VALERO TEXAS OPEN
Played on a short, positional course at La Cantera, this event has proved the ultimate nightmare for punters in recent years. The last four winners have started at 200/1 or more, which suggests that stakes should be kept to a bare minimum. With over seventy bunkers, driving accuracy is very much emphasised, as is a hot putter on fast greens.
If there is a course specialist in the field, then it has to be JUSTIN LEONARD. The former Open champion and Texan native won this in consecutive years at the turn of the century. He also finished runner-up in 1999 and has two other top-11 finishes at La Cantera. Despite slipping down the rankings since those glory days when he would have been considered a contender in any tournament he started, Leonard has shown signs of life recently. A runners-up spot at Warwick Hills closely followed by a top-10 in the elite Bridgestone Invitational were top-class efforts and 13th place in his most recent start was perfectly respectable.
Another Texan who looks well worth a punt at odds of 100/1 is BRIAN GAY. Always straight off the tee and an excellent putter, its no wonder Gay has generally performed well at La Cantera. He?s made the top-30 five years in a row in this event without ever threatening to win, but could well improve on that after a reasonable season.
After taking into consideration the tendency of this tournament to produce huge-priced winners, my other three selections are all very speculative bets at three-figure odds. Firstly, KENT JONES is scoring well in the key statistics lately and could go well on a course where he?s twice made the top-15 in the last four years. 8th place in Sunday?s Viking Classic was Jones best effort of the season, and not entirely unpredictable given that he hasn?t missed a cut since June.
JAY WILLIAMSON has a La Cantera best of 11th place, so can only be a very speculative selection. Nevertheless, he ranks very well in the important statistics this week, namely driving accuracy and putting. With a Nationwide Tour win and a runners-up spot on the PGA Tour to his name already this year, he would rate no less likely a winner than any of the last four Texan Open champions.
Finally, at 200/1, I?m having a crack on 43 year-old also-ran GREG KRAFT. 6th place at the Wyndham Championship three events ago was his best for some while and represented his third top-25 in four starts. Obviously this is nothing to get excited about, but again my reasoning is that Kraft ranks very highly in the key statistical areas. Looking back through a very moderate career, Kraft did at least finish fourth on this course back in 1996. He?s a long-shot, but then this event has proved time and again that these are the sort of odds we should be looking for.
VALERO TEXAS OPEN