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The stars at night... ⭐️

Published 13 days ago • 9 min read

Deep in the heart of Texas

The hits just keep on coming in 2024. Sunday closed with three LPGA top 10 prop wins missing by a single stroke. With just three groups left on the course, we were four for four. Nelly Korda (+110), Lydia Ko (+210), Sei Young Kim (+260), and Gabriela Ruffels (+500) were all inside the top 10. By the time the Ford Championship finished, only Korda was left and the other three missed by a single stroke. Bad beats like Wyndham’s lip out at THE PLAYERS are one thing, but Sunday’s top 10 fall out definitely didn’t sit well. Fact is, we have posted 331 individual bets this year and outside of the outrights have a +6% net return. It’s time for a win!

The Texas swing has benefitted from a start by Scottie Scheffler (Houston) and Rory McIlroy coming back to San Antonio for the second time in three years. McIlroy missed the cut in 2022, but joined by Jordan Spieth, defending champion Corey Conners, and Hideki Matsuyama the Valero Texas Open has 11 of the top 30 (OWGR) in the field of 156 players. God bless the tournament officials with a field that size getting done on time in rounds one and two. The last time a field of 156 finished the cut on a Friday, mobile sports betting did not exist.

Valero Texas Open starts in...

Count down to 2024-04-04T10:30:00.000Z

The Oaks

TPC San Antonio has two courses. The PGA TOUR competes on The Oaks course. A par 72 Greg Norman design that stretches 7,438 yards. What do we really need to know about this course? Here's my top 5 concerns:

  • In 2023, it was the fourth longest course on TOUR. I don’t believe length is as important as accuracy and will favor our card accordingly.
  • These are some of the most difficult bunkers on the PGA TOUR. All but one green complex has sand guarding the putting surface. The sixteenth hole has a bunker in the green!
  • Six of the seven most difficult holes are par 4s.
  • These are the sixth smallest greens on TOUR, GIRs give you a huge edge.
  • Nine holes have a birdie rate over 15%, 11 holes have a bogey rate over 15%. Make sure you can get out of trouble in San Antonio.

In line with that last point, the average winning score over the last 5 years is 16 under par. The winners averaged 24 sub-par scores the year they won. The field will make bogeys on The Oaks course. If the winner is not a scoring machine, he better be able to save pars. The weather forecast calls for temperatures in the high 70s. Less than an inch of rain (0.8") has fallen in the two weeks leading up to the tourney. The Superintendent and Tournament Officials seem happy with the conditions and ready for event week. The first three rounds look dry with wind blowing in the low teens. Sunday has a 25% chance of rain at this point.

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Course conditions

TPC San Antonio (Oaks Course)

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San Antonio, TX

I mentioned the bunkers, they are some of the most difficult fairway and greenside traps on the TOUR. Norman designed them with rough jagged edges and in very specific landing areas. Ten of the 14 tee shots are challenged by sand. Sixty-four bunkers in total cover The Oaks course. Just 35 acres of fairway to find off the tee. That's tight in a majority of cases for 7,400 yards. The field hits an average of 59% of the GIRs. That is well below the PGA TOUR weekly average. Down the stretch in Houston, we saw the movement of the turf determine lies and difficulty. An excellent job by Tom Doak to be subtle and savvy at the same time.

Norman's design is much more straightforward. Don't hit it here. Drive it there. Norman always favors great drivers and tended to keep the green surfaces somewhat simple. The fact that Sergio Garcia was a consultant on this design only further emphasizes both of those architecture points. Garcia was a great driver and absolutely horrific putter.

Players don't tend to 3-putt very much at TPC San Antonio and scrambling ranks in the middle of the pack for TOUR venues. The largest influence on approach play comes from very close range. With four par 5s averaging just under 600 yards and 50% of the par 4s under 410 yards it is easy to imagine why 75-100 yards approaches will lead directly to birdie opportunities.

