Texas Open: Preview and best bets for this week's PGA Tour event in San Antonio
By Dave Tindall. Last Updated: 26/03/14 12:31pm
Martin Laird of Scotland holdes the trophy after winning last year's tournament.
The PGA Tour moves west to the Lone Star State for this week's Valero Texas Open.
Designed by Greg Norman, with a little help from Pete Dye and Sergio Garcia, the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio was opened in January 2010 and laid out over rolling countryside at the base of Texas Hill.
Although TPC San Antonio will be hosting the tournament for only the fourth time, the Texas Open dates back to 1922.
Among its former champions are great names such as Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Lee Trevino and Arnold Palmer.
The latter won the title three years in a row during the early 1960s.
As usual, Sky Sports have live coverage of all four days.
The Oaks Course measures 7,435 yards and is a par 72 but the four par fives do not present easy birdie opportunities, never mind about eagles. In 2013 they played at an average of 4.88. The par four ninth has its own piece of history after Kevin Na racked up a 16 in 2011. Both fairways and greens can be hard to hit so it was no surprise that the man who ranked top of ball-striking for the week (Martin Laird) came out on top in 2013.
Billy Horschel hits his third shot on the 18th hole during last year's tournament.
Laird produced a sizzling nine-under 63 (tying the course record) to win last year after a steady first three rounds of 70-71-70. The Scot's winning total of 14-under matched that of Adam Scott, who won the first Texas Open held at the course in 2010. In 2011 and 2012, eight-under was enough to win, with Americans Brendan Steele and Ben Curtis coming out on top.
Leading contenders (and Sky Bet odds)
Phil Mickelson (16/1): Mickelson begins his two-week build up to The Masters with a first appearence in this event. His last four starts in Texas have produced a win (2011 Houston Open), a fourth, a seventh and a 16th so he tends to do well here. Although he started the year with a second place in Abu Dhabi he hasn't come close to victory in five PGA Tour starts. Two top 20s in his last three starts hint at something better though.
Jimmy Walker (18/1): After three wins in eight starts between October and February, Walker has finally come down from those (old) Tiger Woods levels and finished 20th and 25th in his last two strokeplay starts. Back in his native Texas, he'll be keen to get hot again and a third place here in 2010 suggests he could make another big impact. Currently tops the FedEx Cup standings and is ranked third in Strokes gained putting.
Jordan Spieth (18/1): Local boy/man Spieth is actually playing in this event for the third time (he was 41st in 2012 and missed the cut last year) so, untypically, he has some past experience of the course. Like Walker, there appears to have been some cooling off of the wonderful form he had been showing but it's still a mark of how far he's come that a finish of 20th at the Valspar last time out is considered modest.
Matt Kuchar (20/1): The highly consistent American has racked up three top 10s from five strokeplay starts this season but hasn't really been involved at the sharp end. A runner-up at the Crowne Plaza Invitational on his last visit to Texas, his two appearances in this event have produced a 22nd last year and a 13th in 2012. Currently tops the 3-putt avoidance stats (he's had just five in 396 holes which equals 1.26%).
Zach Johnson (18/1): Johnson's only appearance here in 2010 produced a somewhat bizarre 80-68 opening 36 holes and a missed cut but his current third place in Driving Accuracy and 10th in Greens In Regulation looks a good recipe for success. His record in Texas is fantastic with his last seven starts bringing three wins (2009 Texas Open, 2010 & 2012 Crowne Plaza Invitationals) and he already has a win to his name this year (the Hyundai in January).
Ryan Palmer (25/1): The native Texan is a two-time runner-up on the PGA Tour this season. He was second in the Humana Challenge in California after a closing 63 and then missed a golden chance to win the Honda Classic by taking a six at the last and then losing a play-off. Here, he was ninth in 2010 and 15th last year when fourth going into the final round.
Martin Laird is the defending champion this week and there are decent grounds for backing him to win it again at 50/1.
For starters, when the three-time PGA Tour winner attempted his first title defence (in Las Vegas in 2010) he made a superb job of it, reaching a play-off and only losing to a hole-in-one by Jonathan Byrd at the fourth extra hole.
His two appearances in this event have resulted in a win and a ninth so he clearly thrives on the course and his 11th place in the ball-striking stats suggests his game is in good shape to play well again.
The Scot hasn't missed a cut this year and looks ready to put in his best showing of the season.
Cameron Tringale is another 50/1 shot worth a look.
The American can boast strong form - 5th 2011, 8th 2012 - and has four top 25s in his last six starts, with three of those top 15s.
Wind is usually a factor here so it's interesting to note that, at this very tournament in 2011, Tringale said: "The windier, the better for me."
He was just 25/1 to win this last year so getting double those odds seems fair.
At huge odds, Sean O'Hair may be able to pull a surprise at 150/1.
Twice this event has been won with eight-under so scoring is tough and that should play into O'Hair's hands. He's a four-time PGA Tour winner and two of those titles were won with just four-under.
He's been off the radar for a while but last Sunday came 10th at Bay Hill and his 69-67 finish on the weekend was the joint lowest final 36 holes in the field alongside winner Matt Every.
Nearer the front of the market, Billy Horschel could easily be the one this week.
A general view of the 16th hole.
Last year he finished third here and then went on to take second place in the Houston Open so he likes Texas.
His 13th place in the ball-striking stats suggests his game is close - he's said exactly that on Twitter - and he seems too good a player to be churning out mediocre results.
1pt e.w. Martin Laird at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Cameron Tringale at 50/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
1pt e.w. Sean O'Hair at 150/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)
2pts e.w. Billy Horschel at 33/1 (1/4 1,2,3,4,5)