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Texas Winds could see Hoffman go back-to-back

 

The wind is going to blow this week at the Lone Star State's Valero Texas Open which very much brings into focus its defending champion, Charlie Hoffman.

Golfers who know how to handle the wind don't come much better than the 40-year-old Californian, who, as we so clearly saw two weeks ago, walked away with the first round of the Masters when the wind really got up.

He faded some as the wind dropped, but he still managed a tie for 21st against the World's best in the season's first major.

But perhaps even more than that, Hoffman's record at the longish 7,435-yard, par-72 TPC San Antonio's AT&T Oaks Course is truly exceptional.

In the last seven years, he has finished the Texas Open in ties for 13th, 2nd, 13th 3rd, 11th, 11th and of course, with his win last year.

It's rare that US PGA Tour titles are captured back-to-back, but in Hoffman's case this week, his outstanding record and expertise in windy conditions on a course for which the forecast is that it will blow in the low-to-mid 20 km/h on each of the first three days and will then gust up as high as 30km/h on Sunday, another win for him is certainly possible.

Mind you, Hoffman is not the only one in a not especially strong field in a week when many of the game's highest-ranked players are either taking a post-Master-pre-Players Champion break - or are attending the World No 2 Rory McIlroy's Irish 'wedding of the decade' - American journeyman Billy Horschel might also come into his own.

With 5 finishes in 6 starts and three top 4s, two of them in his last two starts, he too has the kind of record that instils confidence, both in himself and in his backers.

The British bookmakers don't see either Hoffman or Horschel as their favourites, however.

At 18/1 they have Matt Kuchar on top of their odds list with Hoffman bracketed in second place with fellow American Brooks Koepka and South African Branden Grace at 22/1 and with PGA Champion Jimmy Walker and two more Americans, Ryan Moore and Brenden Steele, all at 25/1. Horschel is further down their list at 35/1.

Kuchar, in fact, is not a bad selection.

He hasn't won in recent week's but he's been making some astonishing late charges, one of which included a hole-in-one and helped him steal a top 10 at the Masters. At TPC San Antonio he has a record of 5-for-5 with four top 25s and a T4 in 2014.

What are the chances of Walker, a Texan and proud of it, or Zach Johnson winning this week? They are the only major winners in the field who still have the ability to win PGA Tour events, but neither has shown any form of note this year and cannot be seen as serious contenders right now

The same can be said of last year's Ryder Cup hero Patrick Reed. He is another Texan who has been struggling to find his A-Game this year.

On the other hand, former World No 1 Luke Donald, has in fact been showing some of his old class after a being invisible for too long. Only last week he posted a top-three finish at Hilton Head and he too could be up among the front-runners coming down the closing stretch on Sunday.

So too could Grace, whose performances have been getting better by leaps and bounds since his tie for 79th at TPC San Antonio in 2014. In 2015 he finished in a tie for 30th and last year it was down to a tie for 9th.

LEADING ODDS
(As on Tuesday am April 18, 2017)

Matt Kuchar 18/1
Charley Hoffman 22/1
Brooks Koepka 22/1
Branden Grace 22/1
Ryan Moore 25/1
Brendan Steele 25/1
Jimmy Walker 25/1
Kevin Chappell 28/1
Adam Hadwin 30/1
Billy Horschel 35/1
Patrick Reed 35/1
Tony Finau 35/1
Luke Donald 33/1
Zach Johnson 45/1
Ryan Palmer 50/1
Kevin Na 45/1
Ollie Schniederjans 40/1
Luke List 60/1
Byeong Hun An 45/1
J J Spaun 66/1
Jhonattan Vegas 60/1.

NOTE: For all the latest odds go to www.oddschecker.com/golf/valero-texas-open/winner.

Neville Leck

suggestions to neville@golfweather.com.

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