Valero Texas Open 2021
Last week’s Matchplay winded up with a typically boring final day, where players were fatigued and play was slower than really should be allowed. Billy Horschel was the ultimate victor, and he simply played less badly than Scottie Scheffler over the closing 18 holes. It wasn’t pretty.
My each way play on Jordan Spieth came up two wins shy of a payout, though one does wonder how far he could have gone had he put Matt Kuchar to bed as he should have done. The suggested spread bet delivered a small profit.
Overall I was very happy to leave the event alone as a serious betting medium, and nothing that happened during the 5 days will have me rushing to get more heavily involved next year. For the first Sunday in quite awhile the snooker got pole position on the TV front!
The previous week, our two outright bets both missed the cut, as did Top Continental Euro selection Rafa Cabrera Bello. It was good to hear that plenty of readers got on board Brendan Steele for a Top 20 at 9/4 and bigger. He produced an excellent Sunday showing to land that bet with ease.
Amazingly enough we are only one week away from another trip down Magnolia Lane, but there is the small matter of the Valero Texas Open to be taken care of first. A 7500 yard Par 72, this is a stern challenge for those fine tuning their game ahead of the year’s first major. That challenge begins from the tees, with hitting fairways more important at the Oaks Course than most Tour venues. From there accurate iron play is very much the order of the day, as misplaced approaches can be penalised by a variety of greenside traps. Hazards aplenty, alongside tightly shaven banks surrounding the greens, mean that on form ball strikers are the go to men this week. It’s an event which has seen a few different slots on the schedule since moving to its current venue, and the twice it has been the curtain raiser for Augusta, it has seen big priced winners. I hope that isn’t the case this week!
Players of Interest:
When pricing this up, I fully expected DUSTIN JOHNSON to be put in at the 5/1 that I made him. As can be the case the week before a Major, most of the games’ big names have shunned a competitive outing in favour of practise away from tournament play. Given that DJ played the Houston Open the week prior to his November Masters romp, it is perhaps no surprise that he was a late addition to the line up here. I made the case ahead of that Houston Open that DJ was over priced at 13/2. I feel he really should have won there, and certainly didn’t do anything to dispel my notion that he should have been chalked up a bit shorter. That field was stronger than what the World Number One faces here, and I am more than happy to wade in again.
Some may point to DJ’s slightly uninspiring form figures since his win in Saudi, but I see very little in the way of real negatives there. He was a decent 8th at the Genesis in a strong field, prior to an out of character display at the WGC Workday. Opening there with 77 and closing with 78, he was never going to challenge the leaders, but those two rounds apart, he hasn’t done much wrong. I am always more than willing to write off what happens at Sawgrass, and but for Kevin Na going birdie birdie on his final two holes on Friday evening in the Matchplay DJ may well have won there. He would certainly have been favourite going into the weekend. Such small margins can make big differences when the following week’s event is being priced up, and I for one am rather surprised at the 7/1 offered on this serial winner here. Of course he will have one eye on next week, but he will be keen to strut his stuff here first and go there with a confidence boosting success.
His one previous appearance here brings plenty of positivity. That sole Texas Open outing came in 2015 when an opening 78 put him in grave danger of missing the cut. His play over the next 3 days was bettered only by inspired winner Jimmy Walker, and suggests he had more than adapted to the challenge this layout presents. Indeed it was ultimately a cold putter which deprived him of a win on debut. Tee to green he was excellent, and on a course that demands quality ball striking and full control of your long game, that is very important. I can see his price collapse very quickly, as there really is very little for the big man to fear this week, and the market will be very reactive to a good start from him. I would make him a strong 5/1 shot here, and given my doubts about those in behind him in the market, I have had a slightly bigger bet than would normally be the case. Lest not forget he is only a point bigger for next week’s Major.
The resurgence of Jordan Spieth continued to some extent last week, though there were also signs that the frailties of his game when under pressure are still there. His loss of the final two holes on Thursday to Matt Wolffe was worrying in that regard, and though that much sought after next win will come if he continues playing as well as he has been, at 12/1 here I can let him go.
Scottie Scheffler performed admirably in search of his maiden PGA Tour success, but less admiral was his painfully slow play on Sunday evening. It suggested nerves aplenty, as did his multiple water balls during that final. It is a tough gig going to the end of a 7 match event in 5 days, and I have my doubts about whether Scheffler will be mentally ready to contend here this week.
Of those directly behind DJ in the market, it was Tony Finau who interested me most. What ultimately put me off was his slightly below par record when playing the week ahead of a Major. Small sample size it is, but as ever he is probably one to be with at bigger prices in the better events. When it clicks for him he’ll win, regardless of the tournament stature. I’ll watch him with interest ahead of next week.
Hideki Matsuyama continues to search for some consistency in his game, and I really wouldn’t have any interest in him here at 18/1. Abraham Ancer is showing some very positive signs of late, but those haven’t been missed, and at just 22/1 he just isn’t big enough to warrant support.
