2023 Valero Texas Open PGA DFS Preview: Davis Riley’s Length Suits San Antonio

The Valero Texas Open used to take place two weeks before Augusta, but it got moved up into the on-deck spot about five years back. Despite the designer (Greg Norman) becoming public enemy No.1  of the PGA Tour over the last year, TPC San Antonio is a great venue for players to use as a final prep for major championship golf. Unfortunately for the event (and perhaps the players as well), most of the top names on the PGA have decided to skip this stop of late.

As always, it is a good week to take a look at the Stokastic ownership projections this week prior to building lineups. The lack of elite talent at the top of the field will mean there will be a ton of condensed ownership on a couple of names, making game theory a part of optimal building in DFS.

Do not forget to check out the Stokastic PGA DFS projections, which has both scoring data and PGA DFS ownership projections. Stokastic PGA DFS projections come out on Monday and will be updated throughout the week.

PGA DFS Picks: 2023 Valero Texas Open Preview

TPC San Antonio is one of the more unappreciated courses on the PGA Tour. It allows for scoring — as evidenced by the fact Corey Conners got to -20 in 2019 — but also puts pressure on the players with lots of demanding approaches and requires accuracy and length off the tee. The par-72, 7,435-yard venue was still the 12th toughest on tour in 2019 and does not present the players with many pure scoring holes. Even its par 5’s tend to play tougher than most, with two of them coming in at over 600 yards. The long par 3’s, which feature long undulating greens, also mimic the front nine par 3’s at Augusta in many ways.

Strong mid- to long-iron play is essential this week, and four of the past five winners at this event gained seven strokes or more on approach the week of their win. TPC San Antonio is a true ball striker test, as the longer layout does not allow players to ignore the driver. Each of the past five winners has been very positive with tee shots, and several have gained well over two strokes off the tee. This kind of setup has also allowed players with less-than-elite short games to thrive; Corey Conners and J.J. Spaun are two of the recent names on the winner’s list who struggle around the greens.

That’s not to say that those players didn’t play well around the greens for the week of their win, but their superior iron play didn’t force them into as many tough up and downs as the rest of the field. Regardless, there is little doubt that this is a week to focus squarely on players who can thrive with long game.

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Valero Texas Open Betting Trends

  • Each of the past eight winners had played this event at least once prior and made the cut at TPC San Antonio at least once prior as well.
  • Six of the past 11 winners of the Valero Texas Open were first-time winners on tour, and four of the past five winners were first-timers.

Below are some of the top players in the field to watch this week given their recent form and course history:

  1. Tyrrell Hatton: Hatton got knocked out early from the Match Play last week but is making the trek to Texas for his Masters prep. He put together two top-5 finishes in Florida and should be the pre-event favorite in the betting markets this week.
  2. Matt Wallace: Wallace grabbed the first PGA Tour win of his career last weekend at Corales. He has had a massive bounce-back season in 2023 and has top-10 finishes in two of his last four starts.
  3. Michael Kim: Kim is another player who has found his form again in 2023. He has made four of his last five cuts and finished fifth in Puerto Rico just three starts ago.
  4. Thomas Detry: Detry was in the mix last week in Corales, where he ultimately finished eighth. He has only missed one cut over his last 10 starts.
  5. Ben Martin: Martin was near the top of the leaderboard for much of last week. He has two top-10 finishes over his last four starts.

Field Notes: This event doesn’t have a ton of superstars attached to it, but there are lots of former winners playing. Charley Hoffman, Kevin Chappell, Corey Conners and last season’s winner J.J. Spaun will all be teeing it up. It’s worth watching the news on both Tyrrell Hatton and Hideki Matsuyama this week. Both men were dealing with physical issues at the Match Play, and Matsuyama withdrew from his final match of the group stage while still being technically alive to advance. Dylan Wu and Akshay Bhatia are a couple of younger players to keep an eye on. They both played well last week and should feel good about their chances in this field.

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2023 Valero Texas Open Past Winners and Winners Stats

2022: J.J. Spaun

  • Lead-in: 27/MC/52 (best finish on year to date was 16th at Pebble)
  • Stats for week of win: SG:OTT 2.6/SG:APP 2.8/SG:ATG 3.5/SG:PUTT 3.0/SG:TTG 8.0
  • Spaun gained less on approach than the last two winners but was solid everywhere else and gained over 2.5 strokes off the tee as well.
  • Like many winners at Valero, he was great from short and medium range with his putter, gaining three strokes putting for the week.

2021: Jordan Spieth

  • Lead in: 48/4/15 (best finish on year to date was 3rd at Pebble)
  • Stats for week of win: SG OTT 0.9/SG APP 7.4/SG:ATG 4.5/SG:PUTT 2.7/SG:TTG 12.9
  • Spieth was dominant with his irons, gaining over seven strokes on approach.
  • His lead-in was also much better than several past winners of the Valero, as he had already recorded several top-10 finishes.

