Well I’m about ready to turn the page on the RBC Heritage. Not a great week for our picks, especially with Snedeker and Danny Lee missing the cut badly. But congrats to Branden Grace on doing what most of us in the DFS community knew he was capable of. He put on an absolute clinic with his short game over the weekend, and showed the confidence that he plays with when he has it going. He’s carrying the momentum to the Valero Texas Open this week, and should be a very popular play.
Strap on your boots! This week, the tour moves to the TPC San Antonio (Oaks Course) for the Valero Texas Open. Although it’s one of the oldest tournaments on the Tour, this venue has only been the host since 2010… be careful looking at course history before then. Although TPC San Antonio stretches out to over 7,400 yards, it actually has some similarities to last week’s course, Harbour Town, which was much shorter. The fairways are lined with trees and bunkers and we will have weekly tilt with ShotTracker telling us that our players have driven into the “native areas” or “unknown” areas. Another major factor here is going to be the weather, and specifically the wind. Last year, players in one wave of tee times had a huge advantage over others, just by luck of the draw. But if the weather turns, I’ll definitely be focusing on some wind specialists, and players who have played well in Texas previously. Another angle to play up this week is to use the Aussies in the field. Not only are they accustomed to playing in similar windy conditions, but many Aussies – Steven Bowditch, John Senden, Rod Pampling, Jason Day (formerly) – have taken up residences in Texas. Furthermore, the course was designed by Greg Norman, and although it’s impossible to quantify, there are bound to be some idiosyncrasies of the course design that Aussies are familiar with.
Without getting to in depth with stats this week, I’m going to focus on Driving Distance, Birdie or Better %, and Par-4 scoring average. There’s a lot of distance in the par 3s and par 5s, so that should neutralize a lot of the field. Scoring on the par 4s is going to be extremely important, and I think bombers who can approach those holes with wedges and shorter irons will have a big advantage. The previous three winners at this course (Jimmy Walker, Steven Bowditch, and Martin Laird) are all bombers who have experience in windy conditions, hailing from Texas, Australia, and Scotland respectively. Another Aussie bomber, Adam Scott, has won here as well.
*A few field notes and changes to keep in mind: Tommy Gainey, Colt Knost, and Robert Allenby have withdrawn, so don’t use them.
And now on to the picks! Hopefully we can keep rolling with some solid picks across the pricing spectrum. With weather being unpredictable this week, getting 6/6 golfers through the cut is going to be very difficult, so I’ll be leaning towards making my lineups as balanced as possible. Here are the guys I’m looking at in all of the pricing tiers:
Matt Kuchar ($10,700) – The ultimate cash game play (every week), but with some upside. Kuch has five top-25 finishes in his last six Tour starts, and hasn’t finished outside the top-22 at TPC San Antonio in the past four years. Not the longest hitter on Tour, but I love Kuch’s consistency, birdie conversion rate, and course history here.
Patrick Reed ($10,600) – Shhhhhh! The form hasn’t been there recently, but that’s mainly because of his putting. Reed is 150th in strokes gained putting this year, but is consistently a top-50 putter in the world. The regression to the mean is coming, so I’ll keep riding Patty Reed this year. With the exception of a mediocre showing at Augusta (it happens) Reed was playing great, with four top-10s in his previous six events. A little risky in cash games, but I love Reed as a GPP option this week.
Brooks Koepka ($10,400) – Similar to Reed, Brooks might be a little too volatile to trust in cash games, but he has the game to win the event. Not much course history to lean on, but he’s been playing sneakily consistently this year…he just hasn’t broken through yet. Between his driving distance, birdie or better %, and par 4 scoring average, Brooks tops out my model this week.
Charley Hoffman ($9,600) – For you course history truthers out there (I am one of them), Texas Charley is your man in all formats. Hoffman has never missed a cut at this course or event, and in fact, hasn’t finished outside the top-13 any year! Crazy. His current form is great, but he has no recent top-10 finishes due to his Sunday implosions. He’s due to break through any week now, and I think it’s going to happen at a course that he’s extremely confident playing. If Hoffman is going to win this year, this is his week.
Billy Horschel ($9,400) – The ultimate form player seems to be rounding into shape right now. Except for his horrendous putting last week at Harbour Town, Horschel showed flashes of a solid game and was on the verge of being in contention on Saturday. He’s finished 3rd at this event two of the past three years, and hasn’t missed a cut on Tour in months. He tweeted a photo yesterday of himself in the PXG truck getting a new putter built and gripped, so at least he’s working on it. If BillyHo can get hot with the putter, watch out.
