Ludvig Aberg
Ludvig Aberg

Ben Coley's golf betting tips: Valero Texas Open preview and best bets

Ben Coley is backing Ludvig Aberg to double his PGA Tour tally and confirm himself a potential Masters contender by winning the Texas Open.

Golf betting tips: Valero Texas Open

4pts win Ludvig Aberg at 14/1 (General)

2pts e.w. Harris English at 40/1 (William Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Davis Thompson at 100/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Bud Cauley at 150/1 (Sky Bet, William Hill 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Kevin Yu at 150/1 (General 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

1pt e.w. Chandler Phillips at 200/1 (888sport 1/5 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8)

Sky Bet odds | Paddy Power | Betfair Sportsbook

The absence of match play golf on the PGA Tour schedule is a problem that needs solving, something that will be brought into focus by the event taking place on the LPGA Tour this week. But the absence of the Match Play, as it became known, does explain why we've a stronger field than usual for the Valero Texas Open.

Last year, just eight members of the field had already received Masters invitations, and that number is more than doubled thanks to the likes of Rory McIlroy, Collin Morikawa and Max Homa. For McIlroy, this has long been the plan. For some others, it will have been a necessary addition, with the Masters now just days away.

TPC San Antonio's Oaks Course, designed by Greg Norman, isn't much like Augusta – the days of Redstone and the Houston Open, set up to mimic the Masters, are long gone. It's therefore a matter for the individual to determine just how best to prepare and, as Hideki Matsuyama demonstrated in 2021, a week is a long time in golf.

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Personally I'd like McIlroy to do anything but win, as someone who would desperately like to see him capture the career Grand Slam. Then again, maybe the one thing all these tweaks to his preparation has lacked is precisely that. Never has he arrived at Augusta having won his last event, but the next best thing came in 2018 when he'd recently won at Bay Hill. For three days of the Masters, it looked like it had him primed.

At 9/1, following improvements to his approach play at Sawgrass, the 2013 Texas Open runner-up is plainly a fair price. I made him a bet at 9s at Bay Hill, where all of the best PGA Tour players were in action, and this course is similarly suitable. At any other time of year, we'd probably have to row in again and he's sorely tempting.

Preference, though, is for LUDVIG ABERG, five points bigger and possibly more inclined to be focused on the here and now, even if his major championship debut is just days away.

Aberg has barely missed a beat since turning professional, already winning on both tours and in some style. First came that clutch performance at Crans which effectively sealed what would be a record-breaking Ryder Cup debut, after which came a dominant display at the RSM Classic.

What might be telling is that he'd actually played the RSM Classic as an amateur, back in 2021, returning two years later to capture his first PGA Tour title. I say that because he's played this event before, too, back in 2022, on a sponsor invite thanks to his success nearby at Texas Tech.

As was the case at the RSM, this isn't the extent of his course knowledge. Aberg played TPC San Antonio as a college golfer, finishing third in a decent event here, and these small benefits can make the difference given that so often, elsewhere, he's been playing catch-up with most of his rivals.

Ludvig Aberg
Ludvig Aberg

Second at Pebble Beach on his debut was a mighty effort that could've been better had the event been able to run its course, ninth at Torrey Pines probably should've been, and I don't know as we could've expected much more than eighth at Sawgrass behind Scottie Scheffler, again on his first try in that event.

The Swede was awesome from tee-to-green, ranking fourth, and while the putter let him down it's worth saying that he'd looked good on the greens ever since January. One small blip isn't something to dwell on, not when we'd seen him rank sixth at Bay Hill, 12th at Pebble Beach, 24th at Riviera, and a decent 36th at Torrey Pines.

Anything like that should make him competitive at San Antonio, designed by one of the finest drivers of them all and made for a player like Aberg.

Look through the roll-of-honour and at all levels you'll find some of the best ball-strikers around: Adam Scott, Corey Conners, Kevin Chappell, Charley Hoffman, Brendan Steele. Even some of the lesser lights, the likes of JJ Spaun and Andrew Landry, made their money through rock-solid driving and hitting plenty of greens.

