This article is part of our Golf Picks series.
Valero Texas Open Betting Preview
We're back to stroke play this week as the PGA Tour heads to San Antonio to get in one final tune-up before The Masters. While many players elect to rest in advance of the first major of the year, some players head here to work on their games once more, and others to steal a spot at Augusta with a win this week.
Tournament favorite Rory McIlroy, at 15-2 odds, is the lone player in the field that finds himself among the top 10 players in the Official World Golf Ranking, and he has made the trip with five other top-25 golfers. Last year, Jordan Spieth – as the 12-1 favorite – picked up his 12th PGA Tour victory with a two-stroke win over over Charley Hoffman.
TPC San Antonio plays as a traditional par-72 at over 7,400 yards, and while this has traditionally been a difficult course, we've seen the winner finish at least 17-under-par in three consecutive editions. Elite iron play tends to be a key factor in determining the winner, with each of the last four champions ranking top-4 in Strokes Gained: Approach. A lot of approach shots come in the 50-125 yard range, as there are five par-4s under 425 yards and a number of lengthy par-5s that will force many players to lay up. With that in mind, I'll look toward elite ball strikers who are able to hold the ball in the Texas wind, and I'm also weighing distance more than accuracy off the tee.
All odds via DraftKings Sportsbook as of 1:00 AM ET Wednesday.
Horses for the Course
The following five golfers, with a minimum of eight rounds played, have the lowest scoring average at TPC San Antonio since 2016:
Defending champion and 2015 runner-up Spieth tops the list, having recorded three top-10s in six starts here. He checks in as the second choice on the board – alongside Hideki Matsuyama – at 14-1. He did nearly win at Pebble Beach last month but has struggled on and around the greens this season while also being just average with his irons. However, this is the time of year when he typically rounds into form. Another player who has feasted at this course is 2016 champion Hoffman, who has also finished runner-up in back-to-back appearances. He is in one of the worst slumps of his career, so something will have to give. If you like the course history angle, though, he could provide a healthy return on your investment at 75-1.
Five in Form
These five players, on a per-round basis, gained the most strokes on approach over their last 20 rounds:
Donald is an interesting name atop this list considering we haven't seen him near the top of any leaderboards recently. Nevertheless, the 44-year-old still knows how to strike his irons, ranking fourth this season in SG: Approach. Unfortunately, he has become one of the shortest drivers on Tour, so he will have to take full advantage of the shorter holes at TPC San Antonio. Coming off a T16 finish at the Valspar, he's an intriguing low-cost option in DFS contests. Meanwhile, the only player to check in on both lists this week is Glover, who after skipping this event three straight years finished T14 and fourth in his last two appearances. His recent results haven't exactly matched his strong iron play, mainly because he's losing nearly a stroke per round in the short game. If he can flip the switch in that area, he could find himself in contention.
Keegan Bradley (35-1)
I'm going to continue to ride with Bradley, who I think is really close to breaking a three-year winless drought. Bradley ranks 12th this season in SG: Tee-to-Green and has posted three top-15s in 2022 while nearly winning THE PLAYERS. He has one top-10 at this event and was third in SG: Approach here in 2018.
Patton Kizzire (55-1)
Kizzire made his Texas Open debut last year, and he rode the lowest final-round score and a second-place finish in the SG: Approach category to a top-10 finish. The two-time winner on Tour is in good form, having made 7-of-8 cuts this year and notching three top-25s. With above-average distance and no glaring weaknesses in his game, Kizzire is a strong dark horse.
Kevin Streelman (65-1)
Streelman went through a bit of a lull after last summer, but he has bounced back of late, posting three top-25s over his past four starts. That included a T7 at the Valspar Championship in which he only made three bogeys on a tough track and shot four rounds in the 60s. He's a contender to win, as he comes in with consecutive top-10 finishes in this event.
Jhonattan Vegas (5-1)
Vegas was just two strokes shy of winning in Punta Cana last week, and he also played well the week before at the Valspar Championship, finishing T27 despite losing over five shots around the green. Now he heads back to his home state to a course where ball striking is key. That's good news considering Vegas is gaining 0.91 strokes per-round off the tee and on approach combined this season.
Brendan Steele (6-1)
Steele had a rough start to the year with five consecutive missed cuts, but he has rebounded with a T26 at Bay Hill and a T13 at THE PLAYERS. The 2011 winner of this event has three career top-10s here and has made the cut in six straight appearances.
Nick Hardy (14-1)
Hardy is an up-and-comer who earned his card via the Korn Ferry Tour. He has made over half his cuts on the PGA Tour since 2021, with a best finish of T14. The rookie has good length with the driver, ranking 39th in SG: Off-the-Tee this season. In year in which we've already seen young players like Cameron Young and Davis Riley shine, Hardy could be next in line.
All signs point to Kirk having a good week, as he's posted four top-15 finishes here since 2015 and finished second in SG: Tee-to-Green in 2018. Having played each of the past three weeks and five times at the Match Play, I wouldn't be surprised if Ancer already has an eye on The Masters.
I'm surprised to see Ghim as a significant favorite in this matchup, and I think he's being given too much credit for his T6 result at TPC Sawgrass, which thus far seems to suit his eye as well as any course on Tour. Griffin is a much more reliable cut-maker who finished better than Ghim here last year and is a better course fit than his counterpart, whose accuracy off the tee won't be a huge benefit this week.