Russell Henley ($9,200) – Another form player who seems to have found his game. Henley was atrocious most of this year, but has a 5th and a 21st in his last two events. Henley is top-10 this year in putting and par 4 scoring, and is sneaky long off the tee. All the boxes I’m looking for this week. He also plays well in Texas, as he showed with his 5th place finish at Shell Houston (seemingly out of nowhere). I love Henley in all formats this week, as he has the ability to win.
Chris Kirk ($9,000) – We have a trend here: form players. Like Horschel and Henley, Chris Kirk is extremely streaky, and seems to have rebounded from the awful play he showed earlier this year. He’s made four of his last five cuts on Tour, including a 5th place and a 23rd place finish last week (which would have been much higher had he not finished Sunday with a bogey and a double bogey). Kirk finished 8th here at TPC San Antonio last year, and should be able to hit his low draw effectively this week. More of a GPP option because of volatility.
Daniel Summerhays ($8,300) – Behind Charley Hoffman, Summerhays is the horse for the course here at TPC San Antonio. He has finished inside the top-10 in each of the past three years. Although his recent form isn’t very sharp, I’ll overlook that because he’s bound to feel confident here this week. He ranks highly in strokes gained putting and par 4 scoring, so I’m willing to take a couple fliers on Summerhays this week.
William McGirt ($8,200) – Another guy who checks most of the boxes I’m looking for this week, although I hate recommending him. Dirt McGirt ranks 42nd in strokes gained putting, 17th in birdie or better average, and 32nd in par 4 scoring this season. He’s made four of five cuts at TPC San Antonio, and is coming off a 9th place finish last week at Harbour Town. I’m willing to take a couple shots on him this week.
Aaron Baddeley ($7,400) – Aussies in Texas. Aussies in Texas. Baddeley has never missed a cut at this course, and is coming off two top-10s in his last three Tour starts. Similarly to McGirt, he ranks very highly in strokes gained putting, par 4 scoring, and birdie or better percentage. Although he’s very volatile, especially off the tee, I’m willing to roster Badds in all formats this week.
Jhonattan Vegas ($7,100) – This price is a little higher than I’d like for Johnny Vegas, but I’m willing to roll the dice with him. The stats check out, ranking 21st in driving distance, and decently in par 4 scoring and strokes gained putting. Vegas is another guy who seems to put it together in the Texas wind, and is coming off a top-20 at the Shell Houston Open.
Ernie Els ($6,900) – A little bit of a stretch here, but I think with unpredictable weather conditions, I’m going to lean on some veterans in this price range. Els seemed to magically find his putting stroke last weekend, leading the entire field in strokes gained putting after having a case of the yips at Augusta. I’m thinking he can carry that momentum to Valero. Although it was awhile ago, he does have a 3rd place finish at this course, and clearly knows how to play in the wind and out of the bunkers/hazards players will find this week. Also, for GPPs, Els is a great pivot off Luke List, who sounds like he’ll be very popular.
Chad Campbell ($6,700) – Texas guy, and another veteran I’ll lean on in the windy/rainy conditions. Quietly, Chad has two top-25 finishes in his last three events, and that would more than pay off this price. Campbell has always been one of the best and most consistent ball strikers on tour, and his piercing ball flight should pay dividends in the wind. If he can get some putts in the hole, I think a top-25 finish is well within reach.
John Senden ($6,700) – Senden is probably my favorite value play of the entire week, and checks all the narratives I’m looking for. He’s an Aussie who has had success in Texas before, and lives in Flower Mound. He finished Harbour Town with a field-best 66 on Sunday, and looks to carry that momentum to this week. He’s made two of three cuts at TPC San Antonio, and checks out decently on all the statistical categories I’m targeting this week. All said and done, Senden will have my highest player exposure this week.
Andrew Loupe ($6,500) – Seems to be Mr. Popular this week, but I still like Loupe in all DFS formats. He finished 4th here a couple years ago, although he took a lot of heat for his Kevin Na-esque slow play. He’s 12th in driving distance, 24th in strokes gained putting, and 13th in birdie or better percentage (he also ranks high in eagle percentage, although these par 5s won’t yield many). His form was much better earlier in the year, but I’m riding course history a lot this week.
Good luck this week!