Valero Texas Open
So it was another great yet ultimately infuriating week for us at the RBC Heritage.
Si Woo Kim basically played the best golf all week and had the tournament in his pocket, however the putter which had been his friend all week suddenly deserted him with a vengeance leaving me and I’m sure many of you who had joined me in backing him sitting and watching in aghast as each consecutive putt to seal the tournament slipped by.
Throw in the two shot penalty Si Woo got on the 14th hole on Friday for brushing sand away with his hand and you can imagine this loss will haunt Si Woo for a while to come.
We have to remember though that he’s only 22 and that he’s achieved a huge amount already in the game. There’s no doubting he’s a world class act and I’m sure he’ll be back soon.
From our point of view hopefully those of you who had joined me on Si Woo took a bit of insurance by trading out a little down the stretch, which when added to the place money meant in the end it was still an excellent week.
In addition we mustn’t forget good old Kisner brought us in a 7 way tie for 7th place!
Moving on and the tour makes the 1200 mile trip west from the South Carolina coast to San Antonio, Texas for the Valero Texas Open.
If you include the WGC Dell Matchplay the event is the third of five, which will be held in the state of Texas this year, meaning Texas shares the honours with California as the state which will host the most PGA Tour events in the 2017-18 season.
The AT & T Oaks course at TPC San Antonio has been host to the event since 2010.
As the post Masters ‘wind down’ lingers on the field in all honesty is a fairly weak one this week.
From a betting perspective Sergio Garcia and Matt Kuchar and head things up and they are the only members of the worlds top 25 in attendance. Former winner Charley Hoffman, currently ranked 26 in the world, is the next highest world ranked player in the field.
The course is a Greg Norman Design with consultation from Sergio Garcia, [hence Sergio’s presence in the field]. One angle therefore is to look at form at the other Greg Norman design played on the PGA Tour which is the course used for the OHL Mayakoba.
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 is undoubtedly one of the tougher par 72 cookies on the PGA Tour to crack.
Finding the fairways is important as the rough is penal and if you do stray off line you can find 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.
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.
The first addition at the Oaks Course was won by Adam Scott. Since then we have had a roll of honour which includes Brendan Steele, Kevin Chappell, Charley Hoffman, Jimmy Walker and Martin Laird who can all be seen as players whose strengths lie in the long game.
The two ‘odd ones out’ on the winners list though are Ben Curtis and Steven Bowditch.
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 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.
The winning score has varied over the eight years at the Oaks Course from -8 to -14 with the wind being the differentiating factor.
For the last three years we have seen winning scores of -12 or -13.
Heading in to the week and for the first days play on Thursday the weather seems to look good, however as I write Friday and Saturday look like they could both be disrupted by the storms, with Saturday looking particularly bad. Sunday then returns to being quite pleasant.
The wind as is normally the case in Texas looks like it will be a factor through the week blowing at around 15-20mph on occasions on all days.
I have gone with five players this week as follows;
MARTIN PILLER – 200-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED MC
For my first and if you like my headline selection this week I am going to actually start with by far the biggest priced player in my team in the form of a Lone Star State guy Martin Piller.
The reason to be Piller heads the list this week is basically his price. I really don’t get it and would say 100s is as big as he should be and certainly not 200s. [In fact there was some 250s around earlier which I will confess to having got.]
Piller is a Texas man through and through having been born in Texas, attended Texas A & M and now resides there.
His first PGA Tour top ten finish came at this event in 2016 when finished 4th whilst his second came shortly after at another Texas event, the Dean & Deluca.
After this unfortunately things went horribly wrong for Martin and he failed to make another cut all season before losing his card and having to return to the Web.com tour last year.
The good news was though that Piller bounced back well last year notching a win on the Web.com to regain his card.
Since returning to the big league Martin has notched two more top 5 finishes including one at the Greg Norman designed course used for the OHL Mayakoba.
It is clear from Piller’s performances this season and back in 2016 on tour, that when he is on a ‘go week’ on a course that suits him he is not scared to compete and I would be surprised if returning to Texas on a course he clearly likes if he doesn’t play well this week.
BILLY HORSCHEL – 40-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED 11th
It’s been a pretty grim time for the Florida Gator so far this season with, until last week, absolutely nothing to show for the year at all other than an 11th place finish in a 30 odd runner field at the Sentry Tournament of Champions at the beginning of January.
This all changed last weekend though at Hilton Head when he delivered a 5th place finish.