2019 (no event in 2020): Corey Conners

  • Lead-in: MC/3/25, (Missed cut at THE PLAYERS but top 10 two starts prior at WGC Mexico)
  • Stats for week of win: SG:OTT 4.3/SG:APP 11.6/SG:ATG -1.5/SG:PUTT 2.2/SG:TTG 14.3
  • Conners put on a dominant ball-striking display back in 2019, gaining over 10 strokes with his approaches alone.
  • The hot ball striking made up for his poor around-the-green play, and he was also dominant off the tee in the year of his win.

Want to see who is trending as a strong play early? Check out Stokastic’s PGA DFS projections, which will be updated on Monday and throughout the week.

2023 Valero Texas Open Course Preview

TPC San Antonio: Par 72, 7,438

Greens: Poa overseed

Designer: Greg Norman

Similar Courses: Colonial, PGA National, El Chameleon

TPC San Antonio is a longer, winding par 72 that is part parkland and part Texas desert course. There are tree-lined sections but also lots of flat, brush-filled areas that make the course play a bit like a links venue as well. The more open course is also susceptible to the Texas wind, and conditions have been nasty here in the past when the wind gets up.

The course features nine par 4’s that measure over 400 yards and four between 450 to 500 yards. Two of the par 3’s stretch well over 200 yards, and two of the four par 5’s play between 600 and 650 yards. TPC San Antonio has some easier stretches as well, but it ensures players are constantly tested with longer approaches and holes that require a solid drive off the tee. As such, it’s not shocking to see that players at TPC San Antonio gain more strokes both off the tee and on approach than they do around the greens.

The past winners validate the claim that pure ball strikers are the place to look. Corey Conners won here in 2019 while losing strokes around the green, as did Charley Hoffman. While J.J. Spaun and Jordan Spieth had more vaunted weeks in that area, both Kevin Chappell and Andrew Landry had simply average weeks in the scrambling department.

To support approach and off-tee stats with this week, perhaps look at mid-range putting stats. Top finishers tend to have higher make rates than usual between 5 and 15 feet here.

Key Stats:

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2023 Valero Texas Open Recent Form Watch

Top Approach Proximity 175-200 yards (Last 50 Rounds)

  1. Erik Van Rooyen
  2. Ryan Moore
  3. Hideki Matsuyama
  4. Satoshi Kodaira
  5. Scott Piercy

Strokes Gained Approach (Last 50 Rounds)

  1. Corey Conners
  2. Chesson Hadley
  3. Erik Van Rooyen
  4. Mark Hubbard
  5. Russell Knox

Top Strokes Gained Off the Tee (Last 50 Rounds)

  1. Keith Mitchell
  2. Hayden Buckley
  3. Luke List
  4. Davis Thompson
  5. Corey Conners

2023 Valero Texas Open Weather Forecast

Thursday morning: 65-70 F, winds 7-10 mph/40-50% chance of precipitation

Thursday afternoon: 70-75 F, winds 10-14 mph/25% chance of precipitation

Friday morning: 66-70 F, winds 10-14 mph/20% chance of precipitation

Friday afternoon: 80-84 F, winds 5-10 mph/10% chance of precipitation

It’s Texas, and this event has seen some crazy stuff happen in the past (who could forget the great windstorm of 2015 that scarred PGA DFS players for life). This season looks like it could have small issues, with a gust or system coming in Thursday afternoon but also potentially disappearing prior to the afternoon wave on Friday. It seems doubtful there will be a stoppage, but one in the early week is possible given the small likelihood of thunderstorms in the forecast. If it stays clear-ish, then the advantage will go to the Thursday morning/Friday afternoon wave, which has lower winds forecast as of writing.

2023 Valero Texas Open DFS Picks and Early Betting Targets

Davis Riley | BetMGM Outright

Riley is a talented player who put up numerous top-5 finishes in his rookie season. Fast-forward to 2023, and Riley has again proven himself capable of a breakthrough win soon. He finished eighth at Bay Hill just three weeks ago and also had one of his best finishes in 2022 in Texas when he placed fifth at Colonial. His success in Texas should not go overlooked, especially considering that TPC San Antonio will play to his strengths. Riley can get a little wild off the tee but, his length will suit TPC San Antonio just fine. He is also first in approaches greater than 200 yards and has shown great upside with his putter of late as well. His course experience at TPC San Antonio isn’t extensive, but a made cut last season despite losing six strokes putting speaks to Riley’s overall talent.

Ryan Fox | BetMGM Outright

Do not be shocked if Ryan Fox makes some noise this week. He is the 37th-ranked player in the OWGR and is a big hitter off the tee who should find this course appealing. Fox is no slouch in the ball-striking department and looked in some form last week, especially in Round 1, when he took out Harris English. He has gained strokes on approach and in the putting department in each of his last two stroke-play starts. The lack of course experience isn’t super appealing, but Fox will likely get discounted slightly in the betting department because of it. Looking at him as a top-10 or top-5 play makes plenty of sense given the recent form, course setup and lack of strength in this field.

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Geoff Ulrich

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