This week the Tour stays in Texas for the Valero Texas Open. We have a fairly weak field this year as the date of the event has been moved to the week before the Masters. This has forced many of the world’s top players to take the week off to avoid making the Masters their third event in a row.
The venue, the Greg Norman-designed TPC San Antonio, is one of the hardest on Tour. It exposes players who are not striking the ball well. Errant tee shots can cause players to make large numbers (see Kevin Na’s 16 on the par-49th). Players who miss the green are faced with very difficult up-and-downs. Also, we typically see windy conditions at this event. The ideal player this week would be an elite ball striker who is mentally strong enough to plot his way around the course and pick off birdies when he can.
Hao Tong Li $8,600
In a weak field like this, we are bound to find some mispricings. Li is the 38th ranked player in the world yet is only the 16th most expensive player this week? He is drastically underpriced, as his ceiling is among the highest in the field. When his game is on, he can beat anyone—see his win over Rory in Dubai last year. He is an elite driver of the ball;he is near the top in strokes gained off the tee on the European Tour. Some of his best results have come in windy conditions. He played well last week, advancing out of his group at the WGC Match Play. I’m taking the underpriced Li and plugging him into my large field tournament lineups this week.
Justin Harding $7,700
Harding is an unknown to most golf fans. Over the last year, he has quietly risen up the world rankings by playing some insanely good golf all over the world. He has 17 top 7 finishes worldwide since the start of 2018! He is now inside the top 50 in the OWGR and comes into the week on a bit of a heater. Last week at the Match Play, he went 2-1. The only reason he didn’t advance out of his pod was that he came up against Rory McIlroy, arguably the best player in the field. Prior to that, he finished second and first in back-to-back weeks on the European Tour. At $7,700, he is drastically mispriced, and I will be taking those salary savings and playing him in my large-field tournament lineups this week.
Im has been playing great of late, and he continues to knock on victory’s door. He has finished seventh or better in three of his last four starts. His game fits TPC San Antonio well, as he is an elite driver of the ball who excels in the wind.
Furyk has seen a a career resurgence over the last month now that he is 100% healthy and not dealing with the responsibilities of being Ryder Cup captain. He finished 18th at the Valspar, second at the Players, and ninth at the Honda. He now heads to a course that rewards his accuracy off the tee and mental fortitude. Also, he has seen success at this event, finishing in the top six in two of his last four Valero starts. He needs a win if he wants to make the trip to Augusta next week.