Stroud to shine in Lone Star state

  • By: David John (Twitter: @SLifeDaveJohn)
  • Last Updated: April 4 2013, 10:51 BST

David John is keen on three players at treble-figure odds at this week's Valero Texas Open in San Antonio.

Chris Stroud: Gets the vote this week at a big price
Chris Stroud: Gets the vote this week at a big price

It is the last week before the Masters at Augusta and a final chance for Rory McIlroy at the Valero Texas Open to find something like the form that will make him a factor in the year's opening major.

The Ulsterman remains upbeat and insists that the prospect of four more competitive rounds in a bid to cut out what he calls "silly mistakes" is the reason why he has signed up to play in San Antonio.

Personally, I just can't see how he can be 10/1 favourite for any tournament at the moment.

The signs may be increasingly positive but he and his new equipment have yet to be tested to any extent under the pressure of being in contention and the Oaks course, designed by Greg Norman and used since 2010 with its swirling Texan winds, does not look the ideal place for McIlroy to try and get things going.

I am not particularly interested in the prices on offer for market leaders Charl Schwartzel, Matt Kuchar or Fredrik Jacobson so I am going to delve a bit deeper down the field for this week's selections.

Recent winners like Bart Bryant, Eric Axley and Brendan Steele highlight how it can pay to look beyond the obvious in this event - perhaps even more so this time with the big guns having one eye Augusta National.

First up, I really like the chances of Chris Stroud - he can be backed at 150/1 and ticks quite a lot of the right boxes.

The Texan native was born and resides in the Nederland and Groves area and also went to Lamar University, which is also on his doorstep, and it looks like he will use this home fixture to good advantage.

He spoke at this event a few years ago and said: "I love San Antonio. I'm from the Houston - I live in Houston now. I used to play a lot of Junior Golf over here.

"I've always been a fan of San Antonio, Austin, San Marco area. I don't know. I have a very, very great calming feeling when I come here. I feel like I'm at home even though I'm really not. Have a lot of family that lives here."

I never underestimate the benefit for golfers when they feel comfortable in their surroundings at a tournament and it is very much something that can tip the balance in favour of a good week - particularly when you are seeking a maiden PGA Tour success.

Stroud secured a T6 here in 2008 before the switch of venue but he did produce his best finish on the Oaks course 12 months ago when claiming a T24.

That is something to build on while his displays in 2013 suggest he is not too far away from a big performance having gone T13-T18-T63-T34-T38 since the Honda Classic in Florida last month.

Finally, it was Stroud who set up the key putting lesson with coach Brian White for DA Points ahead of the Houston Open, and the rest as they say, is history.

Something like that is hard to quantify but I reckon Stroud will be delighted for his friend and he could just be inspired to follow Points into the winner's enclosure.

At an even bigger price is Australian Cameron Percy and I will put him up at 250/1.

He is a multiple winner at a lower level in his own country but has shown that conditions in Texas are very similar to where he played at home and explains a very good record in the state.

He has played nine times in various events and gained five finishes inside the top 30, including a T22 at this venue back in 2010.

His current form has to be taken on trust with a best of T14 in Puerto Rico last month but I am ready to take a chance that conditions are sure bring out the best in him.

Finally, Texas form also attracts me toward the chances of Justin Hicks at 250/1.

I get the impression he has a bit of a score to settle in the state having led the Web.com's 2012 Tour Championship for the first three rounds before settling for fifth place after a triple bogey late in the final round.

He missed the cut last week in Houston - only the second time that has happened from nine events in 2013 - but is not without a decent squeak here judged on top 15s in Hawaii and at Pebble Beach.

Hicks has played nine events in Texas and performed with credit on eight of those occasions, including four top-15s, and this could be the time when he really comes to the attention of a wider audience.


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