Tuesday, May 11, 2021

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Featured Groups roundtable: Valero Texas Open

The TOUR returns to TPC San Antonio for this weeks’ Valero Texas Open, where the trademark Texas winds and trouble off the fairways make this a week where solid ball-striking is a necessity.


RELATED: Full tee times


Jordan Spieth is here as he seeks to take the next step in his comeback and re-enter the winner’s circle. Another Texan, Scottie Scheffler, and Matt Kuchar arrive after strong showings in Austin. They’ll all be on PGA TOUR LIVE, along with Phil Mickelson, Rickie Fowler, Tony Finau and defending champ Corey Conners. To get you prepared for this week’s Featured Groups, we assembled our writers for a quick roundtable.

PGA TOUR LIVE will begin at 8:15 a.m. Eastern on Thursday and Friday.


HOW TO FOLLOW

Television: Thursday-Friday, 4-7 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday, 1-3:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 3:30-6 p.m. (NBC). Sunday, 1-2:30 p.m. (Golf Channel), 2:30-6 p.m. (NBC).

PGA TOUR LIVE: Thursday-Friday, 8:15 a.m.- 7 p.m. (Featured Groups). Saturday, 8:15 a.m.-3:30 p.m. (Featured Groups), 3:30 p.m.-6 p.m. (Featured Holes). Sunday, 8:15 a.m.-2:30 p.m. (Featured Groups), 2:30 p.m.-6 p.m. (Featured Holes).

Radio: Thursday-Friday, 1-7 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 1-6 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com/liveaudio).

TOURCast: Get shot-by-shot info in real time with shot tracks and video with TOURCast.

TOUR Pulse: Get the PGA TOUR app to utilize TOUR Pulse, which provides users the ability to experience a mix of content, such as video highlights, written hole summaries and stat graphics on every player after every hole they complete.


FEATURED GROUPS

EARLY THURSDAY

Gary Woodland, Rickie Fowler, Scottie Scheffler
Tee times: 8:58 a.m. Thursday/1:53 p.m. Friday

– Scheffler is coming off his runner-up finish in Austin. At what point does the pressure to get that first win start to mount for the reigning Rookie of the Year? 

SEAN MARTIN: He missed opportunities at Nos. 12-14 to cut into Billy Horschel’s lead, hitting two balls in the water and missing a 4-footer. He ranked 17th in Thursday scoring average last season and fourth on Fridays but 63rd on Sundays. Scheffler may be one of those guys, a la David Duval, who took some lumps before breaking out.

MORFIT: We were just talking about him in a meeting, and he’s a 2019 Korn Ferry Tour graduate (he won twice that year). When you put it that way, it doesn’t seem like he’s been out there very long. I don’t see the pressure mounting at all. Feels like he’ll win very soon.

EVERILL: It’s already there. But he can handle it. I think it’s like a young Jason Day – who did win early but then struggled for a while to close after that (going winless from 2010-14). Scheffler might have a bunch more close calls before getting it done but bottom line – he will get it done. And some.

Jordan Spieth, Ryan Palmer, Corey Conners
Tee times: 9:09 a.m. Thursday/2:04 p.m. Friday

– Is Jordan Spieth the man to beat this week AND next?

SEAN MARTIN: TPC San Antonio doesn’t feel like a great fit for him but he also has talked about his love for hilly courses and the athleticism it brings out. He finished second here in 2015. Maybe getting back to Augusta National, the place where he’s most comfortable, is what he needs but I would still rank DJ, JT, Xander and Rahm ahead of him next week.

CAMERON MORFIT: I’m definitely putting Spieth on my fantasy team this week and next, but I would agree he’s not THE favorite for the Masters. He absolutely loves the course, and I’m sure it’ll be his best chance to win since Waste Management earlier this year, but it’s hard to win any week on TOUR, let alone a major. And it’s been a long, long time since 2017.

BEN EVERILL: No and no. Can he win both weeks? Absolutely. Would that be awesome? Undoubtedly. But am I ready to hand him favoritism? No way. Spieth is no doubt making huge strides but making the Round of 16 at Match Play doesn’t tell us too much. I walked with his match against Matthew Wolff and there were as many gremlins as great shots. I can’t wait until he’s all the way back – I’m just not sure he’s quite there yet. Prove me wrong Jordan!

EARLY FRIDAY

Tony Finau, Cameron Champ, Joel Dahmen
Tee times: 1:53 p.m. Thursday/8:58 a.m. Friday

– Dahmen wasn’t shy about sharing his plans to celebrate last week’s win. Can the straight-hitting Dahmen keep up with the long knockers in his group?

MARTIN: His fellow members at Mesa Country Club are enjoying themselves but Dahmen is too shrewd to let this opportunity slip by. He rose to 61st in the world ranking and 59th in the FedExCup. He knows that some big opportunities await if he can ride the momentum. Ranking 24th on TOUR in driving accuracy is helpful at TPC San Antonio where Kevin Na showed us how much trouble lurks off the fairway.

MORFIT: We’re reminded every week, or almost every week that isn’t the U.S. Open at Winged Foot, that distance isn’t everything. I like him plenty at TPC San Antonio. The guys who do well at Valero, like Charley Hoffman, are not giants off the tee.

EVERILL: Players often get a knock-on effect from victories and continue to roll on but forgive me for thinking the emotion and travel and everything involved in his victory might make backing up hard. I do expect Dahmen to continue to play well – I just think this week might be tough. I hope he’s still on cloud nine though.  

Phil Mickelson, Matt Kuchar, Hideki Matsuyama
Tee times: 2:04 p.m. Thursday/9:09 a.m. Friday

– Which member of this group ends his winless drought first? Does he do it this year?

SEAN MARTIN: Matsuyama is the easy answer. Mickelson doesn’t rank better than 110th in any of the four Strokes Gained categories. Kuchar has just one top-10 in stroke play since the start of last season. Matsuyama, meanwhile, has still made seven consecutive TOUR Championships even though he hasn’t won since 2017. I think we may need to wait until next year to see Matsuyama win again, though.

MORFIT: Kuchar is a Pete Dye specialist; I’m looking for him to win or come very close at the RBC Heritage in two weeks. Something seems to have clicked with him in a big way considering how he’d been playing leading into Austin. I agree, though, that Matsuyama seems to have found something, too, given the way he beat Patrick Cantlay at the WGC-Dell Tech Match Play.

EVERILL: Matsuyama. And if by this year we mean calendar 2021 year and not 2021 TOUR season then I think the answer is yes. But there is a further asterisk to apply. If the Asian events are once again moved out of Asia or not held at all for whatever reason I reserve the right to change my answer. I see Hideki winning in Japan – either at the Olympics or THE ZOZO CHAMPIONSHIP.

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