Golf Preview – Valero Open and Shenzhen International

Two big tournaments on the horizon this week with the Valero Open in Texas and the Shenzhen International in China.

The PGA Tour bandwagon rolls into San Antonio to host a tournament which is nearly 100 years old.

The TPC San Antonio is the host for the Valero Open. The most famous hole here is the 16th, which is one of very few in the world which boasts a bunker in the middle of the green.

The defending champion is the in-form Charley Hoffman, who played so well at the recent Masters and he will be teeing off as one of the favourites for the tournament along with 2015 winner Jimmy Walker.

Matt Kuchar and Ryan Moore both enjoyed themselves at Augusta, and they too are amongst the fancied starters in San Antonio as five of the world’s top 25 will be in action here – indeed the highest ranked player is likely to get the biggest cheers too as world number 15 Patrick Reed is a San Antonio native.

There is British interest too with Luke Donald – who played so well at Harbour Town last week and Scotland’s Martin Laird – who is a previous winner here in 2013. Ian Poulter will also be looking to recapture some form.

The European Tour makes the move from Africa to Asia with China hosting the Shenzhen International for a third year at the Genzon Golf Club.

Since beginning of this tournament in 2015 – it has always gone to an Asian player with Thailand’s Kiradech Aphibarnrat winning the inaugural event and South Korea’s Lee Soo-min claiming the win last season.

Both are again in the field again this year with the big name being American star Bubba Watson – who has played in this event since its inception.

“It’s always fun coming back here to Shenzhen and seeing different cultures but also testing yourself against other people you normally don’t play with,” said Watson.

“My putting is coming around, my ball striking has been better. You know, its golf, so if you look at old scores you always think you can do better but I know I’m on the right path with what we are working on, so I’m looking forward to getting out there.”

Whilst Watson is amongst the fancied starters, in-form Englishman Tommy Fleetwood will begin the first day as favourite. Ross Fisher – who showed some good form at the Masters – is also making his return to the European Tour and is amongst the favourites too.

The pro’s point of view…

Our resident golf expert is Cliff Jackson. Cliff is a leading youth coach and PGA professional at the famed Seaton Carew Links – one of the oldest courses in the world.

I can see some British success in China with Tommy Fleetwood and James Morrison my two picks for that one.

In Texas I would look at a home player and surely Matt Kuchar is due win one very soon.

The Bookie says…

We caught up with Ladbrokes’ senior golf trader Peter D’Arcy ahead of the weekend’s action to gauge the markets and ask him about our fancies.

Charley Hoffman is favourite but the short price appears to be putting people off backing him at the moment.

The challenge from abroad has been quite weak in this the tournament since it moved in the schedule to after the Masters and no longer offering up either practice or a possible last route in to Augusta. In the last two years Brandon Grace is the only non American to break in to the top ten.

For me in this one I like big-hitting Luke List who is only behind Rory and DJ on the Driving distance average statistics this year.

In China – like with Hoffman, Bubba Watson has been friendless in the market. Punters are seeing this as one of his paid holidays beyond the shores of the states.

Excluding the WGCs the last four Chinese tournaments on the European Tour have been won by Asian players, however I reckon Tommy Fleetwood will stop that trend as he continues his excellent start to the year on a course where he has finished in the top 3 on two of his three starts.

We say…’s Graeme Bailey brings you his golfing opinion

In China I think we could see Victor Dubuiosson return to form and Dutchman Joost Luiten could also be one to watch – although Tommy Fleetwood is surely the one to beat.

I think that Martin Laird could have a good run at the Texas Open and also believe that Charley Hoffman could go close to back-to-back wins.

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