Valero Texas Open Power Rankings
Bob MacDonald won the inaugural Texas Open in 1922 at Brackenridge Park. Since then, the event has been contested at six different venues before most recently making its way to our current host, AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio, in 2010. Sergio Garcia and Greg Norman collaborated on this par 72 with a 7,522-yard unique design, which Adam Scott won the first edition of in 2010. While he elected to stay home and prepare for Augusta this week, we will have the opportunity to see past champions at TPC San Antonio: Jimmy Walker, Charley Hoffman, Kevin Chappell, Brendan Steele, Martin Laird, and defending champion Andrew Landry.
While most of the golf world will focus on The Masters looming next week, The Valero provides the final invitation to Augusta and the last chance for any tuning up that needs to be done (looking at you, Jordan Spieth). Without further ado, I present the top-10 list of players I expect to produce in San Antonio this week.
10) Jordan Spieth
Spieth earns this spot because of pedigree, reputation, and course history — certainly not due to any sort of recent form. It has been a struggle for Spieth this season. With only five of eight cuts made, his best finish of the season is a mere T35th at the Farmers Insurance Open (prior to his T24 at the WGC-Dell Match Play this past week, where he didn’t advance). The putting savant is ranked 81st in Strokes Gained (SG): Putting, which would be cause for concern in a normal year. Pair that with being 204th in SG: Off-The-Tee and 188th in SG: Tee-To-Green, one can quickly surmise that his long game is the cause of even greater worry. Those hoping for some magic from the 2015 Masters champ next week are going to need to first see flashes from the Texan at home. He followed a 10th-place finish here in 2014 with a second-place showing in 2015 when he was white hot. Everything is lined up for the superstar to have a nice week heading into Augusta.
9) Jim Furyk
Almost emerging from the coined “group of death” at WGC in Austin shows that the veteran’s current form is here to stay. Furyk’s game is translatable anywhere. He has been a stats monster in 2018-19, ranking 10th in SG: Total, ninth in SG: Approach, and first in Driving Accuracy Percentage. He posted top-1o finishes here in 2013 and 2014 and a T26 last year when he was admittedly distracted leading up to the Ryder Cup. Furyk will be one of the favorites this week in San Antonio.
8) Jason Kokrak
Kokrak has been enjoying perhaps his finest year to date on the PGA Tour. He is 11-for-11 in cuts made so far on the season, not missing the weekend at an event since last year’s British Open. Everything culminated his last time out at the Valspar Championship, where he finished second to repeat champion Paul Casey. Kokrak is fourth in SG: Approach-The-Green and Ninth in SG: Tee-to-Green, demonstrating pure balance throughout the bag for the big man. He also has good results here with two top-15 finishes and only one missed weekend in his last six starts. He will be a popular pick, and for good reason.
7) Lucas Bjerregaard
Never underestimate a man with confidence. Fresh off his fourth-place finish at the Dell Match Play, the guy who took down Tiger Woods will be itching to get back out there and show American golf fans his good play wasn’t a fluke. However, those following more closely saw the Dane make all five of his cuts on the PGA Tour this season and were not surprised by his semifinal run last weekend. The 2018 Alfred Dunhill Links Champion climbed all the way up to 43rd in the Official World Golf Ranking (OWGR) and qualified for The Masters as well. Not bad for a week’s work.
6) Billy Horschel
Consistent form dating back to last summer has spilled into 2019 for the former FedExCup Champ. Horschel heads into the Valero 53rd in the FedExCup Ranking and back up to 41st in the OWGR. He too will use the Valero as a preamble to noise luring up the road at next weekend’s first major. The veteran ranks eighth in SG: Putting, which is always his calling card when he’s rolling. With three top-five places here since 2013 and not a single cut missed since last August, climb aboard.
5) Graeme McDowell
G-Mac claimed to have gone to the Puntacana Resort & Club Championship “on a mission” after his fourth PGA Tour win. The Irishman accomplished just that with a final-round 69 to edge out Chris Stroud. Putting was the secret to McDowell’s success, as he was challenging the PGA Tour record of 18 putts in a single round on Saturday. He ended up with a measly 20 putts and a 64 to vault up the leaderboard. McDowell is no stranger to TPC San Antonio either, having made the cut here each of the past two seasons. The notoriously streaky G-Mac looks renewed and determined to qualify for the Open Championship in his hometown of Northern Ireland at Royal Portrush.
4) Sungjae Im
It was a disappointing Sunday at Puntacana for Im, whose expectations in the secondary event were heightened following a tremendous start to 2018-2019. Despite all the hype, the 21-year-old has been as cool as a cucumber, adjusting to his inaugural year on tour with five top-10s and eight top-25s. Ranking 18th in SG: Tee-to-Green and 19th in SG: Total proves his game translates anywhere. He has not played here before, but that hasn’t stopped him so far.
3) Tony Finau
Heightened expectations will continue to follow Finau all year, as he will tee it up this week as the second-highest ranked player in the field behind Rickie Fowler at 15th in the OWGR. Scuffling by his standards (zero top 10s since October), he still has managed to stay inside the top 30 in the FedExCup Rankings (currently 26th) throughout most of the season. Finau can gain an advantage anywhere, as he proved here in 2017 with a third-place finish. He also gains an average of .607 strokes off the tee each round. Look for the exciting young American to bounce back at Valero’s familiar venue after not advancing out of group play last week.
2) Rickie Fowler
After skipping the Match Play last week, Fowler has chosen Valero as his tune-up for Augusta. On the surface, it appears he has picked wisely, as he’s the field’s highest-ranked player at eighth and the odds-on favorite at most of your friendly neighborhood sports gambling sites. A rejuvenated Fowler finally got the monkey off his back by winning the Waste Management Phoenix Open. He’s seventh in SG: Putting, ninth in birdie average, and eighth in scoring average. If Fowler wants to be a perennial top-10 player and Ryder Cup regular, he needs to take advantage of an opportunity like this.
1) Matt Kuchar
Another impressive performance from Kuchar in the Dell Match Play vaults him into first place in the FedExCup rankings. However, the weekend wasn’t devoid of conflict, as Mr. Nice Guy once again finds himself entangled in a WGC Tournament controversy. This time, it was regarding a three-inch putt that Sergio Garcia didn’t concede in time. Garcia’s temper flared, and when a rules official was called in, Kuchar looked as confused as viewers at home. He won the hole, but now we have another “big” story on our hands. Just like the incident with David Ortiz, I doubt this will affect the hottest player on tour, who is first in Greens in Regulation, sixth in Driving Accuracy Percentage, 10th in SG: Approach-The-Green, and second in the all-mighty dollar.