Valero Texas Open 2021: Fantasy picks, power rankings and analysis
The match play was an enjoyable diversion last week but we’re back to 72-hole stroke play starting Thursday at the Valero Texas Open, the final tuneup before the Masters.
The TPC San Antonio is a 7,494-yard, par-72 layout designed by Greg Norman featuring Bermuda greens, short, playable rough and closely mown areas around the greens. Scoring conditions are generally easy and with a chance of rain early in the week, light winds and overcast skies on the weekend, expect receptive surfaces and birdies galore.
Historically, the greens are more difficult to hit (58.2 percent) than the average Tour event (65.6) and scrambling percentage is similar to an average event. For the model this week, we selected par-4 efficiency (400-450 yards) since a half-dozen of the 10 par 4s at the Oaks Course measure this distance. Course history was also a factor along with recent strokes gained, per usual, and strokes gained approach. Short game prowess on Bermuda greens also received consideration.
While the model favored both, Scottie Scheffler and Matt Kuchar did not make the Power Rankings this week for one simple reason: They played a ton of intense golf last week. There has to be a toll for such.
To help you maximize your roster and as a measure of gratitude for reading each week, we’re making the rankings bigger and better beginning right now.
Who doesn’t like a good bargain? I’ve watched millionaires risk drowning to fish a Pro VI out of a lake and heard them brag about their discounted golf gloves purchased in bulk from the nearby big box store. Along those lines, we’re adding a new feature to the Power Rankings this week:
The Bargain Bin
No explanations here beyond our model identifying each player as a solid potential play. Sometimes you need a low-budget pro to fill the roster. These cats don’t have enough meat on their resume to crack the top 25 but they can fill a gap if dollars are tight. So here are this week’s selections: Bronson Burgoon, Kramer Hickok, Peter Malnati, Phil Mickelson and Scott Stallings.
It’s a grab bag, of sorts, golfers of all skill sets and ages. They’ll serve you better than a sleeve of Pro Staffs or a pair of yellow socks. Of that, we’re certain.
As always, good luck.
Golfer power rankings
25. Doc Redman – The hip fantasy pick of 2020 has faded fast this season, missing five of the last seven cuts. That being said, the model forecasts a breakthrough week for the former Clemson Tiger this week, in part because he’s fourth in the field in scoring on par 4s between 400 and 450 yards. Making his Valero debut.
24. Cameron Percy – Elite fairway finder is another appealing option at the bottom of the roster this week. His putting (104th over last 12) is concerning but his iron play (19th) is promising. Has two top 25s in six starts at TPC San Antonio.
23. Harold Varner III – Spent time with instructor Bradley Hughes during his off week and returns looking to build on a T-19 at the Honda and play the weekend for the fifth consecutive start. Has a T-9 and T-23 at TPC San Antonio in four starts and is 21st in the field in SG: Total over the last 12 rounds.
22. Matthew NeSmith – He’s third in the field in SG: Approach over the last 36 rounds and 10th in Good Drives Gained, my new favorite statistic and one with a strong correlation to success in recent Valeros. Was top 10 in the field around the greens at the Honda.
21. Si Woo Kim – He’s in the top 25 percent of the field in key metrics such as scoring on par 4s measuring 400-450 yards, SG Total in the last 36 rounds on Bermuda greens and short game. Making his first start since a T-9 at the Players and finished T-4 in the 2019 Valero Texas Open.
20. Harry Higgs – Has had the opportunity to play only seven events in 2021 so should be fresh and eager to build off back-to-back to top 30s at Players and Honda. Flourishes on par 4s and is top 15 in SG: Approach over the last 36 rounds. First time in this event.
19. Ryan Moore – Missed the cut at the Honda but the veteran has shown enough progress of late to warrant a play on a course where he’s excelled in his career. In four starts since 2012 he’s finished no worse than T-18 and cracked the top 10 on three occasions, finishing third in 2019.
18. Keegan Bradley – How can I have faith in a man who has dark moments on the greens in a tournament where 20 under was the winning score last time out? Because his driving, iron play and short game are among the best in the field. Backing the 2011 PGA champion can be frustrating, but he is 43rd in the field in SG: Putting over the last 12 rounds so maybe there’s life after the broom after all.
17. Zach Johnson – I was on Johnson early this season then faded away when the results fell shy of my expectations. He ranks top 20 in this week’s model and should be confident after a T-8 at the Honda. That was his 14th consecutive cut made, by the way. Has a pair of top 10s in San Antonio since 2014.
