PGA Tour Picks: Valero Texas Open


The 88th Masters is a week away, and while some golfers prefer to prepare for a major by practicing at home, others like to play their way in, and those guys will tee it up beginning Thursday in the 102nd Valero Texas Open on the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio.

Among those in the in San Antonio field are second-ranked Rory McIlroy of Northern Ireland, eighth-ranked Brian Harman, ninth-ranked Ludvig Aberg of Sweden and 10th-ranked Max Homa of Valencia and Cal.

That said, McIlroy flew to Georgia on Tuesday to play a practice round at Augusta National Golf Club, where he can complete the Career Grand Slam with a victory in the Masters next week, before flying back to Texas.

“The Masters is the Disneyland of golf,” said McIlroy, who has claimed four major titles, but nine since the 2014 PGA Championship at Valhalla Golf Club in Louisville, Ky. “You go there, put the Mickey Mouse ears on and get into what it is. And when you leave you snap out of it.

“My big thing about Augusta is just to go in there playing well, so that’s why I’m playing in Texas the week prior. The weeks before are important just to get me feeling like I’m in good form.

“This year, in fact, I’ve played more before the Masters. That will be my ninth or 10th event of the year. Previously, it has been my sixth or seventh. I’ll hopefully be a bit sharper and know exactly where my game really is.

“But I’ve just about said all I have to say about the Masters.”

While McIlroy is the favorite this week in the Valero Texas Open, Corey Conners of Canada is right there with him.

Conners (pictured) is the defending champion at TPC San Antonio, having won by two strokes over Charley Hoffman, and in fact has only other PGA Tour victory also came in this event five years ago, when he finished one shot ahead of Sam Stevens.

“I have a lot of great memories on this course,” said Conners, who has played in the Valero Texas Open five times and also tied for 14th in 2021. “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.

“I love this golf course and feel firs really comfortable out here.”

Conners will try to become the first player to win the Valero Texas Open back-to-back since Zach Johnson in 2008-09 and tie Arnold Palmer and Justin Leonard as the only three-time winners of the tournament.

Bob MacDonald won the first Texas Open in 1922, and other previous winners include Palmer, Walter Hagen, Sam Snead, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Macdonald Smith of Scotland, Dutch Harrison, Gene Littler, Mike Souchak, Frank Beard, Lee Trevino, Ben Crenshaw, Corey Pavin, Mark O’Meara, Hale Irwin, Don January, Calvin Peete, John Mahaffey, Jay Haas, Hal Sutton, Duffy Waldorf, Loren Roberts, Jordan Spieth and Adam Scott of Australia.

By the way, this is another tournament McIlroy has not won, with his best finish solo second in 2013.


1. Rory McIlroy, Northern Ireland—The second-ranked McIlroy won the Hero Dubai Desert Classic and tied for second in the Dubai Invitational early this season to lead the DP World Tour’s Race to Dubai Rankings, and is coming off a tie for 19th in The Players Championship. Rory has played in the Valero Texas Open twice, but not since he finished second in 2013.

2. Corey Conners, Canada—Both of Conners’ PGA Tour victories have come in the Valero Texas Open, last season and in 2019, and he also tied for 14th three years ago, after he won 10 times in five seasons as an amateur. His best finishes this season have come in his last two starts, a tie for 18th in the Arnold Palmer Invitational and a tie for 13th in the Players Championship.   

3. Brian Harman, United States—The reigning Open champion, who is ranked eighth in the world, has won five times as a professional and recently tied for second in The Players Championship in addition to tying for fifth in The Sentry. Harman,  who is playing in the Valero Texas Open for the seventh time, tied for 16th in 2014 and tied for 18th two years earlier.

4. Ludvig Aberg, Sweden—The ninth-ranked Aberg, who has won four times as a pro including the 2023 RSM Classic on the PGA Tour, has finished solo second at Pebble Beach, solo eighth in The Players Championship and tied for ninth among five straight top-25 finishes this season. He shot 78-73—151 and missed the cut in his only appearance in the Valero Texas Open in 2022.  

5. Max Homa, United States—The former Cal star, ranked 10th in the world, claimed his sixth PGA Tour victory in the last five years in the 2023 Farmers Insurance Open. Homa had his best finish this season recently with a tie for eighth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational, and he has three other top-20 results. His best result in three starts in the Texas Open was a tie for 42nd in 2019.  

6. Hideki Matsuyama, Japan—The 2021 Masters champion claimed his ninth victory on the PGA Tour and 18th as a professional in the Genesis Invitational in February at Riviera, and he recently tied for sixth in The Players Championship. Matsuyama is making his fourth appearance in the Valero Texas Open and he recorded his best finish when he tied for 15th last season.

7. Matt Fitzpatrick, England—The 2022 U,S. Open champion captured his 10th victory as a pro in  the 2023 RBC Heritage in a playoff over Jordan Spieth, and is coming off a solo fifth finish in the Players Championship among four top-20 results this season. Fitzpatrick, ranked 11th in the world, is looking to climb back into the top 10 as he makes his debut in the Valero Texas Open.  

8. Byeong Hun An, South Korea—The 2009 U.S. Amateur champion has won four times zs a professional and came close again when he lost to Grayson Murray in a playoff at the Sony Open in Hawaii in January. An also was fourth in The Sentry and tied for eighth in the Arnold Palmer Invitational. He tied for sixth in the Valero Texas Open last year and tied for seventh in 2019.  

9. Akshay Bhatia, United States—The left-handed Bhatia, who was born in Northridge, earned his first PGA Tour victory in the Barracuda Championship last July in a playoff over Patrick Rodgers. His five finishes in the top 20 this season include a tie for 11th in the Houston Open and ties for 13th in the Sony Open and the Farmers. He tied for 46th in the Texas Open last year.  

10. Alex Noren, Sweden—The 11-time professional winner has yet to break through on the PGA Tour, coming close when he lost in a playoff to Jason Day in the 2018 Farmers. Noren has tied for ninth in the Cognizant Classic, tied for 19th in The Players and tied for 11th in the Houston Open in his last three starts. In his debut in the Valero Texas Open last season, he tied for 15th,  

OTHER PLAYERS TO WATCH: Jordan Spieth, United States; Tommy Fleetwood, England; Collin Morikawa, United States; Adam Scott, Australia; Billy Horschel, United States; Eric Cole, United States; Matti Schmid, Germany; Rickie Fowler, United States; Aaron Rai, England; Keith Mitchell, United States.  


1. Garrick Higgo, South Africa—Has seven pro victories, including the 2021 Palmetto Championship, started 67-65 in T-16 at Cognizant Classic. T-64 in 2023 Texas Open debut.

2. Parker Coody, United States—PGA Tour rookie has won twice on lower tours. T-24 in Mexico and T-25 in Farmers this season, He’s making his debut in the Valero Texas Open.

3. Nico Echavarria, ColombiaFour-time winner as a pro, including the 2021 Puerto Rico Open, has four top-25s this season. Finished T-28 in his Valero Texas Open debut last season.

4. Rico Hoey, United States—The former USC star has won twice on lower tours and was T-20 in the Barracuda Championship on the PGA Tour. Hoey is playing in Texas Open for first time.

5. Adrien Dumont De Chassart, Belgium—Won 13 times as an amateur and captured 2023 BMW Charity Pro-Am on Korn Ferry Tour. T-6 in Puerto Rico this year. Texas Open debut.

For first-round tee times and complete results once the tournaments begins, visit:    

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