Power Rankings: Valero Texas Open
For a specific segment of the loyal PGA TOUR fan base, this edition of the Valero Texas Open presents as an overdue celebration. The 2020 staging was canceled by the pandemic, so it’s been two years since Corey Conners emerged as the breakthrough champion.
With all proper and deserved respect to Conners, it wasn’t as much about who he is as what he was. The Canadian gained entry into the 2019 Valero Texas Open as a Monday (or open) qualifier. He was and remains the most recent of just five such winners since 1980.
Conners not only prevailed, he played video-game golf en route to a course-record, 20-under 268 at TPC San Antonio’s Oaks Course that usually withstands that kind of track ownership. For more on his execution and what the field of 144 assembled this week can expect, scroll beyond the projected contenders.
Corales champion Joel Dahmen, Hideki Matsuyama, Rickie Fowler and Ryan Moore will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider.
For the record, Conners’ title at TPC San Antonio in 2019 wasn’t akin to, say, a local qualifier winning a PBA event. He had conditional status up until that point of the 2018-19 season and already had a pair of podium finishes on the board. If anything, that the only mode of entry within his control was the four-spotter despite ranking 64th in the FedExCup at the time speaks to the considerable depth of PGA TOUR talent.
Just don’t try to sell any of that to the ardent fans of the long shots who play their way in. After all, there’s a reason why there’s a section in the record book devoted to the classification of how certain winners gain entry.
In the two years since his victory, Conners has risen to inside the top 50 of the Official World Golf Ranking. He’s currently 41st. He’s also slotted as his country’s top-rated golfer and just four months before the Summer Olympics in Japan. So, as it concerns the awareness of him on the big stage, it all started in San Antonio two years ago.
The Oaks Course is a beast, or at least it’s supposed to be. Persistent wind, tight fairways and undulating putting surfaces – even though they’re governed to run no longer than 11-and-a-half feet on the Stimpmeter – require the full bag.
Conners brought it.
He ranked T7 in fairways hit and led the field in greens in regulation and converting those chances into par breakers. Typically, there’s an inverse relationship to scoring opportunities and the aggregate, but he also finished second in both proximity to the hole and Strokes Gained: Putting, so he rewrote the Konami Code for golf.
For the week, TPC San Antonio surrendered a scoring average of 71.242, lowest in its history since it assumed host duties in 2010. It’s a stock par 72 that tips at 7,494 yards. The 59-yard increase since 2019 is reflected entirely at the fifth hole where a new tee has extended the par 4 to 401 yards.
The wind machine will be flipped on throughout the tournament, so the premium of hitting fairways and greens remains relevant, but don’t sleep on the par 5s. They’re annually among the toughest sets of all courses on TOUR. With an eagle, seven birdies, seven pars and a bogey, Conners ranked T8 in par-5 scoring (4.50) en route to his title.
Springtime air hangs on through Saturday as daily highs are not expected to eclipse 70 degree until Sunday’s finale. Rain is not forecast.
As of Monday afternoon, there are 23 golfers in the field who are exempt into next week’s Masters, but if the champion isn’t already, he’ll be the last man in the field at Augusta National.