The 2022 Valero Texas Open begins on Thursday morning at TPC San Antonio (Oaks course). This tournament serves as the final opportunity to qualify for the upcoming Masters. Any player that has yet to earn an invitation to Augusta National Golf Club can do so with a win down in San Antonio.
Rory McIlroy (+750), reigning Masters champ Hideki Matsuyama (+1400), and 2020 Valero winner Jordan Spieth (+1400) headline the field of 144 players. 2019 champion Corey Conners (+1800), Abraham Ancer (+2200), and Bryson DeChambeau (+2800) round out the top-end players in attendance this week at TPC San Antonio.
Course and Field Breakdown
TPC San Antonio was designed by golf legend Greg Norman, with Sergio Garcia aiding in the process. The course ranges a whopping 7,494 yards, with three of the four par-3s playing well over 200 yards. Per usual, the 2022 Valero Texas Open plays as a par-72.
Generally, par-5s serve as the easiest holes on PGA Tour courses, but not at TPC San Antonio. Three of the four par-5s will be 590 yards or longer, while two of them annually play over par since first hosting the Valero Texas Open in 2010. Don't expect a ton of eagle opportunities this week.
The Oaks course also has the second-toughest greens to hit in regulation on Tour, just behind Riviera Country Club. While there are only three water hazards, 74 bunkers are scattered across the course, making this a tricky track to score on. Since 2010, TPC San Antonio has netted more triple bogeys or worse than all other courses aside from TPC Sawgrass and PGA National. Alas, the top ball-strikers in the field would appear to have an advantage on approach shots.
With the course expected to play long and difficult, driving distance gained will be one of the key stats for this week as well. The rough is not necessarily all that penal, so players that can bomb it off the tee with a driver will have a leg up on the field. Only 56 percent of drives end up finding the fairway (62 percent is Tour average), so the players might as well try to hit it as far as possible to cut down on the number of long-iron shots needed throughout the tournament. Hitting the ball into the rough does not hinder scoring as much as it does most weeks.
Normally, Strokes Gained: Approach largely outweighs Strokes Gained: Off The Tee for the top finishers. But TPC San Antonio is one of the few places where driving distance truly makes a difference.
While the field for Valero never serves as one of the strongest on Tour, there are several middle-tier players taking part to prepare for Augusta National next week. Chris Kirk (+2500), Si Woo Kim (+2800), Gary Woodland (+3000), Maverick McNealy (+3500), and Keegan Bradley (+3500) are part of the 144-player field. Adam Hadwin (+4000), Robert MacIntrye (+4000), Tony Finau (+4000), Ryan Palmer (+4000), and Jason Day (+4500) round out the group of players currently listed below 50/1 odds.
Several international players have also already made the trip to America ahead of the 2022 Masters. Ian Poulter (+6000), Rasmus Hojgaard (+10000), Richard Bland (+13000), Lee Westwood (+14000), Min Woo Lee (+15000), and Henrik Stenson (+25000) all are at TPC San Antonio this week to get ready for the year's first major.
2021: Jordan Spieth (-18)
2019: Corey Conners (-20)
2018: Andrew Landry (-17)
2017: Kevin Chappell (-12)
2016: Charlie Hoffman (-12)
2015: Jimmy Walker (-11)
Corey Conners (+1400)
Conners is both the type of player that fits well at TPC San Antonio AND has the track record to go along with it. Of course, Conners won the Valero Texas Open back in 2019, earning him a debut spot in the Masters a week later. In his two other appearances at this event, Conners hovered around contention, finishing T14 in 2021 and T26 in 2018.
The 30-year-old Canadian is also one of the purest ball strikers on Tour, with a 74.1 greens-in-regulation percentage this season. Conners also ranks seventh in Strokes Gained: Off The Tee and has found the fairway on 64 percent of his drives. All of those statistics should bode well for the former Valero winner once again this week.
Conners has been trending in the right direction during his past several PGA Tour events as well. He managed to defeat former No. 1-ranked player Dustin Johnson for a solo third finish at the WGC-Dell Match Play last week. Conners also performed well through the difficult Florida swing, finishing T11 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and T26 at The Players Championship.
