This week is the calm before the storm on the PGA Tour.
The Valero Texas Open leads into next week’s Masters, the first of the year’s four majors, and there are two plans of attack for this week’s tournament.
Pros can play the tournament to warm up for the Masters (20 players in the field are qualified for the Masters) or take the week off and work on their game for the Masters.
We’ll forgive you if you’re already thinking about the Masters; it’s easy to do when the first major is nearly upon us.
But, for those who won’t be playing at Augusta or haven’t yet qualified (the winner here earns the last spot in if he’s not already qualified), this is a great week to make a statement and maybe even pick up a win.
So, with some players going to Augusta National to put in a little extra work this week, let’s see if we can pinpoint who has the edge for the players who are in the field.
Betting Odds To Win The Valero Texas Open
Rory McIlroy +750
Jordan Spieth +1400
Hideki Matsuyama +1400
Corey Conners +1800
Abraham Ancer +2200
Chris Kirk +2500
Si Woo Kim +2800
Bryson DeChambeau +2800
Check Out This Hometown Boy
Jordan Spieth, at +1400 this week, has been hot, lukewarm and cold in this wraparound season.
First, the hot. He was second at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro Am earlier this year. Then there’s the lukewarm. He’s had four finishes right around 20th. Then there’s the cold. He’s had a couple of missed cuts as well as a T-60 at the WM Phoenix Open.
All of that would make him a marginal pick except for two big factors: One, he’s the defending champion. Two, he’s literally right at home in Texas.
Last year, he used his victory here as a catapult heading into the Masters and wound up with a T-3 at Augusta. Why not add to the excitement of this next two weeks with a repeat performance and pick up another win here while taking that momentum on to Augusta.
Spieth was in the WGC Match Play event but didn’t make it to the weekend. That means two more days to work on getting his game ready to defend his title.
Canada Could Hit The Winner’s Circle
The second player we like this week is a guy who snuck in under the radar last week and had a chance to win the WGC Match Play.
Canada’s Corey Conners wound up third in last week’s event, beating Dustin Johnson in the consolation match and earning a cool $850,000 and change. Not bad for five days of work albeit quite a taxing stretch.
But, and here’s the dilemma, Conners, who is +1800 to win this week, played seven matches last week with the final four of those coming over two days. He’s got to be running on fumes.
Add in the fact that he’s the only one who played in the final four last week who is teeing it up this week and you can see our hesitation in picking him. But we are forging ahead with the choice as he will also want to strike while the iron is hot and make the most of last week’s impressive outing.
Prior to the WGC success, he’s had three finishes in the 20-30 range to go along with three missed cuts. Not exactly a hot streak but where have we seen this before? Oh, yes, in 2019 he won his first and only (so far) PGA Tour event right here.
He came into that year’s Valero tournament having missed the cut in five of his six previous starts and had to qualify on Monday just to get into the tournament.
Now, we’ll see if he can back up last week’s showing with another strong performance as he moves up the FedEx Cup rankings. He picked up 41 spots last week, moving from No. 75 to No. 34.
One For The Longshot Bettors
This one’s a real, real longshot. To find this pick you’ll have to look way down the oddsboard.
Charley Hoffman at +7500 is one of the longest shots we’ve ever picked. Oh, we’ve picked Hoffman before but never at these odds. A friendly reminder here: Make sure to compare the odds being offered at different sportsbooks each week. Hoffman was only +4600 at FanDuel at the time of this writing.
Granted, there are plenty of reasons not to pick Hoffman. He’s No. 168 in the FedEx Cup rankings and has fallen all the way to No. 108 in the world rankings. There’s not a lot of positivity right there. But, look at his performances here and you’ve got a different story.
Hoffman was runnerup here last year despite an opening round 75 (yes, we picked him to win). He was also runnerup in 2018 (again, when we picked him to win). He is a past champ of this event, having won here in 2016 (when we, for some reason, didn’t back him).
So he knows his way around the course. Hoffman’s coming off two straight missed cuts, so he’s going to have to get his game in top form and in a hurry.
The better news is he’s the all-time money leader in this event and has never missed the cut here in 15 starts.
A Pair Of Props This Week
Now to the fun and games of looking over the available prop bets.
First, we’re going to go with the tournament favorite, Rory McIlroy, to be in the top five at +240. Not great money, but this is the first time in eight years he’s played the week before the Masters.
He’s been solid at times. He’s been horrible at times. And sometimes during the same round. But like the rest of the players with their eyes on the Masters, he’s going to want to be hitting high gear when he gets to Augusta.
Our second bet is a five-player matchup. We like Patton Kizzire at +350 against the other four in his group: Adam Hadwin, Tony Finau, Troy Merritt and K.H. Lee.
Kizzire was T-9 here last year despite making the cut by a stroke to get to the weekend.