Mr Texas Open is surely Charlie Hoffman, and it’s perfectly understandable for punters wanting to be with him this week. His record here is superb, and he rarely has an off week around the Oaks Course. Is he only 4 times less likely than DJ to win though? At the end of the day he is still Charley Hoffman! I can let him go at 30/1.
One I couldn’t leave out was SI WOO KIM. The South Korean star would be one of the more inconsistent of the games elite, but there are certain conditions which typically bring the best out of him, and all does seem in place for a serious title assault here. When there is a premium on ball striking, hitting fairways and greens, and when those greens are of the Bermuda variety, well then it’s time to take a serious look at Si Woo. With that in mind it is no surprise that he led into the final round here in 2019, where a Sunday 72 saw him tread water and ultimately finish 4th behind Corey Conners. He has been crabbed in the past as a poor closer, but Tony Finau would kill for his record of 3 wins on the PGA Tour!!
I don’t give much credence to what went on in Matchplay when studying regular events, but either way I wouldn’t be too despondent about his no wins from 3 matches last week. He was under par for all 3 rounds, Horschel won the final shooting over par. Such are the vagaries of it. Prior to that he was 9th at The Players, and it’s only 2 months since he was successful at The American Express. I really couldn’t be putting him in at a bigger price than Conners, Hoffman or Ryan Palmer. The 40/1 I advised him at yesterday has since disappeared, but the 35/1 is still a worthwhile play.
I have been keeping a watchful eye on ZACH JOHNSON of late, and I feel the time, circumstances and price are right now to get involved. The two time Major champ is now on a run of 14 consecutive made cuts, and but for some poor final rounds in that period, he would have bettered his return of 4 top 10s. With that in mind, his Sunday showings at both Sawgrass and The Honda were definite improvements. Now returning to a venue where he has two top 6 finishes, and four top 30’s in his last 5 visits, I can see Zach taking a hand at the business end here. Key to his revival has been a return to near his best on the greens, something which has been the catalyst in most of his big successes throughout his career. 2019 saw a very poor putting year from Johnson, and that continued for much of 2020. It was late last year when he began to rediscover his touch on the greens, and getting that confidence back with the flat stick has started to feed through the rest of his game. All areas were in excellent nick at The Honda on his latest start, and given he will be as adept as any in the field at handling whatever the Texan weather Gods throw at them, he looks set to have another productive 4 days here.
It was another poor Sunday that cost him victory here in on his latest visit in 2018, but at the prices in a field lacking most of the games big names, I am more than happy to get Zach onside. Hitting fairways and greens has been Johnson’s career, and with the putter now performing well enough again to see him sit 11th this term for strokes gained in that department, he can mount a stern assault on his 13th win on Tour.
Since I wrote the above Dustin Johnson has withdrawn, which is a blow as I had felt he was a very good bet indeed. He has also skewed the market somewhat. Bet 365 are clearly against cutting the prices of the market leaders as it would lead them to being exposed to excessive cash outs. William Hill like to match top price on the market leaders, so they too are quite a bit bigger on some of those players. Problem is, they don’t seem to want to lay what they are advertising!
I would have backed, and recommended, Tony Finau at 16/1 if I thought people could get on. But I have tried 3 different WH accounts this morning, and any bet entered is deemed too big! So I can only assume this will be the same for everyone. Next best is 12/1, and that doesn’t interest me.
I had been deliberating including BRENDAN STEELE in the outright staking plan, or waiting to try secure 2/1 or bigger in the Top 20 market. With DJ out, I would like another arrow here, and I will be backing him at 33/1 to 8 places. He is 40/1 with Unibet and 365, but to less places, and again I’m not sure if 365 will actually be laying that price. He is 44 on the machine, and currently 29 in their EW 10 places market, with the potential for bigger to become available.
The case for Steele is very similar to two weeks ago. He relishes a test where keeping the ball in play is paramount, he seems to thrive when there is a bit of wind about, and he brought his recent form to another level at The Honda. He is a former winner here back in 2011, and has backed that up with other excellent showings with Top 10’s in 2012 and 2015. With DJ now gone this is a very winnable event indeed, and this 3 time winner on Tour has as much chance as any of taking advantage. The confidence gained from that closing 65 in tricky conditions at PGA National will have boosted his confidence no end, and having not featured in the Matchplay last week, he will arrive here fresher than some of his counterparts. He has plenty of examples of performing well on correlating courses, such as The Sony and The Safeway, and he looks a rock solid bet to contend here once again.
Top Continental Euro:
Make no mistake this section is a very poor standard this week. For Henrik Stenson, Rafa Cabrere Bello, Kris Ventura, Seb Cappelen, Rory Sabbatini and Henrik Norlander, simply making the weekend would be a bonus based on their recent form. I put up RCB in this section for The Honda, but he played awful there, and was no better last week in the low grade Corales Championship. He needs a massive turnaround on those two showings to survive the cut here.
The career of Henrik Stenson seems to be on an irreversible downhill slide, and you would be showing some leap of faith to get involved with him here. Sabbatini has been very poor of late himself, and Norlander is suffering a similar slump.