Approach play in particular has been pivotal of late, a fact starkly demonstrated by last year's 1-2-3-4, who ranked first, second, third and fourth in strokes-gained approach. Conners, winning the event for a second time, ranked 41st with the putter in doing so.

The 2017, 2018 and 2019 editions were all similarly stacked in favour of quality approach play and if Aberg is as dialled in as he was in The PLAYERS, that might give him the edge over McIlroy. Backing both at 5/1 combined is a perfectly viable policy, but I expect McIlroy might tinker with next week's bigger goal in mind so it's Aberg all the way.

English preferred to An at the prices

Morikawa and Homa both have serious work to do and are overlooked even if the latter is edging towards the price he was at Sawgrass. This is clearly much weaker and his victories at Silverado help to suggest that San Antonio could be a good fit, given a strong correlation between these two events through Steele, Kevin Tway, Martin Laird, Steven Bowditch, and one or two more.

Byeong Hun An is one such player and he was top of my list for this, but following a second-round 80 at Sawgrass I had hoped we might get a bit more juice in the price. There's a strong case to be made for one of the best maidens on the circuit, but I don't see any mileage in taking 28/1 generally in a stronger-than-usual renewal.

Preference then is for HARRIS ENGLISH, who looks a bet at 33/1 and bigger.

English just looks to be on top of his game at the moment, with four top-25s in a row powered by some strong driving, which hasn't always been the case with him.

Inside the top 25 for strokes-gained off-the-tee in seven of his last nine starts, English ranks 50th for the season, more than 100 places up on last year in a return to the sort of levels which powered his run to the Ryder Cup side in 2021.

This in turn means he's hitting more greens and with his approach play having improved throughout each of his last five starts, this frequently red-hot putter looks dangerous wherever he goes. In fact, he even managed a closing 66 for 19th at Sawgrass, where he'd missed his previous seven cuts.

Nothing better than 30th in five starts here might suggest that San Antonio isn't his course, but these have been sporadic appearances, often when far from his best. In 2019, when he missed the cut, he'd been without a top-10 finish in over a year. In 2018, 36th place looks better when you consider he missed the cut in 10 of his next 11 starts.

Before that he'd last played the event in 2015, finishing 30th and again producing very little of note afterwards, and he'd been quiet in 2013, so only in his rookie 2012 campaign has he turned up here in anything like the form he's in now.

With correlating form including ninth at Silverado, second at Bay Hill, 11th at PGA West, third at Scottsdale and first at the Norman-designed El Camaleon, I think English can score here if he's hitting it well.

That's very much the case at the moment so as a class act with four PGA Tour wins to his name, he makes plenty of appeal, with the fact that his high school teammate Stephan Jaeger won on Sunday a nice little cake-topper.

An was the only other I really liked before a show of betting came through. When it did, Russell Henley became slightly more interesting, not least because he really is putting well again at long last and has won a week before Augusta before, but I'll lose no more sleep than usual should he pop up as he does now and again.

Preference is to scan those at bigger prices who will be hoping to book that final ticket to Augusta. It's happened here before, most recently through Conners (2019) and Spaun (2022), and there were similar instances in Houston including with Henley himself back in 2017.

Davis Riley's sudden improvement obviously intrigues me having made him the headline bet at much shorter odds last year, but namesake DAVIS THOMPSON is the one I really like.

Unlike Riley, he's not played this event before, but I think San Antonio could be a fantastic fit. Thompson is typically a quality driver of the ball and his approach play has been excellent for a while, or at least it had been until a blip in Houston last week.

That said, Memorial Park is brilliantly funky, dramatically penalising misses in the wrong spots, and I would say that the consistency Thompson showed with his irons throughout the first three months of the season ought to heavily outweigh events of the last four days.

If back to his best in that regard, combined with the strides he's made with a driver which had misfired just a little bit, then this huge talent could take the next step up the ladder soon, certainly at a course like this one.

