Expert picks: Valero Texas Open


This week the PGA Tour heads back to Texas - San Antonio specifically - for the Valero Texas Open. Brendan Steele defends his title as many players look for a breakout week...and possibly a breakthrough win. Each week a panel of experts will offer up their picks from four groups of players based on Golf Channel's new fantasy game, Fantasy Challenge. We will also keep track of their scores and standings. The panel consists of: senior writers Rex Hoggard, Randall Mell and Jason Sobel; contributors John Hawkins and Win McMurry; editorial director Jay Coffin;'s Rob Bolton; 'Morning Drive' hosts Gary Williams and Erik Kuselias; and Golf Talk Central contributor Ryan Ballengee.

Rex Hoggard

Group 1: Johnson Wagner: He's historically played well in Texas - having won his first Tour event in Houston - and finished T-15 here last year. He's also quietly put together his best season already, with a win in Hawaii and runner-up finish at the Humana Challenge.

Group 2: Jimmy Walker: We normally wouldn't pick a guy at his hometown event - too many distractions - but he's played well here in the past (T-3 in 2010) and he hasn't missed a cut since February.

Group 3: Harris English: Last year Brendan Steele solidified his status as a rookie to watch in San Antonio and English has been trending in a similar direction following his tie for eighth last week at Harbour Town.

Group 4: Brian Harman: Although the left-hander has struggled on the weekend this season, he looks as close as anyone to breaking through and given the solid play of University of Georgia alum in recent weeks, he seems like a safe bet.

Erik Kuselias

Group 1: Matt Kuchar: I know he shot a final-round 77 at Harbour Town, but he has been playing some fantastic golf lately. This is the first time he has played at this course but I am confident he will do well.

Group 2: Brendan Steele: Did you think I would go with anyone other than the defending champion this week? Steele is a really good player (and former Morning Drive guest host!) and I think his return to the site of his first win will be a successful one.

Group 3: Harris English: Former UGA Bulldog is having a great rookie season and recorded his first career top-10 finish last week. There is a race to join John Huh as a rookie winner on Tour this year and English seems eager to join that group.

Group 4: Brian Harman: Going with another Bulldog here who is a rookie on Tour in 2012. Harman got off to a great start this year but has struggled recently due to bad weekend rounds. if he can keep it together on Saturday and Sunday I think he can contend this week.

Win McMurry

Group 1: Charley Hoffman: It's a toss-up for me between Hoffman and Fredrik Jacobson. I will give the edge to Hoffman because of his higher finish (T-8) last week at the RBC Heritage. His superb history with both starts on this track includes runner-up honors last year.

Group 2: Cameron Tringale: Struggled with this one with a lot of great choices, including J.B. Holmes, Kevin Chappell and Kevin Streelman. Tringale won me over with his current form that secured him a top-10 finish last week paired with his T-5 showing at Valero last year.

Group 3: Colt Knost: A pair of third place finishes this year has colt not stressing about his Tour card and instead focusing on a W. It's prime time for the former US Amateur champ to get a professional win on the big stage.

Group 4: Matt Every: He's had a sneaky good season dating back to his T-6 finish at Sony, actually one that you may remember. Like two of my other picks this week, he's also coming into the tournament off a T-8 at Harbour Town, and he tied for 30th here a year ago.

Gary Williams

Group 1: K.J. Choi: The 2011 PLAYERS Champion has struggled this year after a T-5 finish at Kapalua. He missed the cut at Augusta but comes to San Antonio this week with hopes to turn it all around. This is his first time playing this event since 2005 and I think he'll make the most of it.

Group 2: Cameron Tringale: Finished T-5 at TPC San Antonio last year and in his last Tour start, he finished T-8 for his second top-10 finish of the year. This is a great opportunity to have a great week and with a win, he would beat his friend Rickie Fowler onto the invitee list for the 2013 Masters.

Group 3: Bud Cauley: This former Alabama man has been my guy this year among the rookies on Tour and has been playing well lately. Weekend rounds of 74 and 73 dropped him back to T-37 at Harbour Town, but I think he can bounce back this week.

Group 4: Brian Harman: Another rookie from an SEC school that I feel bullish about in 2012. If you can shoot 64 at Pebble Beach and 61 at PGA National, it is clear you have a lot of game. If he can improve his weekend rounds he will go from a rookie who is regularly making cuts to a rookie who is regularly contending.

Randall Mell

Group 1: Ryan Moore: Drives it straight, and this is the week he gets a cold putter going again.

Group 2: J.B. Holmes: With a T-8 finish in his last start in Houston and a T-11 finish at the Valero last year, there's Texas mojo working.

Group 3: Harris English: Keeps a nice little spring run going after T-8 at RBC and T-18 at Shell.

Group 4: Dean Wilson: First start of 2012 on a minor medical exemption (wrist/back), but I'm taking a flier he'll have good vibes from his T-11 finish at this event last year.

Rob Bolton

Group 1: Charley Hoffman: Last year's co-runner-up also finished T-13 in TPC San Antonio's debut in 2010. He shared eighth place last week at Harbour Town, his best finish of the season.

Group 2: Jimmy Walker: Leaning on the San Antonio resident for local knowledge. Tied for third here in 2010 and has already logged a trio of top-10s this year.

Group 3: Harris English: Possesses all the tools, tee to cup. Five top-20s this year. Last week's T-8 at the RBC Heritage is a career-best finish. (Like English this year, defending champion Brendan Steele was a rookie in 2011).

Group 4: Matt Every: If he can match last year's T-30 in this group, I'll be thrilled. Coming off a share of eighth place at Harbour Town, his third top-10 of 2012.

 **Join Fantasy Expert Rob Bolton for a live golf chat Wednesday at 12:00p ET at**

Tune in to Golf Channel this Thursday-Friday from 3-6PM ET for live coverage of the Valero Texas Open.