Valero Texas Open Round 1 3-Balls Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing To Start Hot?
Valero Texas Open 3-Ball Picks and Predictions: Who Should You Be Backing To Start Hot?
After an exciting week in Austin for the WGC Dell Technologies Match Play, the PGA Tour remains in Texas for the Valero Texas Open. While many will be looking ahead to a certain event the first week of April, I still believe there are abundant opportunities with the task at hand.
The Valero Texas Open is one of the longest running events on the PGA Tour schedule, and it has been held at TPC San Antonio's Oaks Course since 2009. The Greg Norman design plays as a Par 72, measuring 7,494 yards on the scorecard, and features the same over-seeded Bermuda-grass greens that we have grown accustomed to across the last couple of weeks. TPC San Antonio is a relatively vanilla, down the middle golf course. There is not a lot of nuance or tricks, it's all right in front of you. The formula here is simple: keep the ball in play off the tee, hit your middle irons well, and score on the Par 5s. Many different types of players have been able to find success on this course, which explains why we've had our fair share of winners farther down the odds board.
The other factor to consider this week is the scheduling spot. Obviously with the Masters just a week away, one can imagine that many of the elite players such as Rory McIlroy, Hideki Matsuyama, and Bryson DeChambeau will be using this event as a tune-up. For that reason, I will be looking to target players that have not already qualified for the Masters, as one spot is reserved in next week's field for the Valero Texas Open champion. History seems to back up this theory, as seven of the last nine winners of the tournament the week before the Masters were not already qualified. With all of this in mind, let's dig into my Round 1 3-Ball selections.
Round 1 3-Ball: Denny McCarthy (+110) vs. Danny Lee (+160) vs. Ben Martin (+330)
Selection: Danny Lee (+160) (Bet $100 to Win $160)
Once again, I will be going right back to the well with Danny Lee, who shot a first round a six-under par 65 in his last start at the Valspar. The former Greenbrier Classic winner has a tendency to get off to hot starts, only to fade over the weekend, so I find this to be the perfect market to deploy him in. I do like the course fit as well. Lee's ball-striking remains solid. He's an above average middle iron player, he hits a ton of greens in regulation, he does a solid job of taking advantage of Par fives, and he's had some nice success putting on these over-seeded Bermuda greens. I expect him to come out of the gates quickly in San Antonio.
I am less inspired by the betting favorite in this matchup, Denny McCarthy, who is still far more dependent on his putter than the aforementioned Lee. The 29-year-old has lost strokes on approach in five of his last six starts, and it seems to getting worse before it gets better.
The long-shot of the group, Ben Martin, is coming off a contending performance at the Corales Punta Cana Championship. I would expect a bit of an emotional letdown, as last week was Martin's first top-five finish in nearly five years. I choose to believe that performance was more of anomaly than the beginning of a career resurgence. Martin's only other PGA Tour top-ten in the last three years came at the same alternate field tournament. I trust Lee's ball-striking the most of the bunch, and find +160 to be a supremely fair price.
Round 1 3-Ball: Ryan Palmer (+140) vs. Rickie Fowler (+150) vs. Ryan Brehm (+260)
Selection: Rickie Fowler (+150) (Bet $100 to Win $150)
While I am not under the belief that Rickie Fowler will win and get into the Masters, I still am expecting a strong effort. The former PLAYERS Champion is coming off a 52nd at the Arnold Palmer Invitational where he gained 2.5 strokes off the tee and 3.5 strokes on approach, good for his best ball-striking week of the season by a healthy margin. Also, if you are ever going to play Fowler, I would argue this the ideal golf course for him. He remains a strong iron mid iron player, and he's had a tremendous amount of success putting on these over-seeded Bermuda greens.
He also has finished 17th here in back-to-back years, and boasts one of the strongest corollary course resumes in the field, with a fourth at TPC Summerlin, and a first, two seconds, a fourth, and an 11th at TPC Scottsdale. I expect Fowler to get off to a strong start this week.
How much is this course being located in the state of Texas affecting Ryan Palmer's price right now? The four-time PGA Tour winner is coming off a missed cut at the Players where he lost over two strokes ball-striking despite being on the more favorable side of the draw, and he has failed to finish inside the top-70 in his last four starts. I just don't believe he has it right now.
The long-shot of the group, Ryan Brehm, recently came out of nowhere to win the Puerto Rico Open a few weeks ago, which was incidentally the first top-10 of his PGA Tour career. I largely believe he will fade back to irrelevance, as we have already began to see such regression with back-to-back poor performances in his next two starts. I'll take my chances with Fowler in this spot.
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Round 1 3-Ball: Sahith Theegala (+150) vs. Richard Bland (+170) vs. Justin Lower (+220)
Selection: Sahith Theegala (+150) (Bet $100 to Win $150)
I've been banging the drum for Sahith Theegala for months now, and I remain steadfast in my belief that he is a star in the making. The former Haskins Award winner is coming off a respectable off a respectable 22nd-place-finish in Punta Cana, and prior to that, he gained 3.9 strokes off the tee, 1.5 strokes on approach, and 4.4 around the green en route to a seventh-place finish at the Valspar. I like that at such a young age, Theegala has already tasted it, with contending performances at the Sanderson Farms and the Waste Management Phoenix Open. I am particularly valuing his success in Phoenix, as TPC Scottsdale bears a strong resemblance to the task at hand this week.
As far as Theegala's competitors, Richard Bland is a nice story, but he had the benefit of drawing an extremely weak group in last week's WGC Dell Technologies Match Play Championship. Theegala is a far superior talent who is less dependent on a hot putter. Justin Lower remains largely unproven, and I'm a little surprised his price isn't even longer this week. He is an absolute liability off the tee, failing to gain strokes in that category in every single start this season. To me, Lower is over-valued coming off a 15th-place finish in Punta Cana. I expect Theegala to roll.
Andy Lack is a PGA Tour writer and podcaster from Manhattan, New York. Andy came to OddsChecker in January 2022 after previously writing for Golf Digest, GolfWRX, Rotoballer, and the Score. Andy is also the host of a golf betting and daily fantasy podcast, Inside Golf Podcast, as well as "The Scramble” with Rick Gehman, and a recurring guest on the Pat Mayo Experience. In his free time, Andy is still grinding away at his lifelong dream of qualifying for the U.S. Amateur, and if not writing, can likely be found somewhere on a golf course.