PGA Tour Picks: Valero Texas Open

By Tom LaMarre

Corey Conners of Canada is another player who has had to wait an extra year to defend his title on the PGA Tour because of the Coronavirus pandemic, but he will be back on the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio this week for the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, Texas.

Conners became the first Monday qualifier to win on the circuit since 2010 when he claimed the title by two strokes over Charley Hoffman in 2019.

“I have a lot of great memories (from winning),” said Conners, who tied for 10th in the Masters late last year. “It’s been a sort of refreshing mental activity to remember the good stuff I did last year and getting my first win.

“There were a lot of highs from that week, especially from that last round. Making 10 birdies was pretty awesome, and proving to myself that I was able to get it done was pretty awesome. I’m looking forward to getting back in that position.”

Conners birdied four of his first five holes in the final round, but gave them all back with bogeys from Nos. 6-9. However, he bounced back with three birdies in a row on Nos. 10-12 and added three more for good measure the rest of the way.

His second straight 6-under-par 66 held off Hoffman, who led by one stroke following a 64 in round three and closed with a 67.

“Making four bogeys to finish the front nine was definitely a low, but I learned a lot from that moment,” Conners said. “I had gotten ahead of myself. Making the turn, I was able to reset. I was able to make some birdies starting the back nine and I didn’t get ahead of myself that time. I was really focused and relaxed. Even within the round I learned some things.”

Top-ranked Dustin Johnson was scheduled to be the only player in the top 10 of the World Rankings in the field this week before withdrawing on Monday without giving an explanation a week ahead of his title defense in the Masters.

Major champions who will play include Jordan Spieth (pictured), Phil Mickelson, Vijay Singh of Fiji, Charl Schwartzel of South Africa, Jim Furyk, Danny Willett of England, Henrik Stenson of Sweden, Jason Dufner, Padraig Harrington of Ireland, Jimmy Walker, Zach Johnson, Gary Woodland, Davis Love III and Keegan Bradley.

“We’re thrilled to have these world class players in our strong field,” said Larson Segerdahl, Executive Director of the Valero Texas Open. “They will make our tournament even more exciting for our fans in attendance and watching at home.”

The Texas Open was first played in 1922 and is the third-oldest tournament on the PGA Tour schedule.

The list of champions includes Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Gene Littler, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Lee Trevino, Nick Price of Zimbabwe, Justin Leonard, Adam Scott of Australia, Duffy Waldorf, Hal Sutton, Jay Haas, Mark O’Meara, Corey Pavin, Loren Roberts, Chi Chi Rodriguez, Bruce Crampton of Australia, Lawson Little, Phil Rodgers, Dutch Harrison, Jack Burke Jr., Don January, Jim Colbert, Calvin Peete, Jay Herbert and MacDonald Smith of Scotland.

Palmer and native Texan Leonard each won the tournament a record three times.

Many players in the field this week will be warming up for the first major of the season, the Masters next week at Augusta National.

BEST BETS

  1. Jordan Spieth, United States – With No. 1 Dustin Johnson withdrawing, Spieth became the betting favorite, as he continues to regain his old form, with four top-10 finishes in his last six starts. The native Texan has played in this event five times, with his best result solo second in 2015, and he also finished solo 10th the years before that.
  2. Tony Finau, United States – With world No. 1 Dustin Johnson withdrawing, Finau is the highest ranked player in the Valero Texas Open at No. 13. He has five top-10 results this season, including second in the Farmers and Genesis, plus a tie for eighth in the U.S. Open. His best finish in three starts in the Valero Texas Open as a tie for third in 2017.
  3. Matt Kuchar, United States – Kooch is coming off winning the Consolation title in the WGC-Match Play after he lost to Scottie Scheffler in the semifinals. He is playing in the Valero Texas Open for the 16th time, and his best result was a tie for second in 2001, and he also tied for fourth in 2014 and tied for seventh the last time it was played in 2019.
  4. Scottie Scheffler, United States – Another native Texan, Scheffler is coming off his best performance as a pro, as he was undefeated before losing to Billy Horschel in the championship match of the WGC-Match Play. The 2019 PGA Tour Rookie of the year played in the Valero Texas Open for the first time last year and finished in a tie for 20th.
  5. Corey Conners, Canada – Has had to wait an extra year to defend is only PGA Tour title because of the Coronavirus pandemic, and two years ago he posted four scores in the 60s by beat Charley Hoffman by two strokes. Conners also tied for 26th three years ago. He finished third in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and seventh in the Players recently.
  6. Branden Grace, South Africa – Claimed his second PGA Tour victory and the 14th as a professional at the end of February in the Puerto Rico Open, after also winning the 2020 South African Open. Grace is playing in the Valero Texas Open for the fifth time, and his best result was a tie for ninth in 2016 before he tied for 10th the following season.
  7. Ryan Palmer, United States – Made the Round of 16 in the WGC-Match Play before being eliminated, but it was his sixth top-25 finish this season, including three top-fives, topped by a tie for second in the Farmers. Palmer is playing in the Valero Texas Open for the 17th time, with his best result a tie for fourth in 2016 and he has two ties for sixth.
  8. Hideki Matsuyama, Japan – Went 1-2 in Group Play and did not make it to the Round of 16 in the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, but Matsuyama has seven top-25 finishes this season, including a tie for second in the Vivint Houston Open, a tie for 13th   in the Masters and a tie for 17th in the U.S. Open. Making his Valero Texas Open debut.
  9. Danny Willett, England – The 2016 Masters champion finished solo eighth in the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship last week, in addition to tying for 25th in the Masters in November and tying for 16th in Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship on the European Tour. Willett will be teeing it up in the Valero Texas Open for the first time.
  10. Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland – G-Mac is coming off his best result of the season, a tie for fourth in the Corales Puntacana Resort & Club Championship last week, when he was in the chase most of the way. The 2010 U.S. Open champion is playing in the Valero Texas Open for the fifth time, and his best result was a tie for seventh in 2019.

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Zach Johnson, United States; Phil Mickelson, United States; Sebastian Munoz, Colombia; Rickie Fowler, United States; Martin Laird, Scotland; Brendan Steele, United States; Henrik Stenson, Sweden; Charley Hoffman, United States; Si Woo Kim, South Korea; Cameron Davis, Australia.

SLEEPERS

  1. Abraham Ancer, Mexico – Has yet to win on the PGA Tour, but has eight top-25s this season, including T-5 in the AmEx, solo fourth in the Shriners, T-13 in the Masters.
  2. Sam Ryder, United States – Three-time winner on lower tours finished one shot back in T-2 in Corales Puntacana after a T-8 the week before in Honda and T-10 in Farmers.
  3. Erik van Rooyen, South Africa – Three-time winner around the world, Van Rooyen finished T-9 in the WGC-Match Play last week after a T-20 earlier in the Houston Open.
  4. Michael Gligic, Canada – Two-time winner on lower tours finished T-4 in Corales Puntacana after a T-11 in the Bermuda Championship and a T-14 in the Safeway Open.
  5. Joseph Bramlett, United States – Former Stanford star finished T-13 in Corales Puntacana last week after a T-18 in the Farmers. Two top-3s on 2020 Korn Ferry Tour.

For first round tee times, visit: https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html

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