Stat attack!: Valero Texas Open preview

By John AntoniniMarch 25, 2014, 8:07 pm

What a difference a course makes. Prior to the 2010 playing of the Valero Texas Open, the tournament moved from the LaCantera Resort to TPC San Antonio’s AT&T Oaks course. LaCantera was a haven for low scores. Tommy Armour set the PGA Tour’s 72-hole aggregate scoing record there with a 254 in 2003. TPC San Antonio has been anything but accommodating. The average winning score since 2010 is 276.75, more than 13 strokes higher than the 263 average at the par-70 LaCantera from 2006-2009. Martin Laird (pictured) won a year ago with a final-round 63 that tied the course record. From 2002 to 2009 there were 29 rounds of 62 or lower at LaCantera. TPC San Antonio ranked as the fifth hardest par-72 course on tour in 2013, after being the second toughest in 2011 and 2012. The fairways and greens have been among the hardest to hit each of the four years it has been used on Tour.

TPC San Antonio’s statistical ranking on Tour

 Year Scoring Rank Rank among par-72s Accuracy (rank) GIR (rank)
 2013 72.74 15 5 56.34% (13) 59.52% (7)
 2012 73.99 4 2 53.11 (9) 55.26 (4)
 2011 73.66 7 2 51.65 (5) 56.32 (4)
 2010 72.35 17 9 55.02 (6) 59.74 (7)

At 7,435 yards TPC San Antonio is so long that even the bombers have trouble keeping up. In the PGA Tour’s “Going for the Green” statistic – the number of times a players tries to reach the green in two on a par-5 or from the tee on a par-4 if it is a viable option – players made the attempt only 32 percent of the time. They were successful less than 12 percent of the time, the lowest figure on Tour in 2013. The course ranked second the previous three years. The par-5 holes were the hardest on Tour in 2011, second-hardest in 2012 and ranked fourth last year.

Going for the green at TPC San Antonio

 Year Going for the green (rank) Success rate (rank) Par-5 scoring (rank)
 2013 32.49% (4) 11.86 (1) 4.88 (4)
 2012 29.94 (2) 11.49 (2) 4.96 (2)
 2011 36.45 (6) 12.34 (2) 4.94 (1)
 2010 30.23 (4) 12.65 (2) 4.87 (3)

Laird, who beat Rory McIlroy by two strokes after making birdie on his last three holes, took more chances in 2013 than any other player in the field, trying for the green 60 percent of the time when it was a viable option. He only found the putting surface 8.33 percent of the time, which was actually lower than the field average, but the gambling paid off in the long run with the victory. Interestingly, in 2014, Laird’s success rate when trying for the green leads the Tour (33 for 63, 52.68 percent).

PGA Tour leaders in Going for the Green - Hit Green Percentage (*in the Valero field)

  Player Going for the Green Success Pct. Successes Attempts
 *Martin Laird 52.38% 33 63
 *Charlie Beljan 44.07 26 59
 *Danny Lee 42.86 21 49
 Robert Garrigus 39.08 34 87
 *Briny Baird 38.64 17 44

Laird, however, was not on his game at last week’s Arnold Palmer Invitational. Playing his first tournament since the birth of his son, Jack, earlier this month, Laird finished last among those who made the cut. Of those who finished in the top-10 at the API, only six are in the field at San Antonio.

Top finishers at the Arnold Palmer Invitational in the Valero field

 Player API finish Valero Texas Open history
 Jason Kokrak 4 Two starts, T-15 in 2013
 Erik Compton T-5 One start, WD in 2012
 Ryo Ishikawa T-8 Making his tournament debut
 Freddie Jacobson T-10 Seven starts, Second in 2010, 3 top-10s
 Sean O'Hair T-10 One start, T-58 in 2008
 J.B. Holmes T-10 Three starts, T-11 in 2011, T-13 in 2010

From that list, Freddie Jacobson stands out. In fact, the Swede has never missed the cut at the Valero, no matter where it’s been held, and has never finished worse than T-29.

Freddie Jacobson at the Valero Texas Open

 Year Finish Scores
 2013 T-15 70-74-71-69—284
 2012  T-18 68-76-71-72—287
 2011 T-5 72-75-67-69—283
 2010 2 71-69-65-70—275
 2009 T-5 66-66-68-67—267
 2007 T-21 66-65-71-69—271
 2004 T-29 68-68-64-72—272

Despite his stellar numbers, few eyes will be on Jacobson this week. Phil Mickelson is making his first appearance at San Antonio since a T-47 in 1992. He’s one of several former major champions who are making a rare appearance at the Valero Texas Open

Major champions in the field with less than three Valero Texas Open starts

 Player Majors Texas  Open starts Last appearance
 Phil Mickelson 5 1 T-47 in 1992
 Ernie Els 4 1 T-3 in 2010
 Jim Furyk 1 2 T-3 in 2013
 Retief Goosen 2 1 T-53 in 2013
 Padraig Harrington 3 1 T-10 in 2013
 Trevor Immelman 1 0  
 Geoff Ogilvy 1 2 T-23 in 2011
 Mike Weir 1 2 MC in 2011

What the Texas Open wouldn’t give to have had that group of players a few years ago. Mickelson and Els are looking at this week as key preparation for the Masters. Some of the others, notably Harrington, Immelman and Weir, are looking to get their game back on track.