The lone concern with Conners this week is whether or not he will make enough putts to earn a second victory in three events at TPC San Antonio. Conners is currently ranked 103rd in Strokes Gained: Putting on the season, but a lot of that damage came when he lost -4.53 strokes in the final two rounds at the Farmers Insurance Open. Aside from that blunder, Conners has been just fine on the greens and has always putted well during this event.
According to DataGolf, Conners has the highest adjusted strokes gained at TPC San Antonio among all players in the field (with more than one start).
Gary Woodland (+3000)
Woodland is coming off a strong Florida swing, where he finished T5 at both The Honda Classic and Arnold Palmer Invitational, and T21 at the Valspar Championship. Woodland also finished T6 at this event in 2021 without looking sharp in his previous outings.
While not necessarily his forte, Woodland did most of his damage in Florida thanks to a red-hot putter. Perhaps the most encouraging bit though came at the Valspar, where the 37-year-old Kansas native gained nearly five strokes with his approach shots. If Woodland has his irons dialed in once again this week, plus, the putter continues to cooperate, then he should be in contention throughout the weekend.
Woodland still has the ability to bomb it off the tee, which should come in handy on such a lengthy track. He ranks 14th on Tour this season with a 311.9-yard driving distance average, and his mediocre 51.3 fairway percentage won't matter much at TPC San Antonio.
Eagles are going to be hard to come by on the long par-5s, but Woodland is one of the few players that is long enough to reach the greens in two shots. Coming into Valero, Woodland ranks sixth on Tour in eagle rate (one per 74.3 holes).
Ryan Palmer (+4000)
Palmer comes into the Valero Texas Open having missed the cut in three of his last four events with a T70 finish jammed in between at The Honda Classic. Not exactly ideal.
However, Palmer ranks 41st on Tour this season in average driving distance (305.1 yards) and 43rd in greens in regulation percentage (69.5 percent). Of course, both of those should be key stats this week at TPC San Antonio, setting up Palmer for a rebound opportunity ahead of the Masters.
Additionally, Palmer is a Texas native that tends to perform well in his home state. Since 2015, Palmer has made the cut in four of six outings at Valero, finishing inside the top five on three separate occasions. Palmer finished T17 last year and put together one of his best putting displays of the season.
After watching fellow Texas native Scottie Scheffler pick up a win last week at Austin Country Club, I believe Palmer can do the same at TPC San Antonio for his first solo PGA Tour victory since 2010.
Long Shot Picks
Lucas Glover (+13000)
Glover went 10 years between PGA Tour wins before taking home the John Deere Classic in Silvis, Illinois in 2021. Now 42 years old, Glover comes into the Valero Texas Open with decent results in his past few events but a strong recent track record down at TPC San Antonio.
Glover has made the cut in three of his past four Tour outings, earning a top-40 finish at both the Phoenix Open (T37) and Honda Classic (T30). In addition to his recent form, Glover has seen a couple of his top performances in recent years come right here at Valero. Since missing the cut in 2015, Glover has put together back-to-back top-15 finishes, including a solo-fourth in 2021.
While Glover does average less than 300 yards with the driver, he currently ranks fourth on Tour this season in greens in regulation percentage (73 percent). Glover also averages 4.12 birdies per round (48th), meaning he is still one of the best with his irons AND in terms of capitalizing on his opportunities.
Are Glover's best days of golf behind him? Almost certainly. But at +13000, 'The Glove' fits too well with this course to pass up on. Even if it's just as a flyer.
Anirban Lahiri (+15000)
Lahiri nearly completed one of the most historic underdog victories in PGA Tour history at The Players Championship a few weeks ago. Unfortunately, he came up just one stroke behind winner Cameron Smith for a second-place finish.
Now, Lahiri has his sights set on his first Tour victory this week at the Valero Texas Open. The 34-year-old, India native has not been seen since his runner-up finish at TPC Sawgrass but should be able to handle his own in a much weaker field.
Lahiri has made the cut in each of his three outings at TPC San Antonio, including a fifth-place finish in 2021 -- right behind Glover. Each time, Lahiri has improved his result from the previous year, which is certainly encouraging.
None of Lahiri's stats mesh well with what Valero requires, but I simply think his number is too high considering his actual chances of competing. Second at The Players... fifth at this event last year... I'm probably a sucker, but give me some Anirban!