It is Faves & Fades time once again! The last iteration of this article featured my man Russell Henley who backdoored his way into a T4 finish after a roller coaster 4 days at the Honda Classic.
This week, there are many intriguing names across the board with potential to make a serious run at winning this event. And with The Masters just one week away, I’m factoring in that players who’ve already qualified for next week may be coasting through a bit with their minds set ahead on Augusta, while the rest of the field shows their hunger to qualify for the biggest event in golf next week.
No time to waste, let’s jump on in to Faves & Fades: 2021 Valero Texas Open edition!
Corey Conners (+2300, $9,500)
In the previous event’s Faves write up, I talked about needing to bet Joaquin Niemann at 20/1 at the Honda Classic before his odds dropped from Daniel Berger’s WD. This week we get an eerily similar scenario with Corey Conners sitting at 23/1 before Dustin Johnson’s WD. After all, the last time I jumped on a player in this range immediately following a DJ WD, it was on Daniel Berger at the AT&T Pro-Am, so that’s a good omen for Conners to repeat the same fate.
Conners picked up his first career Tour victory the last time this event was contested in 2019, and he did it by Monday Qualifying, despite entering the field #1 in SG: BS. A lot has changed over two years (we’re playing amidst a pandemic this time around for starters), but the one constant in life is that Corey Conners remains #1 SG: BS in 2021. Coming into this event in 2019, Conners had lost an aggregate 1.1 strokes TOT in his 5 events prior. This year, he enters the Valero Texas Open having gained 6 strokes TOT over the same span. He can’t do any better than his last result here, but it sure doesn’t seem like he’s going to do worse.
Everybody knows Conners is a great Ball Striker and Approach player, but he is rapidly shedding his old reputation as a Short Game liability with his 2021 resurgence. Over his last 10 events, he has gained 1.1 strokes with his Short Game, thanks to back-to-back outings at the API and THE PLAYERS where he gained 3+ strokes Putting in each. I don’t always bet defending champions to win, but Conners is in a rare spot this year where his game is in even better form now than when he last won.
Cameron Tringale (+3600, $9,300)
Next we go from the defending champion to a player who has never won a PGA tournament before in Cameron Tringale. I have talked up Cameron Tringale so much over the last few months that my phone has finally stopped auto-correcting him to Cameron Triangle. We’ve really turned a corner!
The last three winners of this event – Corey Conners, Andrew Landry, and Kevin Chappell – each picked up their first career Tour win here, and there are plenty of signs to expect Tringale to continue that trend in 2021. There are two reasons we tend to see a lot of first-time winners at this event. First of all, the best players tend to skip the Valero Texas Open in order to get an extra week of practice in for The Masters. And in that vein, this is most players in the field’s last opportunity to claim the final invitation to Augusta. I believe the latter will give Tringale the boost of motivation he needs to make a run for those signature Texas Boots.
Looking at the stats, he’s clicking in all facets, ranking #5 SG: TOT, #7 SG: T2G, #8 SG: BS, and #11 SG: SG. It’s actually really hard to have stats like that and not already be qualified for The Masters, so maybe he’s just operating on borrowed time. But beyond that, he’s also 5th in Birdies Gained, 2nd in Bogeys Avoided, and 3rd in Scrambling. Just pick a stat that matters this week and he ranks out well in it, so it really is just a matter of time before he closes the deal for his first win.
Chris Kirk (+4600, $8,600)
Chris Kirk and Charley Hoffman are pretty much mirror images of each other coming into this week. They are each T10 in both SG: TOT and SG: T2G over the last 36 rounds, and they each have multiple T10 finishes at the Valero Texas Open within the last 5 years. Sure, Hoffman is a past winner of this event and Kirk is not, but is that really worth the +3300 odds premium for Hoffman who’s WD’d from multiple tournaments in 2021 already from Back injuries?
Stats-wise, Kirk has everything I’m looking for in a player profile this week. He’s #3 T2G, #2 ARG, #13 Birdies Gained, #11 Bogeys Avoided, and #1 P4 400-450. Combine that with the strong Course History and the 46/1 number starts to become a real head scratcher. We know Chris Kirk is a gamer as evidenced by his clutch T2 at the Sony Open to maintain his Tour Card, so I have no doubt he’ll be motivated this week to go out and earn himself that final spot at Augusta.
Scottie Scheffler (+1400, $10,400)
I get the feeling that Scottie Scheffler does not want to be playing in the Valero Texas Open this week, sandwiched between a grueling 5-day span of WGC Match Play and The Masters. I understand he’s a Texas guy and it’s exciting to play a tournament in your home state, maybe even catch up with some friends and family, but a Friday night flight back out to Georgia would not be in his worst interest.
Fatigue and Masters lookahead narrative aside, the case against Scottie is his middling Approach play, as you want to see the co-favorite on most books rank better than 54th SG: APP, especially on this track where Approach play is on a premium.
With this event’s history of pumping out first-time winners, I’m content to have a balanced approach this week and not reach this far up the board with either my bets or DFS plays.
Abraham Ancer (+2000, $9,700)
First things first, no, I have not been hacked. “I’m fading Abraham Ancer this week” generally would be a cry for help that I’ve been kidnapped and my identity has been stolen, but then again we’ve never really seen Abraham Ancer priced like this, and for what reason?
There are only 4 players in the field priced higher than Ancer this week (Spieth, Finau, Scheffler, Matsuyama), which means he is expected to perform better than the defending champion and #1 Ball Striker in the field, Corey Conners. Why? Abraham Ancer has played this event three times and has never finished better than T42. He’s lost strokes T2G in all of his trips to TPC San Antonio and has now lost strokes putting in 5 consecutive starts.
I always see the good in Abe, but pricing him ahead of guys like Corey Conners and Charley Hoffman this week when his course history and all around recent game just don’t compare is good enough reason for me to fade him, especially if he’s going to be as popular as he seems.
Matt Kuchar (+5500, $9,000)
Matt Kuchar is $9K?! There are only 10 players in the field this week priced ahead of Matt Kuchar on Draft Kings, and I can’t really comprehend a logical reason why. Kuch has gone 12 consecutive events now dating back to August 2020 without registering a single T30.
Sure, the course history is good here. He’s played this event 8 times, has never missed a cut, and had 4 T20s. But he’s never entered this tournament in worse form than he’s currently playing, ranking 100th T2G.
Unless they switched this event to Match Play format without telling me, there’s nothing you could do to convince me to play Matt Kuchar at the 2021 Valero Texas Open with so many better options cheaper than this price. I’ve already hammered Charles Howell III’s matchup versus Kuchar and don’t plan on looking back.