The week before the Masters is a tough spot to be in to begin with but up until this year that spot on the calendar belonged to the Houston Open, an event that was able to draw several bigger names as the tournament set the course up in a similar fashion to what players will see at Augusta. That is no longer the case as we will go from the large Bentgrass greens and well-manicured sloping areas around the greens of the Golf Club of Houston to the windswept, tight, hilly layout at TPC San Antonio and Bermuda greens. Here is our course breakdown:
TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks): Par 72, 7,400 yards. TPC San Antonio is one of the more difficult courses on the PGA Tour as evidenced by the average cut line hovering around +3 since 2012. Fairways here are slightly more difficult than the Tour average, however misses can be heavily penalized as just beyond the small areas of rough players will run into wooded native areas with thick underbrush that can easily lead to a big number such as the 16 carded by Kevin Na a few years back. The green at the Oaks course are about 15% more difficult to hit than the average PGA Tour venue so as always, iron play will be important with the most commonly seen approach shots coming from 150-175 yards out. There are four par fives, however, three out of the four are over 590 yards and see birdies or better at a rate lower than 30%. The course is exposed to wind it would be wise to check the forecast on Wednesday evening to see if there is a clear advantage for the AM/PM or PM/AM wave. As of Tuesday, it appears wind will be less of a factor than in years past and there is also a chance we could see some rain during the tournament. One last thing I wanted to point out but has not been verified is the tournament organizers have been discussing widening the fairways and cutting down the length of the rough in an attempt to replicate playing conditions at Augusta.
In terms of stats, I’ll be focusing on primarily on tee to green play as players will need to put themselves in good position off the tee to hit these difficult greens and also must possess an efficient around the green game. Also, with more difficult par fives there will be fewer easy scoring opportunities available so we will want to target players who can manage their mistakes and avoid bogeys. long iron proximity due to the five long par threes and the overall layout profiling as a second shot course. As this is one of the more difficult courses on Tour we will also want to look at bogey avoidance along with scrambling and putting on Bermuda.
Here are the top stats to consider this week:
- Strokes Gained Approach
- Proximity from 150-175 yards
- Good Drives Gained
- Bogey Avoidance
- Scrambling and Strokes Gained Putting
As mentioned earlier, due to the schedule change moving this tournament to the week before the Masters and the low correlation between this venue and Augusta we see one of the weakest fields of the year at the Valero. Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar, Tony Finau, and Jordan Spieth are the biggest names in the field. After that we have a relatively small contingent of international players and PGA Tour players looking to build some momentum prior to the year’s first major before a sharp drop off in average OWGR. One note to mention is that if a player who is not already in the Masters field wins this week he will receive an invitation to Augusta in addition to the $1.1 million share of the Valero purse. Here are three targets for your cash game / single entry tournament lineups on DraftKings:
Upper Mid-Range – Jim Furyk – $9,600
Just a couple of months ago the idea of paying $9,600 for Jim Furyk in cash games seemed impossible but over the past few weeks he has proven to be worth the roster spot. On a course with difficult to hit greens it is important to target players who have been sharp with their irons as well as showing the ability to be able to get up down and grind out pars. This has been the name of the game as of late for Furyk as over his last 24 rounds he comes in ranked 4th in the field in strokes gained approach, 2nd in scrambling gained, and 1st in bogey avoidance. Another factor that we can’t measure but is always important is motivation. Furyk is not in the field for the Masters but came qualify with a win this week so he is less likely than some of the other big names at the top of the field to throw in the towel if he gets off to a slow start on Thursday.
Upper Mid-Range – Jason Kokrak – $9,400
Jason Kokrak is beginning to be a regular in these writeups, but it is hard to keep from mentioning him in during the great run of play we’ve seen from him as of late that included a runner up finish at Valspar his last time out. He has kept up the great iron play by gaining an average of 4.8 strokes over the field on approach over his last six events. Also working in Kokrak’s favor is his ability to gain strokes off the tee on a long course along with historical performance at Valero where he has made 5 of 7 cuts and has two top 20 finishes.
Lower Mid-Range – Luke List – $8,000
In the same mold as Jason Kokrak, Luke List is another player that has gained stokes both off the tee and with his irons historically. Although the recent performance has not been as good, he has been trending in the right direction, making three of his last four cuts that includes a close missed cut at the Honda where he lost 5 strokes on the greens. He is solid around the greens so if he can produce a solid ball striking week and see a few putts fall a made cut with top 30 upside is not out of the question this week.
How we did last week:
Cash/Single Entry Article Plays:
Joel Dahmen – T12
Trey Mullinax– T61
Adam Schenk – T33
Optimal Sports Subscribers Core Plays:
Joel Dahmen – T12
Trey Mullinax– T61
Adam Schenk – T33
Corey Conners – MC
Carlos Ortiz – T39
Julian Etulain – T26
Last Week’s DraftKings Double Up Contest Result: Loss
2018-2019 Season Double Up Record: 14-7
Record in Double Ups Since 1/1/18: 39-17
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