Anticipation for next week’s Masters has seemingly reached a fever pitch, but the PGA Tour will make one more stop prior to the trip to Augusta National.
The Valero Texas Open can be a difficult test, and the majority of the field is looking to punch a ticket to play next week, so the pressure will be ratcheted up a notch.
In the past five editions of the tournament, there have been five first-round leaders or co-leaders. Of the five, four have come from the morning wave.
At TPC San Antonio, weather can be a major factor. Texas can get windy this time of year, and the 2023 version of the event looks as if it’ll be pretty gusty. Morning starters have typically fared well here because of the afternoon wind, so I think there is a major advantage for the early golfers on Thursday.
Valero Texas Open First-Round-Leader Picks
Davis Riley +4200 (FanDuel)
First-Round Tee Time: 9:36 a.m. ET
Davis Riley’s game is starting to come around after a slow start to 2023. The 25-year-old missed three of his first four cuts this season, but he has since has posted two top-20’s in his past three stroke-play starts, including an impressive eighth at the loaded Arnold Palmer Invitational.
TPC San Antonio is the site of Davis Riley’s 2020 win on the Korn Ferry Tour, so he should be extremely comfortable at the course. Riley beat some good players at the event, including Will Zalatoris and Taylor Pendrith.
An early tee time should give the former Alabama golfer a boost to start his week.
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Matt Kuchar +5000 (DraftKings)
First-Round Tee Time: 9:03 a.m. ET
Matt Kuchar is the type of golfer who I believe will play his best golf with the pressure of getting into the Masters field on the line. As a Georgia Tech product with a tremendous history at Augusta National, the Masters bid, which may be the final one of his career, certainly means a great deal to him.
Kuchar took a scorching hot Jason Day to the brink in last week’s WGC-Dell Match Play and showed some signs of returning to form on a few different occasions this season. The 44-year-old has an eighth place finish at the Genesis and a seventh at the Sony Open in 2023.
Kuchar’s history at TPC San Antonio speaks for itself. In his past three starts at the course, the veteran has finished no worse than 12th, including a runner-up finish last year. He opened with a 67, which was only one off the pace. He’ll get on the course early on Thursday, and I expect him to get out of the gates strongly.
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