16. Adam Hadwin – Not in the top 40 of our model, but I think his game is trending upward, based on a T-29 at the Players and T-8 at Honda. The only weak part of his game is iron play of late. Has gained strokes on the greens in six of the last tournaments and been sharp on Bermuda.
15. Branden Grace – We’re willing to overlook a missed cut in his last start at the Players because strange things happen at Sawgrass and focus instead on the resurgence of a world-class pro who shot 62 in The Open Championship, nearly won the U.S. Open and claimed the title in Puerto Rico last month. Top 10 here in 2016 and 2017.
14. Andrew Putnam – Rare poor putting week stalled his momentum and sent him packing on Friday at the Players but he’s ripe to bounce back in San Antonio, where he finished T-8 in 2018. Leads the field in SG: Short Game and is 23rd in SG: Tee-to-Green over the last 12 rounds.
13. Cameron Tringale – Has played in 10 Texas Opens, making the cut seven times and finishing in the top 10 twice. Playing the best golf of his career with five top 25s in the last nine starts, dating to last fall’s RSM Classic. The model loves his chances this week.
12. Abraham Ancer – Played well in Austin last week but didn’t escape his group which actually works in his favor in San Antonio. Should be growing more comfortable with veteran caddie Benji Thompson filling in on the bag. Has six top 25s in his last eight starts and has made the cut in all three Valero attempts.
11. Charley Hoffman – He’s turned out hits like Willie Nelson in Texas, winning this event in 2016 and finishing in the top 3 on three other occasions since 2011. With all that success comes a price, however. If you’re willing to pay it this week he’s one of the safest plays on the board. Just be warned, he’s always on the mind (and roster) of many other fantasy players in San Antonio as well.
10. Corey Conners – Another obvious and certainly popular selection this week for good reason. Won as a Monday qualifier in 2018 and finished T-26 the following year. Recent form is outstanding – back-to-back top 10s and six top 20s in the last eight starts as his short game improves to meet Tour standards (40th in SG: Around-the-Green in last 24 rounds).
9. Chase Seiffert – The stats don’t accurately reflect Seiffert’s impeccable recent iron play because two of his three consecutive top 20s occurred in the islands where ShotLink data is unavailable. Regardless, he’s elite in that area, underpriced on the market and at 92nd in the FedEx Cup standings in position to secure a playoff spot for the first time. Never underestimate what that means to a young pro.
8. Ryan Palmer – He doesn’t always deliver but I feel secure with Palmer on the roster. We’ve seen this act before, a grizzled veteran enjoying a late-career renaissance, having life and golf in perspective and plenty of tools still in the kit. Has five top 25s in his last eight starts and finished top 10 in three Valeros in a row (2015-17). Putts his best on Bermuda.
7. Doug Ghim – Struggled on Sunday at TPC Sawgrass, paired with champion Justin Thomas but the Texas Longhorn has a bright future. Better than field average weekly on approach, he’s yet to match such precision and hot putting. No time better than now.
6. Brendan Steele – Over the last 24 rounds on Bermuda greens, the 2011 Valero Texas Open champion has thrived in every measurable area of golf. Finished third at the Honda, of course, extending his cut streak to eight with no finish worse than 43rd in the span. He’s 8-for-9 playing the weekend at TPC San Antonio with two additional top 10s.
5. Sam Ryder – Has posted consecutive top 10s for the first time since 2018. Missed a playoff by one shot in Punta Cana. Terrific iron player seems to have found a groove with the putter. T-42 and T-36 in two Valero starts.
4. Chris Kirk – He’s going to win before the end of the season. Why not in San Antonio where he has two T-8s and a T-13 since 2015? Leads the field in scoring on par 4s between 400 and 450 yards. Top 30 in the other areas of interest.
3. Tony Finau – You’re paying top dollar for a player coming off a missed cut at the Players and an indifferent effort in the WGC-Match Play. Has a T-3 and two finishes in the 60s in three Valero appearances. Still, he’s not far removed from a stretch where he was gaining four to six shots per week on approach.
2. Lanto Griffin – One of the Tour’s most consistent players through the bag, he’s played the Texas Open only once, finishing T-58 in 2018. You’re getting a deal on him in most fantasy formats considering he’s sixth in SG: Approach and eighth in SG: Putting over the last 24 rounds. Good time for his first top 10 since Farmers.
1. Jordan Spieth – Would be fitting for the victory drought to end in Texas and I’m encouraged by everything I’ve seen from Spieth in the last two months. He’s played well on a variety of different layouts and the driver demons have vanished (five consecutive starts with at least one good drive gained). Finished runner-up in 2015 and T-10 in 2014.