There’s now just a little over one week to go until the first major of the season gets underway and the anticipation among golf fans is building. First, there’s the small matter of the Valero Texas Open, which takes place this week in San Antonio.
Valero Texas Open General Information:
- Date: March 31st – April 3rd, 2022
- TV-Time: Golf Channel, 3:00 p.m. ET
- Venue: TPC San Antonio
- Location: San Antonio, Texas
- Prize Money: e.g. $7,900,000 ($1,386,000 1st Place)
- Winner last year: Jordan Spieth
Tournament, Conditions & Course Info
With one more tournament to be played in Texas before all eyes turn to Augusta in Georgia, players head to San Antonio this week, where they’ll get down to business on the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio.
An opportunity for the few big names in the field looms large, while those not used to challenging at this level could also be eying this as their chance to make a name for themselves. In the field is only one player from the current top ten, and that’s world number nine Rory McIlroy, while Tony Finau, Jordan Spieth, Hideki Matsuyama, Abraham Ancer and Bryson DeChambeau are the only other top 25 inclusions.
Another course where approach play is paramount, the AT&T Oaks demand precise play over anything else. The fairways are both narrow and tree-lined, so the margin for error is minimal, especially on shots into greens that are difficult to hit. The average strokes gained: approach finishing position of the last four winners here is second, so being dialled in en route to the putting surface is going to be huge this week, but this is a venue where even those who are on it are probably going to hit less greens in regulation than they would at many other tour venues, so a strong scrambling and around-the-green game is important too. As always, players will need to be sharp tee-to-green, with the average strokes gained: tee-to-green finishing position of the last four winners being second too.
Expert Pick #1 – Gary Woodland to Win @+3000
Big things were expected of Gary Woodland after he stormed through to win the 2019 US Open, but for one reason or another, the Kansas native lost his way a little, and only now is he really starting to look like a player that is ready to challenge for trophies again.
Woodland played well at this venue last season, finishing T6, while his recent form has made people sit up and take notice. Two T5 finishes at the Honda and the Arnold Palmer preceded a respectable T21 finish at the Valspar, so the signs are there.
There are also other signs that this tournament could be the perfect fit for a man looking to pick up his fifth PGA Tour success. Players who’ve won the Valero have also tended to find success at TPC Las Colinas, a course where Woodland has posted some solid finishes, while his second at TPC Scottsdale in 2018 sticks out too. We’re talking about four-time PGA Tour winner and a major champion, who at 37 is way too good to go without further tour wins, and since he’s found some form of late, he’s worth supporting ahead of a tournament that is lacking a lot of big names.
Fedex Cup Rank: 92 | Fedex Cup Points: 339 | OWGR: 68
Expert Pick #2 – Gary Woodland Top Ten Finish @+400
If you agree that Gary Woodland has a fantastic opportunity to thrive this week, then you’ll probably want to play him in the top-ten market too.
He’s in form, has posted two top tens in his last four events, plus the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio really does suit his game. There was lots to like about his T6 finish here last season, that’s for sure. On that occasion, Woodland gained 2.40 total strokes on the field per round, which is very solid indeed. Even more eye-catchingly, he gained 1.22 strokes around the greens, which is key, as a fair share of greens will be missed this week, so someone who can get up and down, much as the man with a major title to his name did last season, should do well. Woodland, of those in this field, also ranks fourth for strokes gained: around-the-green across his last eight events.
Ultimately, we’re talking about a player who has been building some form of late, and the time to strike is now. Even a repeat of either the form shown here 12 months ago or the form he’s shown of late should see him slide into a top ten that, thanks to the absence of much of the world’s top 25, won’t exactly contain the cream of the golfing crop.
Fedex Cup Rank: 92 | Fedex Cup Points: 339 | OWGR: 68
Expert Pick #3 – Takumi Kanaya Top 20 Finish @+400
Asian sensation Takumi Kanaya also catches the eye in the betting. The man from Japan remains inexperienced on the PGA Tour, but he’s now into the world’s top 50 according to the Official World Golf Rankings, so it would be little surprise if he performed strongly in an event that lacks elite strength in depth.
The 23-year-old arrives here having won a group containing top players Xander Schauffele and Tony Finau at WGC Dell Match Play last week, and he was only downed in the knockouts by a Corey Conners that rode the wave all the way to a third-place finish. Prior to showing he’s got all the qualities necessary to compete with the top dogs, Kanaya had posted a string of high-placed finishes on the Japan Golf Tour, while he also finished T7 on the PGA Tour at the ZOZO prior the turn of year.
Kanaya will get his first look at TPC San Antonio this week, but given what he produced just a week ago, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he adapted quickly. After all, of those in the field, the rising star ranks fifth for strokes gained: around-the-green, as well as 11th for strokes gained: putting and 15th for strokes gained: total across his last eight events. Therefore, we shouldn’t be surprised if we see Kanaya’s name featuring inside the top 20 come Sunday afternoon, and I’m betting that’s exactly what will happen.
Fedex Cup Rank: N/A | Fedex Cup Points: N/A | OWGR: 49
2022 Valero Texas Open Odds
*Odds as of Tuesday at 1:00 p.m. ET
|Si Woo Kim||+3300|
2022 Valero Texas Open Additional Picks
One player to finish top-five.
Corey Conners (+450)
It’s hard to criticise anybody who backs Corey Conners this week. Last season’s top-ten machine comes into this tournament off the back of playing some fantastic golf at the WGC Dell Match Play, where he won the consolation match against Dustin Johnson to finish third. What’s more, he’s won this tournament before, emerging victorious in 2019, so he knows how to get it done in San Antonio.
One player to finish top-10.
Adam Hadwin (+400)
Adam Hadwin rates as a very solid top-ten bet this week as far as I’m concerned. The Canadian has been in strong form of late, finishing T9 at the PLAYERS and T7 at the Valspar. He also rates highly in a few important strokes gained categories, plus his approach game is just what is required at TPC San Antonio’s Oaks course.
One player to finish top-20.
Chris Kirk (+400)
Another player who has shaped well in recent weeks is Chris Kirk. The 36-year-old has been strong around the greens, which bodes well, while recent T14, T7 and T5 finishes point towards a player that can get seriously involved in an event lacking many of the biggest names in golf.
One player to post the low score Thursday.
Camilo Villegas (+400)
If the lottery of the FRL market is your sort of thing, then why not have a play on Camilo Villegas at huge odds. The Colombian has shown a liking for this tournament, and he’s often started fast here, holding the first round lead in one out of six appearances, while he’s also finished inside the top five at the end of day one at TPC San Antonio before too.
The Big Hero
Underdog with chances to win.
Charley Hoffman (+400)
There are few players in the field this week as experienced as Charley Hoffman when it comes to the Valero Texas Open. The winner of this event back in 2016, the Californian has no fewer than eight top-ten finishes here. He’s finished as the runner-up on three occasions. At big odds, why not chance a guy knows exactly what it takes to do well at this venue.
To take the challenge presented by the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio in your stride, you’ll need to be strong on approach, and you’ll need to hit greens, but the greens at the Texas venue are hard to find, so a strong around-the-green game is also needed. So, sure, side with players whose approach game is in good shape, but also look to those players who’ve made a habit of scoring from tricky positions when missing the green on approach. One such player is Gary Woodland, who has plenty of recent form that points towards him doing well at this venue, much as he did when finishing T6 here last season.