This week’s Valero Texas Open is the PGA Tour’s finale before the Masters takes over the golf world next week. It’s a shift from the ordinary, too, as the Houston Open has preceded the Masters for the last several years. But with a changing schedule and shifting PGA Tour landscape, the Texas Open was moved from after Augusta to before it.
Let’s take a look at this week’s contest.
What: Texas Open | When: April 4-7
Where: TPC San Antonio — San Antonio, Texas
Ranking the field (odds)
Rickie Fowler (10-1): He is surprisingly low in strokes gained so far this season, but he’s the class of this bunch with a win and a T2 in his last five starts. Tony Finau (16-1): Finished T3 in his last appearance here. Arguably the top talent in the field.Sungjae Im (25-1): Sandwiched between Bryson DeChambeau and Sergio Garcia in strokes gained on the year. Ahead of Fowler. A mega-talent.Jim Furyk (25-1): The top-ranked player in this field in strokes gained (who saw that coming?!)Lucas Glover (33-1): In 11 starts this season, he has nine (!) top 20s and two missed cuts.Billy Horschel (22-1): Three top-11 finishes in his last four outings in San Antonio.Matt Kuchar (16-1): Coming off a grueling week at WGC-Match Play, but he has three top fives in 2019.Ben An (33-1): Led the WGC-Match Play in strokes gained.Joaquin Niemann (60-1): Doesn’t have a top 10 since last November, but he played really well here last year.Jordan Spieth (20-1): Fine, I’ll put him 10th. Only because the Masters is next week.
Field strength — C+: We should probably grade this on a "week before a major championship" curve, but it’s not a great field. I didn’t expect for it to be a great field, of course, but with the move to San Antonio you lose Phil Mickelson, who almost always played the Houston Open.
Three things to know
1. Jordan Spieth returns: The three-time major winner hasn’t played here since 2015. That year, he finished second and beat third place by three strokes and fourth place by four. Unfortunately, he lost to the winner Jimmy Walker by four as well. Spieth is currently losing strokes to the field average in PGA Tour events this season, which is not good. Can he rebound like he did at last year’s Houston Open where he finished T3 before going on to nearly win the Masters?
2. New-look TPC San Antonio: The course will be set up in the same way the Houston Open always was with wider fairways and shorter roughs to hopefully allure players to come attend the event for some pre-Masters prep work. It wasn’t the narrowest course and didn’t have the tallest rough to begin with, so noticeable changes will likely be minimal, but it’s still worth noting as we think about how the Masters is going to play out next week.
3. The final Masters spot is up for grabs this week: With 86 players guaranteed for Augusta, one more will be added with this week’s champion as long as he’s not already in the field. Some notable names are up for it, too, with Jim Furyk, Ernie Els, Graeme McDowell, Jason Dufner and Sungjae Im all on the outside looking in at the moment.
2018: Andrew Landry2017: Kevin Chappell2016: Charley Hoffman2015: Jimmy Walker2014: Steven Bowditch
Texas Open picks
Winner: Sungjae Im (25-1) — The best player in the world you haven’t heard of doubles as (probably) the best (current) player in the field that’s not already in the Masters. I think he plays his way in this weekend in San Antonio.
Played with Sungjae Im the first two days @CoralesChamp . I’ve nicknamed him Byron. He hits it better than Iron Byron the machine, and putts better than Byron Nelson. Dude will be top 10 in the world rankings by end of the year. #impressed
— Parker McLachlin (@ParkerMcLachlin) March 29, 2019
Top 10: Billy Horschel (22-1) — I really like Horschel this week given his track record at this course (good!) and his recent form (no missed cuts since the Canadian Open last year).
Sleeper: Martin Kaymer (100-1) — I can have a two-time major winner at 100-1 even though he’s only missed one cut worldwide since last October? Sure, I’ll take that.