One final thought: Once the event moved to TPC San Antonio, previous tournament experience became less important than it is at most events. Three of the last four winners - Adam Scott in 2010, Brendan Steele in 2011 and Ben Curtis in 2012 - were all playing the Texas Open for the first time. Laird was making his third appearance in 2013, but runner-up McIlroy was making his Valero debut. Among those making their first appearance this week are Puerto Rico Open winner Chesson Hadley and Ryo Ishikawa, who is 26th on Tour in the FedEx Cup standings.

If you haven't already done so, please follow me on Twitter at @johnantoninigc

Getty Images

Schauffele just fine being the underdog

By Rex HoggardJuly 21, 2018, 8:06 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Following a breakthough season during which he won twice and collected the PGA Tour Rookie of the Year Award, Xander Schauffele concedes his sophomore campaign has been less than stellar, but that could all change on Sunday at The Open.

Schauffele followed a second-round 66 with a 67 on Saturday to take a share of the 9-under-par lead with Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner.

Although he hasn’t won in 2018, he did finish runner-up at The Players and tied for sixth at the U.S. Open, two of the year’s toughest tests.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“Growing up, I always hit it well and played well in tough conditions,” Schauffele said. “I wasn't the guy to shoot 61. I was the guy to shoot like 70 when it was playing really hard.”

Sunday’s pairing could make things even more challenging when he’ll head out in the day’s final tee time with Spieth, the defending champion. But being the underdog in a pairing, like he was on Saturday alongside Rory McIlroy, is not a problem.

“All the guys I've talked to said, 'Live it up while you can, fly under the radar,'” he said. “Today I played in front of what you call Rory's crowd and guys were just yelling all the time, even while he's trying to putt, and he had to step off a few times. No one was yelling at me while I was putting. So I kind of enjoy just hanging back and relaxing.”

Getty Images

Open odds: Spieth 7/1 to win; Tiger, Rory 14/1

By Golf Channel DigitalJuly 21, 2018, 7:54 pm

Only 18 holes remain in the 147th Open Championship at Carnoustie, and the man tied atop the leaderboard is the same man who captured the claret jug last year at Royal Birkdale.

So it’s little surprise that Jordan Spieth is the odds-on favorite (7/4) to win his fourth major entering Sunday’s final round.

Xander Schauffele and Kevin Kisner, both tied with Spieth at 9 under par, are next in line at 5/1 and 11/2 respectively. Tiger Woods and Rory McIlroy, both four shots behind the leaders, are listed at 14/1.

Click here for the leaderboard and take a look below at the odds, courtesy Jeff Sherman at

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

Jordan Spieth: 7/4

Xander Schauffele: 5/1

Kevin Kisner: 11/2

Tiger Woods: 14/1

Francesco Molinari: 14/1

Rory McIlroy: 14/1

Kevin Chappell: 20/1

Tommy Fleetwood: 20/1

Alex Noren: 25/1

Zach Johnson: 30/1

Justin Rose: 30/1

Matt Kuchar: 40/1

Webb Simpson: 50/1

Adam Scott: 80/1

Tony Finau: 80/1

Charley Hoffman: 100/1

Austin Cook: 100/1

Getty Images

Wandering photographer costs McIlroy on 16

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:44 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – Rory McIlroy bogeyed two of his last four holes Saturday to fall four shots off the lead at The Open.

One of those mistakes might not have entirely been his fault.

McIlroy missed a short putt on the par-3 16th after a photographer was “in a world all his own,” wandering around near the green, taking photos of the crowd and not paying attention to the action on the green.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

“It’s fine,” McIlroy said after a third-round 70 put him at 5-under 208, four shots off the lead. “It’s one of those things that happens. There’s a lot of people out there, and it is what it is. It’s probably my fault, but I just didn’t regroup well after it happened.”

McIlroy also bogeyed the home hole, after driving into a fairway bunker, sending his second shot right of the green and failing to get up and down.

“I putted well,” he said. “I holed out when I needed to. I just need to make the birdies and try to limit the damage tomorrow.”

Getty Images

Kisner not expecting awkward night with Spieth

By Ryan LavnerJuly 21, 2018, 7:33 pm

CARNOUSTIE, Scotland – It might get awkward in that star-studded rental house Saturday night.

Two of the three Open co-leaders, Jordan Spieth and Kevin Kisner, are sharing a house this week near Carnoustie. Though it’ll be late by the time they both get back to the house Saturday night, they’ll have plenty of time to kill Sunday morning, with their tee times not until nearly 3 p.m. local time.

“Everybody is probably going to get treatment and eating and trying to find a bed,” Kisner said. “I’m sure there’ll be some conversations. There always are. Everybody has a few horror stories or good laughs over something that happened out there. That will probably be the end of it.”

One thing they’re almost certain to discuss is the weather.

Full-field scores from the 147th Open Championship

Full coverage of the 147th Open Championship

After three days of mostly benign conditions, Sunday’s forecast calls for warm temperatures and wind gusts up to 25 mph.

“When you watch any TV, that’s all they talk about – how Sunday’s coming,” Kisner said. “It’s going to be a true test, and we’ll get to see really who’s hitting it the best and playing the best.”

Zach Johnson is also in the house – along with Rickie Fowler, Justin Thomas, Jimmy Walker and Jason Dufner – and he rode to the course Saturday with Kisner, with whom he played in the final group, at 4 p.m. It’s unclear whether the co-leaders Sunday will have a similar arrangement.

This is the third year that Spieth and Co. have shared a house at The Open, though Kisner is a new addition to the group.

“It’s the end of the week,” Kisner said. “Everybody’s got a lot of stuff going on. Everybody’s going their separate ways tomorrow. Tomorrow morning we’ll all sit around and laugh on the couch and talk about why that guy’s making so many birdies.”