Sobel’s Valero Texas Open Betting Preview: All In on Im Headed to Augusta

Sobel’s Valero Texas Open Betting Preview: All In on Im Headed to Augusta article feature image
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RSM Classic. Pictured: Sungjae Im

  • Rickie Fowler (+1000) is the betting favorite to win the 2019 Valero Texas Open with Tony Finau (+1400) and Matt Kuchar (+1600) close behind.
  • With the 2019 Masters next week, Jason Sobel is looking to fade the favorites who may be looking ahead to Augusta.

Poor Valero Texas Open.

The oft-forgotten tournament smack dab in a sea of bigger ones was moved on the schedule this year to the week before the Masters – and already the biggest talking points are how potential contenders fare in a final tune-up before the year’s first major and whether one final nonqualified player will get to punch his ticket to Augusta.

Rickie Fowler, Matt Kuchar and Tony Finau probably just need to tighten a few small things before next week. Jordan Spieth? He might still be digging for secrets in the dirt.

Besides the 15 names in this week’s field who are in next week’s tournament are 129 other players vying for an opportunity to claim golf’s version of Willy Wonka’s golden ticket.

And we’ve got plenty of options, too.

After a second-place finish at The Players Championship, Jim Furyk could only move from 54th in the world to 52nd at the WGC-Dell Match Play, falling just short of qualifying.


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Sungjae Im is one of the better rookies we’ve seen in years, already with five results of seventh-or-better this year. One playing partner last week said he’ll be a top-10 player by year’s end.

Lucas Glover and Jason Kokrak might not be at a Justin Rose-level of consistency – or even Charles Howell III – but they’ve each been posting strong results on a weekly basis.

Ryan Palmer, Ryan Moore and Daniel Berger are guys who have claimed top-10 results at Augusta previously.

Luke List, Abraham Ancer and Joaquin Niemann could each be a dark-horse top-20 selection if he makes it – much like Russell Henley, when he grabbed the last spot and finished T-11 two years ago.

Oh, and for that matter, let’s throw Henley himself into that mix, too.

If any of the 129 nonqualified players wins this week, it’ll be a great story, as he claims a trophy, then gets whisked away to Augusta for a whirlwind trip to the year’s first major.

As the Valero Texas Open prepares for its new spot in the schedule, that’s definitely one of the greatest underlying plotlines.

Favorites

Nope. Not happening. Nuh-uh.

I’m skipping right past this week’s biggest names for the sole reason that they’re all – in some respect – already looking ahead. That doesn’t mean they don’t want to play solid golf, but would you really want to emit the physical and mental energy necessary to win just days before playing the one tourney all year which requires the most physical and mental energy?

It’s not quite akin to the Par-3 jinx, but I’m still not sure any of the favorites is too keen on winning right before the Masters begins.

Mid-Tier

Sungjae Im (+2500)

I wrote about some of his recent accolades in the intro, but it’s worth mentioning again: The kid is a stud. On the weekend he turned 21, he couldn’t quite finish off the job at Punta Cana, but Im’s price is going to keep dropping with every tourney he plays, so might as well jump on it now and see if he’ll finally – and by finally, I mean, six months into his rookie season – claim a title. I love his chances this week.

Jason Kokrak (+2800)

After speaking with him before the Valspar Championship a few weeks ago, when he told me he’d “figured out” his still-new PXG irons (despite racking up a ton of strong results already this year), I loved him at that event, where he eventually finished in a share of second place. Past the point of no return now, so I’m sticking with him on a track where he was T-36 last year.

Abraham Ancer (+4000)

I think Ancer is going to replicate his Aussie Open win from late last year with a victory at some point this year — and this week feels like a solid opportunity against a non-elite field. Should be brimming with confidence after impressive victories over Cameron Smith and Charles Howell III in the WGC-Match Play last week.

Lucas Bjerregaard
Lucas Bjerregaard upset Tiger Woods in the WGC-Match Play. Credit: Stephen Spillman, USA Today Sports.

Lucas Bjerregaard (+4000)

Speaking of the Match Play, Bjerregaard made a name for himself while looking unflappable in a defeat of Tiger Woods while reaching the semifinals. It’s easy to envision him also riding some momentum this week.

Charley Hoffman (+4500)

It hasn’t been a great year so far, but everyone’s favorite first-round leader bet for the Masters should find some form here, especially if it’s windy.

Russell Henley (+6600)

As mentioned, two years ago he won the final event before the Masters when it was in Houston, so there’s a precedent here for one of the game’s streakiest putters.

Longshots

Justin Harding (+7500)

He might not win, but this is your chance to pick a guy with four global wins in the last year as a low price in either of the major DFS platforms. Harding is curiously $7,000 in Fanduel – the lowest price available – but a mid-tier pick at $7,700 on DraftKings, a full $1,600 above the minimum. I’ll bet you can guess on which of those I’ll be taking a flier on him.

Wyndham Clark (+9000)

My podcast pards The Sleeze is a big fan of Clark and I’m starting to climb onto the bandwagon, too. Throw out the Players Championship DQ and he’s made six straight cuts that include three top-20 finishes.

Mackenzie Hughes (+10000)

Last week’s co-runner-up in Punta Cana, the Canadian seemed to find something on the weekend that could help him this week.

Kelly Kraft (+11000)

One of my favorite picks on the board right here. Fresh off a T-5 in Punta Cana, the Texas native returns to an event where he hasn’t enjoyed much luck, though it should suit his game if the wind blows.

Kyle Stanley (+12500)

It’s been a down year so far for Stanley, but he’s shown some recent signs of emerging from that slump. At this number, he owns a ton of value.

Brendan Steele (+12500)

Ditto everything I just wrote for Stanley, plus a little extra considering Steele returns to the site of his first career PGA Tour victory this week – and he’s a notable horse-for-course type of guy.

My Favorite Bet

Sungjae Im Top-10 Finish (+275)

That’s right – more Im love again in this section.

Considering the fact that The Cure was just inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, I’m thinking about playing a little “Friday Im in Love” right here to fit the narrative.

Only problem? He’s had a few too many of the “Saturday wait, Sunday always comes too late” kind of weeks recently.

If he can step on the gas pedal over the final 36 holes, Im could take this title and that last ticket into the Masters field.

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