As hinted in our Valero Texas Open power ranking, there are many of what I would consider to be above average options this week, but really no elite choices. Of course, last week popular picks like Bubba Watson and Justin Rose didn't exactly come through for anyone, so maybe that's not such a bad thing.
For the one-and-done game, I focused hard on trends. The five names I kept coming back to were Charley Hoffman, Jim Furyk, Freddie Jacobson, Brendan Steele and Jason Kokrak. Obviously in narrowing this down to one player, I’m going to point out things I don’t like about the other four, but I could happily live with any of these five as being the pick.
- This may sound crazy, but Kokrak was my first cut. The biggest reason is that he’s never posted three consecutive top-15 finishes, which is what he’ll try and do this week. He contended until the bitter end at Bay Hill last weekend, and there isn't a lot to suggest how quickly he will move on from that. The closest thing I have to go on is his T3 at AT&T National last year was followed up with a T41 at The Greenbrier Classic the next week. Because of his current form and T15 in this event last year, I get the feeling he will be a popular pick this week. I’m OK rolling the dice and going against the grain this time.
- Furyk was my second cut. He tied for third here last year in his only trip to TPC San Antonio, but he did so riding better form than he currently offers. He isn’t playing bad in 2013-14, but he hasn’t finished higher than 20th either. If you told me the goal this week was to find someone capable of a top 25, and that’s all that mattered, he’d be my guy. But I want a top 10 or better.
- Charley Hoffman took the next cut, but it wasn’t about anything he’s done wrong. As highlighted in the power ranking, his course history here is excellent and his form is very good. I just liked Jacobson and Steele a tad better.
- Freddie Jac came out the bridesmaid, but rest assured I have invested in him in other formats where some cash is up for grabs. He’s never finished outside the top 20 here and he’s posted three consecutive top 20s leading into this week. His form is essentially better right now than it was before any of the top 20s of the past four trips to TPC San Antonio.
- That leaves the 2011 champion, Brendan Steele, as my pick. Looking back at his win in ’11, T4 in ’12 and T46 in ’13, he essentially put together those finishes without offering much in the way of current form. Something about this course really fits his eye, and this time he heads to TPC San Antonio having made five of his last six cuts with two top 10s and a third top 20. My guess is that last year’s T46 will have taken a few eyes off him, and I like that he’s played well enough to rack up some high finishes of late but not so well that he’s been in the spotlight.
As for the Yahoo! format, the weather for the opening round appears to include a chance of morning thunderstorms with moderate wind in the afternoon (some forecasts call for light wind). That makes correctly guessing a wave very difficult. If there isn't a weather delay in the AM, then that wave probably has a slight advantage. If there is a delay, then the AM wave will very likely have to finish play in the afternoon and the PM wave will have perfect conditions on Friday morning to finish the first round. There is also the chance that preferred lies will be in place, which must remain for the entire round (even if it carries into Friday).
I’m rolling the dice and taking three afternoon tee times and one morning tee time. While I estimate that no weather delay would give a slight edge to the AM wave, I’m taking the chance that a weather delay would lead to a bigger advantage to the PM wave.
Starters are Matt Kuchar (A), Jason Kokrak (B), Billy Horschel (B) and Charley Hoffman (C), with Phil Mickelson (A), Freddie Jacobson (B), Jim Furyk (B) and Ryan Palmer (C) on the bench.
You may have noticed that my OAD pick (Steele) isn't on my Yahoo! roster. What can I say, I’m a hedger at heart!
Best of luck this week, and check Twitter (@RyanGolfBlogger) for Yahoo! starting lineups the rest of the way.