The Valero Texas Open is arguably the most important golf tournament in the Lone Star State. It has been held in Texas each year since 1922 except for the odd break due to war or the host course being used for another tournament. In that time, some of the biggest names in Texan golf have done battle with some of the best of the best on the PGA Tour for this prestigious and popular tournament.
Valero, an energy company, have been the title sponsor of the Texas Open since 2002. In that time, the tournament has consistently been held at the Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio and has raised more money for charitable causes than any other PGA Tour event. More recently it has also been moved forwards in the schedule so that it takes place the week before the Masters, providing the final chance for PGA Tour players to book their spot at Augusta.
|2023||TPC San Antonio||Corey Conners|
|2022||TPC San Antonio||J. J. Spaun|
|2021||TPC San Antonio||Jordan Spieth|
|2019||TPC San Antonio||Corey Conners|
|2018||TPC San Antonio||Andrew Landry|
2023: Corey Conners
The final tournament before The Masters as ever granted one last opportunity for those not yet qualified to make it through to the biggest event of the golfing year. As they teed off, all bar Corey Conners, Hideki Matsuyama, and Chris Kirk were playing for a shot at Augusta. But in the end, it was one of the trio who had already booked their ticket who came home in front.
Canadian Pro, Corey Conners, had just the one PGA Tour win to his name headed into this tournament, and that came in this event back in 2019 – 101 starts ago. Something in the Texas air seems to agree with the 31-year-old, as he played rock-solid golf throughout to become the 10th multiple winner in the history of the event.
Conners did most of the damage when finishing eight under on the opening day. However, he wasn’t the only one posting low numbers, with Patrick Rodgers hitting the front at the end of the second round, and taking a one-shot lead over Conners into Sunday. When push came to shove, it was Conners who held his nerve. Taking the lead via a combination of a birdie for himself and a bogey for Rodgers at the sixth, Conners never looked back from there.
It was Sam Stevens who emerged as his biggest threat in the closing stages, with a pair of Eagles at the eighth and 17th bringing him within touching distance of the leader. The 26-year-old then had an eight-foot birdie putt at the last which, in hindsight, would have forced a playoff. His miss significantly reduced the pressure on Conners, who closed a bogey-free back nine with a two-putt for par on the 18th. It was not a spectacular end to the round, but it was good enough to finish on 15 under par for the tournament, one shot clear of Stevens, with Sam Ryder and Matt Kuchar a shot further back in a tie for third.
It was a huge result for Conners, who pocketed the $1.548m winner's share of the prize money, 500 FedEx Cup points, and moved up to 28th in the Official World Rankings.
2022: J. J. Spaun
The 2022 Valero Texas Open produced the most unpredictable closing round of any of this season’s PGA Tour tournaments to date. A whole host of players got themselves into contention during Sunday including many players who needed a win to book their place at the Masters the following week. Matt Kuchar was among that number and he gave all he could to earn the win he so desperately craved but he could only finish in a share of second place with Matt Jones as JJ Spaun grabbed the tournament by the scruff of the neck to become the ninth first time winner of the PGA Tour season.
It has been a long road to becoming a PGA Tour winner for the 31 year old and he must have thought that the wait would go on after a horror start to his final round. A six on the first hole was the last thing he needed but Spaun showed remarkable mental fortitude to put that mistake behind him and become the first player to win on the PGA Tour after starting their final round with a double bogey since Tiger Woods in the 2008 US Open.
Spaun was understandably delighted after seeing out the win by two shots. “I think a year ago to even be on tour I would have been telling you I’d have to do a lot of work to get there,” he said afterwards. “But to be here and to overcome a lot of things and finally get a win, that’s everything you dream of. It’s incredible. I’m speechless.”
2021: Jordan Spieth
Golf is an inherently frustrating and difficult sport. Even the best of the best can lose their way, just as Jordan Spieth lost his way for much of 2019 and 2020. The three-time major champion couldn’t keep his driver on the planet at times and for all that he, the people around him and his loyal fans all maintained belief, there is nothing like a win to prove you’re back.
The stats suggested that Jordan Spieth’s unpredictable driving meant he was unlikely to justify his position at the head of the betting for the Valero Texas Open. While Spieth’s play off the tee was the weakest part of his game at TPC San Antonio, he more than made up for that weakness with some wonderful approach play.
Despite gaining an average of just 0.24 strokes per round off the tee, he gained an average of 3.22 strokes per round from tee to green and 1.43 strokes with his putter. What players do off the tee is a long way down the list of priorities at Augusta National which will give Spieth, who called his win “progress”, every chance of building on this success with a serious charge at the Masters which followed.
The Valero Texas Open would be high on the list of tournaments that Spieth would choose to snap a run of 82 events without a win. The Texas native always gets huge support from the galleries at TPC San Antonio and he rode their positivity to a two-shot win. There was a lot to enjoy for Spieth who reminded everybody how difficult he is to beat when marrying up a very good week of ball striking with some of that old putting magic.
Charley Hoffman was priced at odds of 30/1 for the Texas Open and he duly rewarded those who backed him each way with a very good performance to see him claim second place on his own. While he misses out at Augusta National, Matt Wallace does have the chance to build on his third-place finish in Texas after what he suggested was the “best I’ve ever played tee to green”.
The 2020 tournament was cancelled.
2019: Corey Conners
Some of the most intense competition on the PGA Tour comes before the tournament even begins. Players who do not yet have a place in the field turn up to tournaments each week for the brutal Monday qualifying with only a handful of places on the line. Corey Conners was absolutely delighted to earn his place in the field for the 2019 Valero Texas Open but that was nothing compared to the joy he felt when becoming the first Monday qualifier to win a PGA Tour event since 2010.
Conners’ win came after a dramatic final round. Si Woo Kim, who had led at the end of the first three rounds, could not find his best golf when the pressure was at its most intense. That opened the door to the chasing pack. Conners was part of the tussle for the win but only belatedly got his head in front thanks to three birdies in his last five holes.
As happy as Conners was with the win that secured his PGA Tour status and saw him added to the field for the following week’s Masters, there was one thing above all else on his mind after the tournament. “No more Monday qualifying,” he said. “That’s the best deal from this. Amazing. It’s a dream come true. I won’t be as stressful on Mondays.”
2018: Andrew Landry
Winning on the PGA Tour is incredibly difficult. Andrew Landry found out just how difficult it is to get over the line at this level during a nervy final round at the 2018 Valero Texas Open. Despite his protestations afterwards that he was not nervous as he tried to close the win out, the very makeable putts that he missed told a different story. Fortunately for Landry, his mistakes on 12 and 14 did not cost him. As the only man to break 70 in all four rounds for the tournament, Landry was a very worthy winner indeed.
Landry steadily built up a head of steam across the four days. An opening round of 69 was good enough for a share of seventh place before back to back 67s saw him take the 54-hole lead. Converting those leads has proven too much even for players with multiple wins at the top level so it is to Landry’s credit that he played controlled golf on Sunday until the back nine. He also deserves praise for the way he rolled with the punches and didn’t panic when Trey Mullinax ate into his lead. He kept going to earn the first of what he hopes will become “a bazillion” wins by two strokes.