2021 Valero Texas Open: First Round Leader Picks

Sam Eaton brings us his predictions for First Round Leader at this week's Texas Open.
Sam Eaton
Wed, March 31, 10:08 AM EDT
  • First Round Leader specialist Sam Eaton has four selections for this week's Texas Open from TPC San Antonio.
  • All of Sam's picks are based on statistics and models built on the course requirements.

We came close in the outright market last week, as Joel Dahmen defeated our pick, Sam Ryder by just one shot. Hoffman, Straka and Gordon were all in solid positions entering the final day before performing poorly on a tricky Sunday.

The Valero Texas Open will again be impacted by the weather, with the wind playing a big role at this event. Thursday’s forecast looks pretty settled at the minute, with a slight favor to later tee-times, and if you are betting in the outright market, players going off early Friday will be beneficial.

Solid ball strikers perform well at this long course, and the greens can be tricky to navigate for some players. Only two holes have a 30%+ birdie average, and six have a bogey average over 20%. The par 5s aren’t guaranteed birdie opportunities, but players will need to birdie the 14th to be in with a chance of winning this week.

As for skills needed at the course, keep a focus on the following; ball striking, driving distance, approach and scrambling. Greens in Regulation is a stat which sometimes divides opinion, but it’s worth noting than GIR percentages can be 10% lower than tour average here.

This week was one occasion where a number of players fitted the model, and players like Bradley, Steele, & Hoffman got removed at the last minute mainly due to the price.

Corey Conners @ +3300

I had to weigh up Corey Conners against Palmer at this price range and even though Palmer has decent tournament history (remove last two events) it’s the Canadian who got the nod.

Conners leads this field in terms of shots gained and ball striking in the last couple of months, and also in terms of par 5 scoring which will hold some importance as mentioned.

It’s pretty impossible to perform well at this course if you drop shots with the putter, and Conners has gained over 3.5 shots with the putter in the last two events.

Charley Hoffman @ +4000

Charley Hoffman let me down last week, but I’ve opted to go with him again, largely for the same reason as Conners.

Hoffman leads this field in terms of shots gained approach and opportunities gained in the last three months, and ranks third in ball striking.

He’s gaining shots with the putter in the last couple of events, and is obviously well adapted to playing in the wind.

Brendan Steele @ +5500

Brendan Steele has a great record at this event, and is always a player that is hard to avoid in the first round leader market.

The main reason why he’s hard to avoid his ability to score very low, if there’s a market for lowest round of the event, then Steele is the bet. He hit a couple of 65s at the Honda Classic, and posted a 61 back in January.

Steele’s putter has been hot in the last two events, and he will always gain on the field off the tee. Worth chancing at 55/1.

Cameron Tringale @ +4000

The last of the shorter priced picks, before heading onto the wildcards…

Cameron Tringale like Hoffman is well adapted to the wind, and ranks in the top 10 in terms of ball striking and scrambling in the last three months. 

Any first round leader backers will have spotted Tringale name quite a few times in the last few months.

Despite not finishing in the places after Thursday, he’s had six top 20 finishes after the opening day in the last nine events. 

Like Hoffman, Cameron Tringale’s got the afternoon tee-time which should be of benefit. 

Sam Ryder @ +10000

As mentioned above, Sam Ryder almost got us over the line last week, and I’ve opted for him in the first round leader market this week. Ryder is a regular leader when it comes to Greens In Regulation, and also polls well in terms of ball striking.

Ryder’s not the best putter on the tour, but he’s gained shots on the field in his last few events. He comes into the event following an eighth place finish, and a second last week.

He’s made the cut on his only two starts here.

Matthew NeSmith @ +9000

Matthew NeSmith hasn’t been in the best form heading into this competition, but it’s a course that should work out well for him.

NeSmith ranks in the top five in terms of both ball striking and approach in the last couple of months in this field. He picks up shots in the wind.

The only concern for NeSmith is if he can get the putter working, which he hasn’t done since the Pro Am. He showed signs of form at the Honda, but will need to improve again to compete in this event.

If you were to favour a player teeing off to avoid Friday afternoon, I’d be looking at taking a chance on Lanto Griffin (55/1) in the win market.

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