Valero Texas Open experts' picks

March, 25, 2014

Each week of the season, our experts share their insights into which players fit the criteria for our four categories: Horse for the Course (a golfer who knows the track inside and out), Birdie Buster (a guy who could take it low this week), Super Sleeper (a player who could unexpectedly contend) and Winner.

This week's tournament: The Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio in San Antonio.

Horse for the Course

Michael Collins, senior golf analyst: Charley Hoffman
In the eight straight years he's played in this event, only once has his finish been outside the top 13 (2008, 70th). Since the event moved over to TPC San Antonio, the former goldilocks has two top-5s and two top-15s.

Farrell Evans, senior golf writer: Martin Laird
Last year, the Scot shot a 9-under 63 in the final round to win by 2 strokes over Rory McIlroy. Since the event moved to the Oaks course at TPC San Antonio in 2010 from La Cantera, Laird has the lowest final-round score of the winners.

Bob Harig, senior golf writer: Charley Hoffman
Since the tournament moved to the TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks) in 2010, Hoffman has never finished outside of the top 13 in four appearances. He also has two top-threes.

Kevin Maguire, senior golf editor: Brendan Steele
In three starts at the Valero Texas Open, Steele owns a pair of top-fours. Although he hasn't wowed with his game this year on tour, he does sit 55th on the money list, which isn't bad considering he has only three finishes inside the top 20.

Birdie Buster

Collins: Pat Perez
The last time he played three in a row this year, he earned a runner-up finish at the Farmers Insurance Open. Perez is trending similarly on this three-week run, and I expect him to close it with a top-five finish.

Evans: Chesson Hadley
The 26-year-old former Georgia Tech star was in contention on the weekend at Bay Hill before closing with a final-round 79 to finish in a tie for 26th. Hadley, a tour rookie, came into that week off a tie for 14th at the Valspar Championship and a win in the Puerto Rico Open, which was the opposite event of Doral and didn't get him into the Masters. A win this week in San Antonio would earn him his first invitation to Augusta.

Harig: Chesson Hadley
He has played four straight weeks, including a win in Puerto Rico. He was in contention at the Arnold Palmer Invitational before settling for a tie for 26th and has moved to 56th in the world. He needs to be in the top 50 by Monday to make the Masters field.

Maguire: Ryan Palmer
The Texas A&M product owns two second-place finishes in his last four starts, including a playoff loss at the Honda Classic. His career-best finish at the Valero Texas Open? A T-9 in 2010.

Super Sleeper

Collins: Will MacKenzie
The man hasn't missed a cut since the Sony Open in mid-January. He has four top-10s this year. Now he goes back to the desert and a course similar to Vegas, where he finished 15th. His last appearance here in 2012 produced a T-41, but the real reason I'm making him my sleeper is because I know Farrell would be too chicken to pick him four weeks in a row!

Evans: Erik Compton
At Bay Hill, the 34-year-old two-time heart transplant recipient had a tie for fifth, his second-best finish in three years on the regular tour. His other career top-five came last year at the Honda Classic, where he finished in a tie for fourth.

Harig: Kevin Na
Despite his slow-play woes, Na is coming off a couple of strong events and seems to be finding his game at the right time. A victory would get him in the Masters.

Maguire: J.B. Holmes
The first two times this tournament was held at TPC San Antonio (2010, 2011), the long-hitting Holmes posted finishes of T-11 and T-13. His T-10 last week at Bay Hill was his first top-10 in nearly two years. Holmes just might be turning his game around after undergoing some serious medical issues in recent years.


Collins: Zach Johnson
This is all about revenge for Johnson (not really, he doesn't have a vengeful bone in his body). What's going to drive him to victory is this simple fact: He won the last two Valero Texas Opens that were played at La Cantera Golf Club. In 2010 he missed the cut at the new venue and never returned -- until now!

Evans: Jordan Spieth
The Dallas native missed the cut in San Antonio last year, but that was before he won, added six other top-10s and played in the Presidents Cup. Spieth is one of the rising young stars in the game.

Harig: Jimmy Walker
Playing in his hometown event, Walker could get his fourth victory this season heading into Augusta National.

Maguire: Jordan Spieth
Consistency in professional golf is a goal most aspire to but rarely attain. Four months shy of his 21st birthday, the reigning PGA Tour rookie of the year's sophomore campaign has seen no sign of a slump, with just two finishes outside the top 20 in nine starts. Look for career win No. 2 to come in his home state of Texas this week.





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