This week, the tour moves to the TPC San Antonio (Oaks Course) for the Valero Texas Open. Although it's one of the oldest tournaments on the Tour, this venue has only been the host since 2010… be careful looking at course history before then. Although TPC San Antonio stretches out to over 7,400 yards, it has some similarities to last week's course, Harbour Town, which was much shorter. The fairways are lined with trees and bunkers and we will have weekly tilt with ShotTracker telling us that our players have driven into the "native areas" or "unknown" areas. Another major factor here is going to be the weather, and specifically the wind. In 2015, players in one wave of tee times had a huge advantage over others, just by luck of the draw. But if the weather turns, I'll be focusing on wind specialists, and players who have played well in Texas previously. Another angle to play up this week is to use the Aussies in the field. Not only are they accustomed to playing in similar windy conditions, but many Aussies - Steven Bowditch, John Senden, Rod Pampling, Jason Day (formerly) - have taken up residences in Texas. Furthermore, the course was designed by Greg Norman, and although it's impossible to quantify, there are bound to be some idiosyncrasies of the course design that Aussies are familiar with.
Without getting to in depth with stats this week, I'm going to focus on bombers and players who excel with long irons. There's a lot of distance in the par 3s and par 5s, so that should neutralize a lot of the field. Scoring on the par 4s is going to be extremely important, and I think bombers who can approach those holes with wedges and shorter irons will have a big advantage. The previous four winners at this course (Charley Hoffman, Jimmy Walker, Steven Bowditch, and Martin Laird) are all bombers who have experience in windy conditions.
Birdie or Better % (BoB%): There are really not many weeks where we aren't going to target birdie or better percentage, because that's what fantasy golf scoring is all about. There's going to be plenty of bogeys this week, so we need birdies to offset the damages. Guys like Anirban Lahiri, Luke List, Scott Piercy, Brooks Koepka, Chris Kirk, and Adam Hadwin lead this week's field in birdie or better percentage. It's possible to have a player finish top-10 in fantasy points while not finishing anywhere close to the top-10 in the actual event.
Strokes Gained Approach (SG:APP): There's no doubt that ball-striking and GIR% are huge at this venue, and that's clear in past leaderboards. Because of the windy conditions, the iron play is going to be a major key this week. Keeping your ball on the right portions of greens will eliminate three putts. If a player who sticks approach shots inside 10' consistently, he's going to shoot up the leaderboard and contend on Sunday. Some names that stand out in the field are Ryan Palmer, Adam Hadwin, Brendan Steele, Ryan Moore, Bud Cauley, and Jimmy Walker.
Strokes Gained Off-the-Tee (SG:OTT): Strokes gained off-the-tee, and specifically distance, is going to be another major key this week at TPC San Antonio. Looking back at the past four winners, we see bombers who can play in the wind: Charley Hoffman, Jimmy Walker, Steven Bowditch, and Martin Laird. Names that stood out to me in this field were Tony Finau, Luke List, Jason Kokrak, Keegan Bradley, and Charley Hoffman.
1. MATT KUCHAR [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #21
I'm surprised Kuchar is playing this week, given how much golf he's played the past month. He's playing well, and wants to secure his spot on the U.S. President's Cup team this fall. He comes to TPC San Antonio where he's posted a very Kuchar-esque record: 5/5 cuts, with an average finish of 19th. His peak was a 4th place finish a few years ago, and I expect Kuchar to lurk in the top-10 most of the weekend.
2. CHARLEY HOFFMAN [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #52
Seven top-15 finishes here, including a win last season, a runner-up, and a third place finish. Texas Charley loves this track, and loves playing in windy conditions. After a fantastic run at the Masters, Hoffman had a huge letdown last week at Harbour Town. That's not surprisingly, and it's not a worry in the least. Expect him to come out guns blazing and set the pace early on this week. I wouldn't be surprised to see him contending late on Sunday evening.
3. BROOKS KOEPKA [YAHOO CLASS C] - WORLD RANKING: #25
Is Brooks back? I'd like to think so. He's flashed some signs of a return to form, mostly notably with an 11th place finish at Augusta. Koepka has had serious issues since switching from Nike irons, so hopefully he carries the momentum with him to San Antonio. On paper, this course should fit him perfectly. There's not a lot of short game work required, there are easy par-5s, and there are short par-4s. These factors all point to a great week for Brooks Koepka.
4. BRENDAN STEELE [YAHOO CLASS A] - WORLD RANKING: #56
It's been a fantastic season for Steele, winning the Safeway Classic and contending multiple times since. He played decently at Augusta, and should feel great coming back to TPC San Antonio. Steele picked up his 1st career win here six years ago, and has posted several other top-10 finishes. He's a great ball-striker, solid putter, and birdie making machine. If he keeps hitting it long and straight, he'll have plenty of chances to go low this weekend.
5. RYAN MOORE [YAHOO CLASS B] - WORLD RANKING: #38
Last we saw of Ryan Moore, he was contending at The Masters. He finished 9th, and should be full of confidence returning to competition. Moore finished 8th at the Valero Texas Open in his last appearance, and should fit the course perfectly on paper. He's an excellent iron player and putter: 21st in strokes gained approach and 47th in strokes gained putting. Moore can win here, and he'll be under-owned considering this price tag.