As we know Billy is a man to follow when things click in to place and the confidence gets up so he would have potentially been of interest wherever he next tee’d it up.
As luck would have it though his next start happens to be at a venue he has had some good success at in the past in the form of the Oaks Course.
Horschel has played this event for the past seven consecutive years and it has been a somewhat bizarre case of ‘feast or famine’ for him with three top four finishes, two missed cuts and a 74th & 75th place finish to his name!
Interestingly Hilton Head has never been a particularly happy hunting ground for Billy and on only one occasion has he arrived in San Antonio on the back of a top 10 finish at Harbour Town and he went on to finish 3rd that week.
It’s not surprising that the Oaks course is a good fit for Billy as his ball striking strengths suits the course requirements down to a tee.
Billy noted in his interviews at Hilton Head that the missed cut at Augusta had actually been a blessing in disguise as it had allowed him extra time to work on his game and as a result something had duly clicked in to place.
I am therefore confident that on his return to the Lone Star State, which saw his last win on tour last year, Horschel can keep the momentum going on a course he clearly likes.
SI WOO KIM – 55-1 - 1pt E/W – 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED 45th
The idea of backing Si Woo again this week first started to form in my mind this morning and I will readily admit I have spent a chunk of the day going backwards and forwards in my mind as to whether to do so.
Ultimately of course it comes down to price and at the initial prices on show of 40-1 I had decided to pass, however I felt the 55-1 was too tempting to resist.
The question of course that was going through my mind is am ‘hanging on to him’ because the thought of him winning without being ‘on’ was too much to bear, or do I really rate his chances this week and after a lot of consideration I genuinely feel the answer is the latter.
So lets look at the pro’s and cons…
The cons first of all in principal are pretty straightforward. With victory in his hands at Hilton Head he basically couldn’t buy a putt for the last four holes and threw the event away.
The assumption therefore is his head will be ‘in bits’ and if you throw this in with a putting stroke which is clearly an issue at the moment, the idea of him challenging this week looks a stretch.
Now lets look at the pro’s. Firstly for 3 rounds and 14 holes Si Woo putted very well and, as was well documented through the week, he was right near the top of the SGP stats for the week until Sunday.
Secondly his long game, which is so key at the Oaks course was never in doubt last week, basically from tee to green he was incredibly solid.
Now lets look at the question as to whether he can recover from last week to deliver the goods this week.
Well, the answer of course is we can’t really know either way in advance, however there is ample evidence over the years on the PGA Tour that after heartbreak one week a player can dust themselves down the next and tell themselves the best way to get over the disappointment is to get straight back out there and win.
You only need to look at another of the players in our team this week, Billy Horschel, for evidence of this.
Horschel of course memorably chunked a ball in to the water when he had the Deutsche Bank Championship in his hands in 2014 only to come back out and win the BMW Championship the following week.
Another memorable example was Kyle Stanley who gifted away the Farmers Insurance event at Torrey Pines on the 72nd hole only to win the following week at the Phoenix Open.
Finally, all be it a slightly different type of ‘ comeback from disappointment’, came as recently as three weeks ago when Ian Poulter overcame the huge upset of having a Masters appearance basically handed to him then taken away only to deliver the necessary win the following week in Houston.
So, the evidence is there that with the right mentality a player can come back out the next week and overcome a huge disappointment from the previous, and there is no doubt Si Woo Kim is a special talent who has the ability to do so, but can he do it on this course?
Well, as I’ve mentioned already I believe Si Woo’s long game attributes for the course aren’t in doubt and he played solidly here last year to finish 22nd.
Secondly as I mentioned earlier in the piece it may pay to look at a players past performance at the OHL Mayakoba as this is the other Greg Norman designed course played on the PGA Tour.
Finally similarities have been drawn between the Oaks Course and Pete Dye design courses due to the run off areas around the greens and one thing we can’t do is doubt Si Woo’s liking for a Pete Dye design!
It is these last three pointers that clinched it for me to roll the dice with Si Woo again this week and I am hoping he can add his name to the list of players who have memorably bounced back from heartbreak one week to win the next.
BEAU HOSSLER – 50-1 - 1pts E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 7 FINISHED 51st
If we are going to have a week where back one of our huge recent disappointments then we may as well go the full hog and back the other as well!
Obviously I say this with my tongue firmly in my cheek as my reasons for siding with Beau again this week go way beyond any kind of misguided loyalty.
No, my main reason for backing Beau again this week is how hugely impressive I felt he was down the stretch in Houston and, unlike Si Woo Kim, until a couple of loose shots in the play off you could lay no fault at Beau’s door for him not taking the trophy home that week.
