The TOUR gets back to traditional stroke play after the match-play marathon last week at Austin Country Club. They will stay in the state of Texas but head to TPC San Antonio this week for the Valero Texas Open.
This will be the final event for players not yet qualified for the Masters next week, to get themselves a late entry into the most prestigious tournament of the year. The only way to do so, will be with a win, which means this is the final shot for most notably Rickie Fowler to punch a ticket to Augusta National.
After an odd situation at the WGC Match Play with Kevin Na, Dustin Johnson made himself a late entry to this field on Friday evening, but he reversed course just a little while ago on Monday afternoon. His withdrawal from the event will obviously weaken the field a bit, but there are still a number of top names looking to find or keep form before heading to Georgia next week. Texas native, Jordan Spieth, headlines the field and is at or near the top of the betting market as he looks for his first win at this event. Tony Finau, Hideki Matsuyama, and Scottie Scheffler make up the top-25 players in the Official World Golf Rankings that will tee it up in San Antonio this week, with another mix of others inside the top 50.
The course at TPC San Antonio has played a variety of different ways in the nine years it has hosted this tournament. There have been winning scores from 20-under down to 11-under in 2015. It seems the high teens and 20-under scores are the outliers as the champion has been just past double digits under par in three of the past five editions of this event. It is usually the wind that decides just how tough the scoring is around this course, and it appears set to play a factor at least early in this week as well.
This year, they have added a tee box to the fifth hole taking it from one of the easiest par 4s on the course at just 327 yards back to 401 yards, making a difficult track even tougher. It was previously one of just two par 4s that played under par at the event, the 17th being the other, but now it will have a completely different look for the players in 2021. The change will make an already difficult front nine even tougher, with most of the scoring coming on the back.
We will put most of our focus this week on the approach and iron play of our players this week. Each of the last three winners of this event have ranked first or second in strokes gained approach on the week and in the top three in greens in regulation. Those two things do go hand in hand quite a bit, but the latter is something that really stands out at TPC San Antonio. This course annually ranks as the second toughest on TOUR in hitting the Greens In Regulation, with only Riviera being tougher. I’ll be looking for my typical stats around tee to green and overall ball striking, but iron play is clearly the most important aspect for success at this event.
TPC San Antonio (Oaks) – San Antonio, TX – 7,494 par 72
- Four par 5s, four par 3s, 10 par 4s
- Bermudagrass greens rolling at 11 on the stimpmeter
- 6,400 square feet average green size
- 2-inch Bermudagrass rough
- Three water hazards in play on three holes
- Lengthened fifth hole to 401 yards (327 previously)
Jimmy Walker (T30-4-T13-MC-1)
I know this is 2021, but I can’t start a section about course horses at TPC San Antonio without mentioning Jimmy Walker. The 2015 champion of this event has two other top-15 finishes in the last five years with only one missed cut. He knows his way around this track, and maybe he does enough to pay off a cheap price tag with that course knowledge.
Charley Hoffman (2-T64-T40-1-T11)
This is the time of year where Charley Hoffman starts to round into form. He is almost always competitive at this event and any other Texas tournament really, but then he rolls it right into the first round lead at the Masters. His 2016 win on this course was one of those 12-under finishes I discussed above, but he showed he could go low here too with his 18-under runner-up finish in 2019.
Ryan Palmer (MC-MC-T6-T4-T6)
Normally I wouldn’t even consider Ryan Palmer at a $9,400 price tag on DraftKings, but that number speaks to the form he has shown of late and at TPC San Antonio. I am hopeful that the high price and two missed cuts in recent trips will have people forget the other three top-six finishes in the last five years and about his strong showing at Austin Country Club where he took Jon Rahm to a playoff for their Match Play group.
Chris Kirk (MC-T8-MC-T13-T8)
If you’ve been following along in this article each week, you know I have been all over Chris Kirk all season. He’s been in great form and I will continue to ride him until he shows me a reason to get off. This week, we get his good form at a place he’s had a great history with three top-15 finishes in the last five years including two in the top 10.
Pictured above: Ryan Palmer
Credit: Cliff Hawkins/Getty Images