Previewing the Valero Texas Open
PREVIEWING THE VALERO TEXAS OPEN
Every year, TPC San Antonio proves to be one of the more challenging ball-striking layouts on the PGA Tour. And when the winds kick up in the Texas hill country, it only gets more difficult.
Since 2011, the average season difficulty rank in average proximity to the hole is 6.8. For greens in regulation, it’s 5.6. Basically, you won’t be able to fake it from tee-to-green around here, and last year, Andrew Landry did anything but. Landry led the field in greens in regulation, strokes gained tee-to-green and strokes gained approach on his way to victory. Over the last 15 PGA Tour seasons, less than 4 percent of winners on Tour can make that claim.
The Texas Open replaces its Lone Star State brother, the Houston Open, in being the last event on the PGA Tour leading into The Masters. The schedule change hasn’t impacted the number of players already in The Masters who are competing this week – last year, 17 players made the trip from Houston to Augusta. This year, it’s the same total – 17 – going from San Antonio to Magnolia Lane.
That isn’t to say the field will be as equally strong. The Texas Open is expected to dole out 40 World Ranking points to the winner this week. Over the previous five years, the Houston Open winner received an average of 52.8.
BRING YOUR WEDGE GAME TO TPC SAN ANTONIO
Last year, the field at TPC San Antonio attempted 177 approach shots between 50 and 75 yards. That was the second most such approach shots among all PGA Tour courses in the 2017-18 season – only Golf Club of Houston had more, with 226.
In fact, TPC San Antonio has ranked in the top-five in this statistic every year since 2010. Players will face more short wedge shots from that range this week than in a typical PGA Tour event.
Over the last five years, there are 121 players with at least 50 measured shots from that range. Of that group, Jimmy Walker has the best average proximity to the hole, at 11 feet, 5 inches.
This makes it even less surprising that local favorite Walker leads all players in birdies per round and score to par in this event over the previous five years. Walker, the 2015 winner here, is in the field this week.
Other players in the field this week who have excelled in that statistic the last five seasons are John Senden (ranked 8th), Chris Kirk (9th), Cameron Tringale (10th) and Nick Taylor (14th).
NOTES ON PLAYERS HEADLINING THE FIELD
*The afore-mentioned Walker is a combined 23-under in this tournament the last five years, five strokes better than anyone else in that span. His 4.83 birdies/eagles per round are best among all players at TPC San Antonio over the last five years. Next on that list are Ryan Palmer (4.44), Kirk (4.00) and Aaron Baddeley (3.95).
*Only two players have recorded three or more rounds of 66 or better at TPC San Antonio since this tournament moved to the spring: Charley Hoffman and Fredrik Jacobson, with three apiece. Both players are in the field this week.
*Over the last ten years, Hoffman has been in the top-ten following a round at the Texas Open on 16 occasions. During that span no other player has done it more than 12 times (Zach Johnson).
*Among the 53 players on the PGA Tour this season with 30 or more measured rounds, Jason Kokrak is leading in strokes gained approach per round (1.08). Kokrak finished tied for second in his last start, the Valspar Championship.
*Ernie Els will make his second start in as many years at this event. Els last played at the Maybank Championship, finishing tied for seventh. In doing so, he reached an incredible career landmark: his 300th official top-ten finish worldwide. Since the beginning of the Official World Golf Ranking in 1986, he is the only player to do that.