Scoring matters at TPC San Antonio. The winners average 23 sub-par scores over the last decade. Those same winners have also used this week to earn an invitation to Augusta. Six of the last eight needed a win to get in! We have plenty in this field of 156 who would love a trip down Magnolia Lane. You just have to get inside the top 65 and ties to play the weekend. Once there, the $1.6 million dollar check (purse $9.2M) will help pay for a flight (and week) at Augusta National. The Oaks course is really nothing special, but an invitation to the 88th Masters is and that will keep all of our attention this weekend!

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Corey Conners is the recent king of The Oaks course. He has two wins in the past four years at the Valero. Conners has killed the field with awesome approach play. In those two victories, he has gained an average of 10+ strokes on the field with his iron game and just 1.3 strokes with the putter. If you want to get it done in the hills outside San Antonio, make sure your predictions can hit these small green complexes.

No day at the beach

We started playing The Oaks course in 2010 for the Valero. Make sure you limit your research to the correct years. I get asked this question all the time, how far is too far to go back? I break down my research into the last five and ten years. I compare the two ranges and look for trends. If I had to pick a specific time, I wouldn't go back past covid. Players have evolved so quickly since 2020. For well-established courses such at TPC San Antonio, the last five years will teach you plenty.

Recent winners have excelled on the par 4s. They gain almost twice as many strokes on the field than the par 5s. Those gains happen on the five par 4s that are under 410 yards in length. For a 7,400+ yard scorecard, there are plenty of sub-par scoring opportunities. The top 10 leaderboards have scored with short approach shots. Six hundred yard par 5s and 400 yard par fours leave you with short wedges into the green. I have weighed those shots on approach more than anything else.

The remaining approach shots are firing into smaller than average sized targets. Gaining GIRs on the field will also pave a path toward contending. For the sixth week in a row, the TOUR will present these guys with a tough test. I am going to favor recent form over course history. If a guy has both, great, but as we have seen this year the best ball strikers win. Getting caught up in horses for courses has led to a bunch of mediocre results. The TOUR is changing rapidly. LIV essentially removed a number of elite players leaving us with just a few great players in the field per non-signature event. Combine that with a much more competitive Korn Ferry Tour and you see the results.

Everyone is getting better. I am very fortunate as I get to see it live most weeks. In the last 2+ years I have been actively covering the TOUR, it is tougher to see the overall difference between a sharp Stephan Jaeger and an elite player competing at 90% skill level. You have to look for the difficult tests at each venue to separate the Sunday challengers. Valero's bunkers are wicked. The sand will separate the weekend warriors at TPC San Antonio. We have to factor in greenside bunker play. Full disclosure, I want a very well-rounded ball striker from any sand lie. Around the green play did not pop significantly in the leaderboard research, but know this...

The average winning score is about eight shots lower than the number of birdies (or sub-par scores) made. If you cannot avoid bogeys, you'll be home for the weekend. Over the last decade, the cutline average is two over par. The Oaks course is a difficult test with some tough terrain. We've seen many players over the years get a bad break or two around these greens and in the bunkers. I'm sticking with the straight flushers in Texas who can really score. The bad breaks will come and the more you can light up the leaderboard, the better.

With no LPGA bets for a couple of weeks, I added to the overall card for the Valero Texas Open!

Outright Winners - Valero Texas Open

Ludvig Åberg is coming off four straight top 25 results.

  • Åberg is gaining an average of 6.4 strokes on the field in his last 10 starts.
  • Ludvig is first in the field for par 4 scoring and proximity from 75-100 yards.
  • What makes Åberg so good is a balance between BoB% (eighth) and bogey avoidance (seventh).
  • The skill set at the Valero sets up eerily similar to the RSM Classic which Ludvig won.

In his last three starts, Hideki Matsuyama has won, finished twelfth, and sixth. All against elite signature fields.

  • Believe it or not, Hideki has gained with the putter in three of his last four starts.
  • Matsuyama is ranked first T2G in the field. He gained over 14 strokes T2G at THE PLAYERS.
  • Hideki is ranked first SG:ARG in this field.
  • This year has been quite possibly his best yet, par 4 scoring (third), par 5 scoring (fourth), and the most important factor... Hideki is healthy.

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