One of the longest running golf tournaments anywhere, dating back to 1922, moves to a new venue this year. TPC San Antonio takes over from La Cantera, which had hosted since 1995, and consequently, there is only limited value in trying to learn anything from previous results. For the record, La Cantera results were generally quite predictable. Texan favourite Justin Leonard won there three times in the last decade, while Zach Johnson will bid for a very rare hat-trick after winning the last two renewals.
Course and stats
TPC San Antonio was designed by Greg Norman, with some input from Sergio Garcia. At over 7,500 yards, this par-72 looks set to favour the big-hitters. More significantly, it is said to resemble some of the classic Australian venues, such as Huntingdale. That suggests a high premium on ball-striking, and the ability to negotiate windy conditions. It will certainly provide a tougher test than La Cantera. Obviously, there is an element of guesswork required with regard to the key stats, but those characteristics suggest we should look towards driving distance and greens in regulation.
4pts win ERNIE ELS @ 12/1 (GENERAL)
The decision to back Ernie was not taken lightly. As regular readers will know, I’ve generally given up on my old favourite, even missing out on those two wins in Florida. Furthermore, his last few efforts have left plenty to be desired. However, this course layout is absolutely ideal. At his peak, there was no better player of Australian sandbelt courses than Ernie, and given that most Americans in this weak line-up have little experience of such conditions, he must rate a strong favourite.
2pts ew ADAM SCOTT @ 25/1 (GENERAL)
Scott was extremely disappointing when carrying our cash at Quail Hollow, but performed much better at Sawgrass. Though his putting remains a huge concern, I still believe his long game is in good enough order to land a seventh PGA Tour title. This challenging layout should fit him well, particularly in terms of length and that aforementioned ‘Australian feel’.
0.5pt ew MICHAEL SIM @ 80/1 (GENERAL, 100/1 STAN JAMES)
I make no apology for backing four Australians this week, as these sandbelt-style conditions will take plenty of learning. Even without that advantage, Sim would warrant consideration on the basis of last year’s stellar Nationwide Tour form. We are taking a gamble because this will be his first start since a shoulder injury, but given his widely recognised potential and impressive start to the season, these big odds justify a small interest.
0.5pt ew JARROD LYLE @ 90/1 (BET365, BOYLESPORTS, SPORTINGBET)
Lyle is another Aussie at a big price, with plenty of form on courses like this. In addition to some decent efforts in the Australian triple-crown events, such as seventh in their most recent Open, Lyle has a couple of top tens on the PGA Tour already this year.
0.5pt ew CAMERON PERCY @ 125/1 (GENERAL, 150/1 CORAL)
The last of four Aussies could represent the best value of the lot. Percy looked a big improver last season, and played notably well in the triple crown events. Granted, he hasn’t yet taken the PGA Tour by storm, but I reckon he’ll enjoy the odd lucrative week this season, and this is his best chance to date.
0.5pt ew BOBBY GATES @ 175/1 (BET365, BLUESQ)
Here’s a plausible longshot. Gates currently heads the Nationwide Tour rankings, which must make him competitive in this weaker than average PGA Tour field. Interestingly, he went well in Australasia over the winter, winning the New Zealand Open and finishing third at Moonah Links.