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Monday, March 24, 2014

Valero Texas Open - Power Ranking

With many of the top contenders pulling out of the Valero Texas Open after the commitment deadline, the power rankings have taken on a completely different form than expected at first pass on Sunday evening. Most notably, last week’s winner, Matt Every, led the way with a W/D.

Joining Every as notable late scratches are Chris Stroud, Charles Howell III, Ryan Moore and Patrick Reed. Each of those five would have warranted heavy consideration for the Dandy Dozen and next 5.

Typically when I run statistical splits for a tournament, the resulting spreadsheet tends to mirror a combination of course history and current form. That isn't the case for this week’s trip to TPC San Antonio, as there were past winners like Ben Curtis and Martin Laird much further down the spreadsheet than I would have liked. That led me to question the statistical significance of this week’s splits, forcing me to rely more heavily on course history and current form.

I also get the feeling (dangerous word) that TPC San Antonio is the type of course that just doesn't fit some players’ eyes regardless of what the stats say. Kevin Na is a perfect example. His current form is excellent and he came in second to Zach Johnson in my statistical breakdown, but just breaking 80 has been a chore for him here. That’s why you won’t see him below.

Here is this week’s Dandy Dozen:
  1. Charley Hoffman – I’m a little concerned about his driving accuracy and, believe it or not with him, par 5 scoring average, but his history is excellent and his form is solid. His four previous trips to TPC San Antonio have resulted in a T13-T2-T13-T3 beginning with 2010 and running through last year. He’s also finished inside the top 25 in his most recent two starts this season.  Hey, we have to start somewhere.
  2. Freddie Jacobson – Leaning on converging trends here as well, with top 20s in his last three TOUR starts including a T10 at Bay Hill last week to go with a 2-T5-T18-T15 run in his four stops at TPC San Antonio. He’s seventh in strokes gained-putting, which never hurts.
  3. Brendan Steele – The horse course is trending well, with a T10, T33 and T20 in his last three TOUR starts. Steele won here as a rookie in 2011, then posted a T4 in ’12 and a T46 last year.  Also ranked a solid fifth on my statistical breakdown, so this one is a go.
  4. Jim Furyk – This is about 70% based on his T3 in this event last year, 20% based on him being among the class of the field and 10% based on how accurate he is off the tee. Enters off a T20 at the Valspar. Most weeks those factors would have him on the bubble for top 12 versus next 5 consideration, but this week it’s good for fourth.
  5. Matt Kuchar – He’s kind of stuck in that 11-25 range both here and this season. His last two PGA TOUR starts have gone for a T13 and a T22 with his three starts at this week’s venue resulting in a 9-T13-T38 run. In both cases, he’s trending in the wrong direction. But, he’s Kooch, so who knows?
  6. Ryan Palmer – I love taking him in Texas and he enters off a P2 in The Honda Classic. He’s got a T9-MC-T32-T15 in his four starts at TPC San Antonio. He’s 19th in GIR, fourth in par 5 scoring average and 10th in par 4 scoring average. I could EASILY make a case for him to be first on this power ranking.
  7. Jason Kokrak – The bomber has been a top-15 machine in 2013-14 and finished fourth last week at Bay Hill. He missed the cut here his first time, but tied for 15th last year. Considering he’s been boom or bust this season, chances are that he’s in line for another top 15 or better. The only reason I don't have him higher is a poor scoring average in the final round. 
  8. Billy Horschel – Billy Ho flirted with the lead here all week in 2013, eventually tying for third. It doesn’t feel like he’s in nearly as good of from right now as he was at this point last season, but feel isn’t real. Leaving Bay Hill in 2013, he ranked 56th in the FedExCup standings. He’s currently 53rd in the FEC this year. Last year, this event was played after his T2 in the Shell Houston Open, so it’s not exactly apples to apples, but you get the point.
  9. Jimmy Walker – Speaking of the FEC standings, he still leads. His history here is a bit checkered (T3-MC-MC-T31) and I would guess that’s because driving accuracy isn’t really his forte. He’s posted top 25 in his last two starts (WGCs), but really hasn’t been in contention. His T17 at the Match Play = losing in the second round.
  10. Jordan Spieth – He’s played here twice, with a T41 and a MC to show for his troubles. His form isn’t exactly sparkling either. It’s fine, but not outstanding. So why is he here? Did I mention who all withdrew this morning?
  11. Zach Johnson – This feels like a Masters tune up. The last time he played here was in 2010, and he missed the cut in his only start at this venue. In my statistical breakdown he blew the field away, but I’m not convinced. I also don’t really care for his form, T33, T16 and T43 in his last three starts. If you want to find a spot for him in your Yahoo! lineup, that’s fine by me, but don’t go blowing any one-and-done picks on him unless you are really looking for a Hail Mary.
  12. Martin Laird – He’s got a win and a T9 here. His form isn’t good, but it wasn’t before he won last year either. Two things stand out that are hallmarks of his career. He ranks very high in GIR (22nd) and par 5 scoring average (7th). If you look back at his full body of work (career), he tends to be a guy that just plays certain courses well over the years. Off the top of my head, TPC Summerlin and Kapalua come to mind.

Next 5 (alphabetical): Aaron Baddeley, Kevin Chappell, Brian Harman, Phil Mickelson and John Senden

Worth mentioning:
  • Chesson Hadley isn't included above because I’m worried he finally ran out of gas in the final round at Bay Hill. He essentially had a chance to earn a Masters berth and gave out. This will be his fourth consecutive tournament and he is essentially playing for a Masters spot.
  • I’ve mentioned Na in the comments preceding the ranking, but Russell Knox and Will MacKenzie fall into similar categories. Both are playing really well and deserve a mention, but course history has me worried that TPC San Antonio might not fit their eye.
  • Daniel Summerhays is trending well in this event, going MC-T29-T7 in his three starts. He’s worth a buy if that value is good.
  • Keep a close eye on Brooks Koepka as he tries to lock up his Special Temporary Membership. I’m laying off him because of that pressure this week.

We will return tomorrow to dissect the fantasy games. Until then, best of luck to all!

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