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Masters week is almost here, folks. But before we get to the main course, we first have to get through the Augusta National appetizer that is the Valero Texas Open.

Valero doesn’t have an enviable slot on the PGA Tour schedule. Because it’s played one week before the Masters, most of the top players in the world skip the tournament to get some early work in at Augusta.

Still, there will be some interesting storylines to follow this week. This is the last chance for players such as Rickie Fowler and Taylor Montgomery to punch their tickets to the Masters, but they will need a win to do so. Do either of our golf experts have one of these Masters hopefuls pulling off a last-minute miracle this week?

Let’s find out.

2023 Valero Texas Open predictions

Sportscasting's picks for the Valero Texas Open.
Sportscasting’s expert picks for the Valero Texas Open | Mike Calendrillo/Sportscasting

Here are a few predictions for the 2023 edition of the Valero Texas Open from Sportscasting golf experts Jack Dougherty and Luke Norris.


Jack Dougherty: Corey Conners

Corey Conners wouldn’t be where he is today without the Valero Texas Open. The Canadian’s lone PGA Tour win came at TPC San Antonio in 2019, and he did it as a Monday qualifier! Only four other players in PGA Tour history have accomplished that feat.

Conners’ win at Valero opened up so many opportunities for him, and it helped him vault to as high as No. 25 in the Official World Golf Ranking. In a weak field, I expect Conners to hang around the lead throughout the week, and he’s already proven he can get it done here.

Luke Norris: Taylor Montgomery

It’s time to see what Taylor Montgomery is made of. Not long ago, the Nevada native seemed like a sure thing to win PGA Tour Rookie of the Year, finishing 15th or better in eight of his first nine starts, including a solo fifth at The American Express. But since then, he’s struggled a bit. In his last five stroke-play events, Montgomery has missed the weekend twice, and his highest finish in the three cuts he did make was a tie for 31st at Torrey Pines.

However, the 28-year-old went 2-1 in the group stage at the WGC-Match Play, those two victories coming against a pair of major champions in Jordan Spieth and Shane Lowry. But following a third-round loss to Mackenzie Hughes, Montgomery then lost a sudden-death playoff to Hughes after making a monumental mistake off the tee on the first extra hole, ending any shot he had to get into the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking, which would have earned him his first trip to The Masters.

Now, the world’s 58th-ranked player must win the Valero Texas Open to punch his ticket to Augusta, and I genuinely think he’s up to the challenge.

Biggest sleeper

Jack Dougherty: Andrew Putnam

Before the WGC Match Play last week, Putnam had missed four cuts in his last five starts. He started to show some signs of life, though, at Austin Country Club by going 3-0-0 in a group that featured Will Zalatoris, Ryan Fox, and Harris English.

There were some signs of life from Putnam’s ball-striking last week, and the way he’s been rolling the rock this season, he’s a real threat to win at Valero with little top-tier talent in the field.

Luke Norris: Nick Taylor

Nick Taylor has quietly put together a solid 2022-23 campaign. Since the season began last fall, the 34-year-old Canadian has jumped 230 spots in the world rankings and has recorded four top-10 finishes, including a solo second at the elevated event in Phoenix. Over the last three months, Taylor ranks fifth in total strokes gained of those in the field this week, trailing only Tyrrell Hatton, Chris Kirk, Rickie Fowler, and Si Woo Kim. Yeah, I’ll take a guy like that with nothing to lose and everything to gain at 60-1.

Most likely bust

Rickie Fowler hits a tee shot during the WGC Match Play.
Rickie Fowler plays his shot from the 17th tee during the World Golf Championships-Dell Technologies Match Play at Austin Country Club | Harry How/Getty Images

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Jack Dougherty: Rickie Fowler

Rickie Fowler is going to be a popular pick to win this week, and for a good reason. The 34-year-old needs to win the Valero Texas Open to punch his ticket to the Masters next week. If he comes up short, he won’t be invited to Augusta National Golf Club for the third year in a row.

Fowler is second on the odds board this week at +1800 to win, but I wouldn’t go near him at that price. First off, he hasn’t won a PGA Tour event since 2019. He’ll also be playing under tremendous pressure at TPC San Antonio with a last-minute Masters invite on the line. I don’t see a miracle happening this week.

Luke Norris: Tyrrell Hatton

Honestly, there’s no real reason for Tyrrell Hatton, who’s the highest-ranked player in the field and the betting favorite, to tee it up this week. He’s already gotten his Masters invite and was clearly having issues with his right hand at the WGC-Match Play, where he went 0-3. Perhaps he just wants to work a few things out before Augusta, but if that hand continues to give him trouble in the first or second round, don’t be surprised to see him withdraw.

Make-or-break hole

Jack Dougherty: No. 17

TPC San Antonio features the exact finish I would draw up if I ever design a golf course. That starts with the driveable par-4 17th, which measures 347 yards but will play at different lengths throughout the week. Players will face a tough decision on Sunday afternoon depending on where they are on the leaderboard.

Luke Norris: No. 18

A par 5 featuring water, sand, and a three-tiered green that could possibly decide whether or not someone goes to The Masters? Yes, please.