My confidence that it will be a dream fit is enhanced by his runner-up finish in the AmEx, plus ninth at Silverado, 12th at Summerlin and 15th at Scottsdale. Having also made both cuts at Bay Hill, Thompson looks made for this and 21st last week was a timely return to form after a shocking week with the putter at Copperhead.

Whether or not BUD CAULEY can bag his first ever PGA Tour win relatively soon after returning from a long injury break only time will tell, but he's shown enough to suggest he can go close somewhere soon.

It would be four cuts made in four for this former star in the making had he not putted even worse than Thompson in the Valspar and that club remains a worry, but he's driving it really well and, in Houston last week, his approach play took another step forward to rank seventh overall.

Having been 18th here on debut and 10th a few years later, we know San Antonio is a good fit but his correlating form is nevertheless particularly encouraging. Cauley has been seventh at Silverado, fourth at Bay Hill, third and fourth at PGA West and 10th at Summerlin, and the first three in particular are rock-solid pointers.

He's had a taste of contending again having led the Cognizant Classic at halfway, too, so in a tournament won by decidedly ropey putters like Scott (at the time), Steele, Hoffman, Chappell, Conners and Spaun, I'm very happy taking that chance in the hope he knocks them in like he did at PGA National.

Yes Yu can

With the DP World Tour taking a break I need something to complain about so it's another with putting issues who comes next, in the shape of KEVIN YU.

Last seen missing the cut on the number at the Valspar, this former amateur standout continues to look in good nick and he has three top-10 finishes for his efforts already in 2024, having managed four in 30-odd PGA Tour starts prior to this breakout campaign.

We know by now that he's a quality ball-striker, one of the best drivers in the field in fact, and while it's early days I do like the fact that his best result yet came in the AmEx, where he was third. Landry is the best demonstration of the similarities between these two desert courses, but Hoffman, Steele and Chappell help, too.

Yu went to college in Arizona and still lives there, in Scottsdale, so desert golf is very familiar to him and this par 72, with four par-fives and a driveable par-four, looks ripe for him to set up the odd eagle putt and plenty of cheap birdies. Hopefully, his putter holds up elsewhere.

Local ties point to Phillips

Texas-born Sam Stevens is a big price based on last year's runner-up finish and made the shortlist along with KH Lee, who has twice won the Byron Nelson over in McKinney. That's played on the eve of the PGA Championship and Lee, who has shown promise lately, has been 14th and 23rd in San Antonio, too.

Taylor Pendrith was runner-up here on the Korn Ferry Tour, albeit he'd have contended just about anywhere at the time. Nevertheless, he's respected as a top-notch driver who played nicely for three of the four rounds in Houston and wouldn't need to find a great deal more to get involved at a more straightforward course.

However my final vote goes to CHANDLER PHILLIPS, who contended two weeks ago at the Valspar and left a lasting impression.

Phillips attracted a lot of attention with that display, appearing on podcasts and in golf media over the next few days as he prepared for the Houston Open, back in his home state of Texas, where he was born, raised, and went to college.

In the circumstances I'm not surprised he produced a hungover 74 in round one, but after that he went bogey-free in a round two 67, made just one mistake in another 67 in round three, and was cruising along on course for a similar score until he drove the ball out of bounds on his penultimate hole on Sunday.

Between that tough start and a chastening finish he played as well as almost anybody and providing he's not exhausted by a whirlwind fortnight, I can see him getting involved here at San Antonio, where he played on a sponsor invite last year and made the cut despite having arrived after three missed cuts at a lower level.

At 12th in strokes-gained approach he ranks fifth in this field for the season, two-time champion Conners one of the few who are ahead of him, and he reminds me of 2023 standout Eric Cole in that if he drives it well, he can certainly be competitive as we saw two weeks ago.

He's not yet shown Cole's ability with the putter but was good enough at the Valspar and through the middle two rounds in Houston, so in an event which has been won by a local or someone with very strong Texas ties three times in eight years, perhaps Phillips can get back in the mix.

Posted at 1700 GMT on 01/04/24

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