back injury.

Now though after a slow start to the year Moore clearly seems to have rediscovered the form he found at the back end of 2023 and I can see a really bold showing from him here as he looks to bag a Masters spot or at least a place at the RBC Heritage through the Swing Five.


KEVIN YU –  150/1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED 39th

Next up and on a track that is known for rewarding strong ball strikers I will take a risk on Kevin Yu.

Yu’s performances are very much feast or famine in that if he is on one of his ‘go weeks’ he is more than capable of producing big finishes, as he has on three occasion this season, notching top tens at the American Express, The Farmers and most recently the Cognizant. Otherwise though if Kevin’s game is not on song it appears to result in a weekend off. Still though, add those three top tens to his three last season and that’s six already in his short PGA Tour career, all the more impressive considering he missed a chunk of last season with injury.

Returning to Kevin’s potential suitability to TPC San Antonio and he currently ranks second on tour in Ball Striking with strong numbers in Total Driving and in GIR for, which he currently sits 11th. Indeed his current ranking on Ball striking is one spot above Corey Conners and with the Canadian being a two time champion here that tells you what you need to know about the type of player we are looking for.

Yu is making his debut on the track here this week so there is obviously a degree of speculation in how he will take to the venue, however clearly he is a player who due to his volatility can bring good returns at juicy odds when he does pounce and I am keen to jump onboard this week.


CHANDLER PHILLIPS –  175/1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 8 - FINISHED MC

Finally this week I’ll run with my third pick with Texas connections Chandler Phillips.

A winner in the Bahamas last year on the Korn Ferry Tour Phillips has enjoyed a strong start to his rookie PGA Tour campaign.

The highlight in his play to date undoubtedly came at the Valspar a couple of weeks ago where he posted a third place finish.

Another strong tee to green proponent Phillips ranks 12th on tour in Approach Play, so like our other selections he really should have the game to thrive here. Furthermore Phillips played here last year on a sponsors exemption, making the cut so unlike many of the tracks he will see this year he does have some course experience here.

On the back of his great week at the Valspar Chandler tee’d it up last week in Houston, which was very much a home game for him. Unfortunately though whether it be expectation he put on himself to perform on the back of the previous week, or simply being one of the shorter hitters out there, the course didn’t suit him, he failed to produce any great spark. That said 45th place was no disgrace and with a ranking of 18th in Approach Play for the week, and third on this front on Sunday the iron play was still firing.

On to this week then and on a course, which I expect to be more to his liking I’ll roll the dice at big odds on Chandler finding another big performance in front of home state fans.