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Preview: PGA Tour’s Valero Texas Open

Preview – PGA Tour – Valero Texas Open – AT&T Oaks TPC San Antonio – San Antonio, Texas –

The PGA Tour heads West for the Texas Two Step follow its Florida Swing hosting the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio, Texas at TPC San Antonio this week.

The tour transitions to Houston the following before Augusta National and the Masters. Players continue to prepare for the first major championship of the year. A half dozen of the Top 14 players in the Official World Golf Ranking are here this week including Jordan Spieth, the top-ranked player competing at No. 6.

Spieth has three worldwide victories since November including the Valspar Championship two weeks ago in Florida.

Phil Mickelson also returns to action in the 156-player field this week. Making a rare appearance at the event as he tries to tune up for Augusta National. He was 5th in the world last year when playing the VTO, but has slipped to 21st entering this week.

Several international-born players and many based on the European Tour are competing this week including Martin Kaymer, Shane Lowry, Branden Grace and Marc Warren. American standouts including Jim Furyk, Matt Kuchar, Dustin Johnson and FedEx Cup champion Billy Horschel are also scheduled to tee it up.

A tight layout awaits the field. There will be premium on driving accuracy at TPC San Antonio’s AT&T Oaks Course — hosting for the 6th year. Stretching to more than 7,400 yards and designed by Greg Norman, this par-72 layout hosts the event which has been played on tour since 1922 making it the third oldest event on tour.

2014 Recap:

  • Steven Bowditch of Australia (8-under) won the title despite a final-round 76. He edged Will MacKenzie and Daniel Summerhays by a shot. Kuchar finished two strokes back at 6-under. Jim Furyk was T-6 while Zach Johnson and Spieth also logged Top 10s.

Past champions here include Martin Laird (2013), Ben Curtis (2012), Brendan Steele (2011), Adam Scott (2010) and Zach Johnson, who won it back-to-back in 2008 and 2009 before moving to TPC San Antonio.

FANTASY: Take players like Zach Johnson, Kuchar and Furyk, who play with control off the tee. That fits this course layout. Spieth is an interesting case being from Texas. He might experience too much home-state pressure and the weight of being the best-ranked player in the field. He has yet to log a Top 5 playing in Texas. Horschel might return to form this week. He is in the Top 5 in Total Driving on tour.

BETTORS: At 8-to-1 odds at www.skybet.com, Spieth is the outright favorite. Take Zach Johnson, with two victories in this tournament and a Top 10 last year. He is a sharp pick after Sunday’s 66 in Orlando. He is 25-1. Avoid Phil in this spot and instead take the value pick of a past champion like Steele or Laird at 40-1. It worked nicely for Matt Every last week in Orlando. Justin Thomas is a live dog at 66-1 to breakthrough with his maiden title.

Other Golf News:

  • Furyk enters this week first on the PGA Tour in Greens In Regulation Percentage (73 percent) and first in Strokes-Gained Tee-To-Green.
  • Hideki Matsuyama, who is not in the field this week in Texas, is T-1 on tour in Top 10s this season with five.
  • Lydia Ko, the Rolex Ranking World No. 1, is the top pick this week at the LPGA Tour’s Kia Classic. Ko is a 5 1/2-1 betting favorite. Anna Nordqvist won the title a season ago. She checks in at 25-1 odds this week.
  • Every was a runner-up to Curtis here in 2012. Perhaps he can win back-to-back tournaments on the PGA Tour. The tour has yet to have a repeat winner this season through nearly 20 events. Every is listed at 66-1 this week in Texas.