Sleeper Picks: Valero Texas Open
Cameron Tringale (+3000) … You can’t spell his surname without “angel,” which is what receives its wings every time a golfer rings the bell for his first victory on the PGA TOUR. Tringale likely would say that he’s had a wonderful life, but he’s making his 297th career start as a professional without breaking through, as Joel Dahmen was the most recent to accomplish on Sunday in the Dominican Republic and as Valero Texas Open defending champion Corey Conners in 2019. Since Tringale’s rookie season of 2010, there have been 135 first-time winners. If he ever were to join the club, it’d make just as much sense at TPC San Antonio as anywhere. He’s cashed seven times in 10 trips, thrice for a top 20, including a T17 in the last edition. The 33-year-old also checks all of the boxes for precision and efficiency, and he’s fresh off a T13 at The Honda Classic, his sixth top 20 of the season.
Aaron Wise (+6600) … Back in Texas where he broke through for his lone PGA TOUR title (2018 AT&T Byron Nelson). He’s returned before, of course, but perhaps not as impressively until now. Currently 12th on TOUR in greens in regulation and 30th in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. In his last start in the wind at PGA National just two weeks ago, he finished T13 for his fourth top 20 of the season. For the week, he slotted inside the top 20 in both SG: Tee-to-Green and SG: Putting.
Denny McCarthy (+8000) … Endured a rough four months since a T4 at the Bermuda Championship and at a time when he was in a groove. He got back on bermudagrass in earnest on the Florida Swing and went 3-for-3, punctuating the series with a T3 at PGA National. Now 72nd in the FedExCup and a virtual lock to secure his card, he carries that momentum into San Antonio where he finished T20 in his debut in 2018. His propensity to split fairways and continue to rank among the best putters on TOUR favor him if the course stands taller than it did two years ago.
David Hearn (+30000) … While there must be a sense of national pride to compete alongside defending champion and fellow Canadian Corey Conners, Hearn fits the bill across the board of the quantifiable. In three of his last five trips to TPC San Antonio (2012, 2016, 2018), he’s finished inside the top 20. He’s also traveling from Corales where he posted a T13 for his third top 15 of the season; his last was at similarly exposed Bermuda (T8). And his combination of accuracy of the tee (17th), precision on approach (T22 in proximity) and putting (12th in Stroke Gained) presents as a triple threat when the winds kick up.
Austin Eckroat (+20000) … The pandemic has yielded unexpected dividends. For example, if the Korn Ferry Tour Finals wasn’t canceled and eligibility extended for all PGA TOUR members, Martin Laird, Robert Streb and Branden Grace would’ve been subject to losing their cards, but each is now fully exempt through 2022-23 as a result of their wins this season. Also, Will Zalatoris is accomplishing more than any other PGA TOUR non-member who hasn’t won in memory, in the process proving that there always is opportunity for the strongest talent on this stage. So, it stands to reason that, at a time when the lives of the world’s youth are put on hold for a year, a strong talent among the golfers of the generation could break into the winner’s column as an amateur. That’s heady stuff for Eckroat, the 22-year-old senior at Oklahoma State University. In the world previously known to all, he’d have turned professional by now and would have been plying his craft wherever the game took him. In a peek at his potential, he finished T12 with four sub-70s at Mayakoba in December. That matched the likes of Justin Thomas and Max Homa. Former college teammate and current roommate, Viktor Hovland, prevailed, so Eckroat was first-hand witness to the experience. He’s No. 5 on the PGA TOUR University Ranking.
NOTE: Sleeper is a relative term, so Rob uses unofficial criteria to determine who qualifies. Each of the following usually is determined to be ineligible for this weekly staple: Winners of the tournament on the current host course; winners in the same season; recent major champions; top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking; recent participants of team competitions.