Bernd Wiesberger would be the only player of any real worry to me here, He typically performs respectably on his forays to Stateside, but only one his 3 rounds last week were under par, and you have to go back to November to find his last round in the 60’s on the PGA Tour. Certainly more of a worry than those named above, but for me there is a stand out bet to be had in this section.
That comes in the form of SEPP STRAKA. The Austrian has missed his only cut here, but I feel it is a layout that should really suit his game. His young PGA career has shown a tendency for him to thrive on courses where accurate approach play is key. Indeed though missing the weekend here on debut in 2019, his approach play over those two days was superb. He was 3rd for Greens in Regulation when finishing 9th at the Corales last week, and his tee to green was also very solid in tricky conditions at The Honda the week prior. All told his game looks in far better shape than any of his rivals here, and it’s only him being relatively unknown by the casual golf observer that has him as big as 3/1 here. I would be surprised if there were 4 left in this by the weekend, and given how solid Straka’s long game has been recently, I would be equally surprised if he wasn’t one of them. If he happened to find a few more puts than normal here, he could even be challenging for that Golden Ticket to Augusta.
Top 20 Finish:
I had hoped to be putting Brendan Steele up here, but as was the case two weeks ago, the firms quoting top price aren’t the most robust of layers! He is 2/1 with both Unibet and Sporting Index, but this is the lowest price I would back him at, and next best after that is just 13/8. He will likely be over 3.0 on the Betfair Exchange when more liquidity appears tomorrow evening, and I would advise anyone that can to avail of that then. Likewise, those can get on with the two listed firms, I would recommend a 7pt stake at 2/1.
My official recommendation in this section is KEVIN CHAPPEL. The 2017 winner has seen his career take a nose dive with a bad back injury late in 2018. He barely played for a year, and despite a 59 on his return to PGA action at the Greenbrier in late 2019, he has struggled in the main since. He arrives here very much under the radar having only played twice since last November, but there was certainly plenty to like about his display at The Honda two weeks ago. Take out a Saturday 75, and it was pretty much peak form Chappel. Now one swallow doesn’t make a summer, but I imagine he will have very much been working backwards from this event. Not only was he successful here in 2017, but he also has a runner up and 4th place finish to his name. Indeed from just 8 starts here, he has amassed 4 Top 20’s. You have to take his well being slightly on trust given his lack of competitive action lately, but that display two weeks ago will surely have reinstated the belief he needs to get back towards the summit of the game.
An absolute ringer in my opinion for DJ, it’s not so long since he was involved in deciding Dustin’s fate in what was probably the most exciting Tour Championship in 2016. Injury, then general lack of practise has seen his star diminish somewhat, but in tricky conditions at PGA National he showed he still has what it takes. Returning now to what is probably his favourite venue, in a very weak field, the 9/2 on a Top 20 finish seems too big to ignore.
Very much a price based bet here, as I feel the selection should be challenging for if not actually in charge of outright favouritism here. I would price up Danny Willett, Matt Wallace and MARTIN LAIRD as pretty much co favourites of 3 here, with any slight preference given to the Scot.
Willett has shown a resurgence in form of late, but he makes his debut here, and his approach play is still quite a way from it’s best. A worry around here. Wallace too makes his debut and is just a bit too inconsistent to be taking short prices on in these sub markets.
Laird loves it here, and has always been a player who has repeatedly shown up at ‘his’ venues. Another former winner here, he has 4 Top 20’s from just 7 appearances, missing just the one cut. His recent form wouldn’t shout that he is about to take a hand in the finish here, but you could say the same prior to him winning in the Shriners Hospital last backend. 14th for Driving Accuracy this term, and 7th in GIR, this is just the type of test that will see the Scot excel. The exchange outright prices of the 3 players mentioned would back up my notion that Laird should be closer to the other two in the betting for this. Willett is 150, as is Wallace, while Laird is 130. Add in that Laird has been around here before and more often than not shows his true form at the Oaks Course, then the 11/2 available starts to look rather big.
.8pt ew Si Woo Kim 40/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/PP/BFSB/Betfred) **Recommended Monday *With DJ out WH current 35/1 to 8 places is still very good, but I don’t know what they will take on it. 33/1+ acceptable
.6pt ew Zach Johnson 55/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH) **Recommended Monday *Current 50/1 to 8 places with PP/BFSB is fine
1pt ew Brendan Steele 33/1 (⅕ odds 8 places, WH/Skybet/Betfred)
Top 20 Finish:
4pts Kevin Chappel 9/2 (PP/Unibet/888/Sporting Index)
See Note re Brendan Steele
Top Continental Euro:
6pts Sepp Straka 3/1 (PP/BFSB/Skybet) *33/10 with SBK – 11/4 with Coral/Lads also fine Top GB & Ire:
3.5pts Martin Laird 11/2 (PP/BFSB) *9/2 upwards acceptable
Running Totals 2021:
Best of luck all, hopefully a decent week to lead us into The Masters.