Three Shots At The Green: Best Bets For The Valero Texas Open

Welcome to Three Shots at the Green, where each week I’ll use my experience as a PGA Tour caddie and golf writer to identify the three best bets on the board.

The Valero Texas Open, the final tuneup before the first major championship of 2023, takes place this week in Texas. 

The Oaks course at TPC San Antonio, a par-72, 7,435-yard layout, rolls through dense thickets of trees and puts a premium on quality iron play and an elite short game. The course was designed by Greg Norman with an assist from Sergio Garcia, but neither gentleman will be anywhere near the Hill Country this week. 

The field is about what you’d expect the week prior to the Masters – there are players still trying to win their way into an invitation (paging Mr. Fowler), those trying to prove their injuries won’t be an issue in Augusta (Matsuyama, Hatton) and many members of the Tour’s middle class who haven’t had as many tournament tee times as they’d prefer in the last month or so. 

We’ll just assume everyone in the field is motivated. 

As far as performance, we identified players who excel in the following areas: Good Drives Gained, SG: Off the Tee, SG: Approach with an emphasis on 150-200 yard shots and perhaps the most important metric this week, SG: Around-the-Green. 

Let’s take three shots at the green 

Si Woo Kim +120 Top 20

The best mid-iron player in the field and providing strong value in a field of this caliber, Kim is playing the most consistent golf of his career, finishing 27th or better (in strong fields) in four of six starts since he won the Sony Open in January.

Kim excels in all the key categories this week and failed to escape group play last week in Austin so fatigue shouldn’t be a factor. If he can capitalize on the four par-5s, expect Kim to contend for his second Tour title of 2023. 

Brendon Todd +210 Top 20

I expect Todd to win this season. His ball-striking has been trending upward for the last two-to-three months and his partnership with veteran caddie Mike Hicks is bearing fruit. Todd is a fairway finding machine with a top-5 short game in this field, allowing him to avoid bogeys at a high rate.

He’s also capable of getting white-hot on the greens. Todd finished T-8 last year, gaining 3.4 shots Tee-to-Green and arrives in better form this spring.  

Nick Taylor +220 Top 20

Here’s another veteran we have our eye on to score a victory. Taylor hung around on an elite leaderboard in Scottsdale until late in the final round, added a top-10 at the Valspar two weeks ago, gaining 4.2 shots on approach and played solid golf in Austin last week.

My only concern is this is his fifth consecutive tournament but he’s on a mission, trying to earn a drive down Magnolia Lane. Taylor ranks well above the field average in all the key areas and playing golf we should expect from t former No. 1 amateur in the world. 

Last Week: Cantlay won his group easily at +115. Fox went 2-1 in his group but came up short because of poor clutch putting. Hoge struggled all week. 

YTD: -10 units