Had this performance come out of the blue I would perhaps have been a bit more cautious but of course Hossler has been talked about as a potentially huge star of the game in the making for a long while now and he has been producing some good stuff on the tour all season without putting four rounds together until it all clicked in Houston.
What was also hugely encouraging to see is that Beau came back out after a week of and had another excellent week at the Heritage on a course you really would not have expected to suit his game hugely, particularly on first look.
Rather than being deflated to having come so close to his first tour win the confidence is clearly therefore still running high in him right now.
The reason I sided with Beau in Houston was I felt that the tour’s venture in to his adoptive home state of Texas would reinvigorate him after a poor Florida swing and this indeed proved to be the case.
As was the case at the Houston Open in 2017 Beau also received a sponsors exemption in to the 2017 Valero Texas Open and he clearly has a strong affinity with the state having played his college golf there.
Beau didn’t play well here last year and missed the cut so there is a bit of an ‘unknown’ to him with regards to the course.
His game of course though has come on hugely over the past twelve months so this is not of great concern to me and I am optimistic he can make another big run for his first tour title this week.
JIMMY WALKER – 66-1 - 1pt E/W - 1/5 odds 1st 6 FINISHED 4th
For my final selection this week I am going to side with a player in the form of Jimmy Walker who there are no doubts about with regards to course form as he is a past winner here.
Walker won here in 2015 having previously finished 3rd at in the event in 2010 when it was first played on this course.
In addition he has finished 13th and 16th in two of his other visits in the past eight years.
Over the past 12 months Jimmy has gone through a well-documented battle with Lyme Disease and this is something I highlighted in my Masters previews when I picked him as a big priced player who could make an impact at Augusta.
Whilst this didn’t quite happen Walker performed very creditably at the Masters and ultimately finished 20th.
Now pretty much back to 100% fitness Walker will be looking to get his career back on track and the signs have been there this year that this is not too far away from happening.
This can be seen with the fact that Jimmy had a top ten finish earlier in the year at Pebble Beach before putting together a solid Florida swing, which included holding the lead after round one at Bay Hill.
As well as being a past winner of the event Walker is affiliated to the course and lives locally in San Antonio so this is a special tournament for him which he says himself “holds a special place in his heart”.
He has proven before of course that he has what it takes to handle the pressure that comes with being the home favourite and there would be no better place for him I'm sure to get his 'comeback win' following his illness than in his home town this week.
UPDATED 17th APRIL
TRADER - MATT EVERY FINISHED MC Traded 210
Before going in to the reasons for choosing Every for this weeks trader for the benefit of newer followers I thought it would be worthwhile just to re cap the aim and targets I set for my weekly trader pick.
In essence each week [on full field events] I select one player to back with a view to purely 'trading' them on the betting exchanges.
This player is always priced at least at 200 on the exchanges pre event.
The player I choose is not a player I neccasarily think will win the event or even place, but someone I feel will go well at least for a round or two, or perhaps even just get of to a fast start if they have a good early morning tee time.
Once I have backed the player I then set up a 'lay' at 25% of the price I backed them for 3 x my initial stake.
So for example if I have had £10 on my player at 400 to win £4000, my lay set up will be £30 at 100, thus laying back £3000 of my potential £4000 winnings.
If my player then plays well enough to get matched at 100 this will leave me on a position of having a £20 guaranteed profit on the week regardless as to who wins the event whilst still leaving me with a potential £1000 profit if my chosen player went on to win.
This £1000 I could let ride if I wished or more likely lay further if the player got seriously in the hunt over the weekend.
For example I could lay another £50 at 11 which would still leave me with a £500 profit if my player won whilst guranteeing me a £70 profit if they didn't.
Based on this tactic I need on average a minimum of 1 trader in 3 to hit our initial target price to break even long term on the trader, and I am pleased to say we have managed so far this season.
So, on to this weeks trader Matt Every.
Those who read my preview for last weeks Heritage will know that I actually took a punt and put Every in my main team based on his excellent finish the previous time out in Houston.
Unfortunately he wasn't quite able to produce enough consistency at Harbour Town to get in the mix however considering he opened with a triple bogey 7 on Thursday he did well to make the cut and in general showed enough again over the week to lead me to still think he is on the comeback trail.
The Oaks course is a venue that has been kind to him in the past with a second place finish back in 2012 and I am optimistic that Matt cannot his recent improvement this week.
CURRENTLY TRADING AT 470 +