Valero Texas Open final-round preview: Masters prize is added incentive for Sunday shootout

A spot at Augusta National awaits the winner at TPC San Antonio but who will emerge from a bunched 54-hole leaderboard?

For the first time in nearly two years, a PGA Tour event has a four-way tie for the lead with a round to go.

That's a good storyline in itself but this week the intrigue is ramped up.

As well as the kudos of a PGA Tour win and a hefty first prize, the winner of the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio on Sunday will also book a place in next week's Masters field if not already qualified.

A check of the listings shows that 17 of the top 20 on the leaderboard have yet to punch their tickets to Augusta so there's every chance the winner this week will have a double celebration.

Those without a Masters invite include all four leaders: Brandt Snedeker, Beau Hossler, Dylan Frittelli and JJ Spaun.

It's a tough task but let's try and find out who looks best equipped to take the win on Sunday.

Brandt Snedeker -10 (73-66-67)

Snedeker started slowly this week but has really found his mojo. He ranks 1st for Strokes Gained: Tee To Green, 2nd in SG: Approach and, somewhat surprisingly, only 49th for SG: Putting. He's poured in 13 birdies over his last two rounds.

The nine-time PGA Tour winner is looking for a first top 10 in an individual strokeplay event since T6 in this very tournament last year.

Snedeker has been the 54-hole leader on the PGA Tour 11 times previously and converted four of those.

Beau Hossler -10 (73-66-67)

The Dallas resident has shot the exact same round scores as Snedeker so far and joined the lead with three birdies in his final five holes.

He'll be chasing a first PGA Tour win on Sunday (in his 130th start) so, by definition, has drawn blanks from being the 54-hole leader on three previous occasions.

Hossler, a sponsor's exemption this week, ranks 1st for SG: Putting (9.380) but is down at 65th for SG: Tee To Green (-2.669).

Dylan Frittelli -10 (70-66-70)

Frittelli was tied fifth in the 2020 Masters so would love to head back to an Augusta National layout where he's had success. He also has a special connection with this tournament.

That would mean a first PGA victory here and it's hard to know how he'll react as the South African has never entered a final round better than fifth in his PGA Tour career.

On the stats, his numbers are more balanced than Snedeker and Hossler. Frittelli is 5th SG: Tee To Green, 8th for Approach and 24th for Putting. He's also had just two bogeys this week (Rank 1st).

JJ Spaun -10 (67-70-69)

This is just Spaun's second 54-hole lead on the PGA Tour in 146 winless starts. In his first (2017 Shriners), he slipped back to 10th.

Spaun has never played in The Masters so will that act as inspiration or add to the pressure?

His stats look strong throughout: 7th Tee To Green, 13th Approach, 13th Off The Tee and 19th Putting.

Scott Stallings -9 (68-72-67)

Stallings is a three-time winner on the PGA Tour but hasn't tasted success since the 2014 Farmers Insurance Open.

In two of those three wins he was the chaser, coming from one back to win the Greenbrier Classic and three in arrears to triumph at Torrey Pines.

So far this week, he ranks 6th for SG: Putting and 27th Tee To Green.

Matt Kuchar -8 (67-69-72)

This is Kuchar's 500th PGA Tour start so securing a 10th PGA Tour title and a return to The Masters would be a fantastic way to celebrate it.

He's finished second, fourth and seventh in this event previously.

Kuchar had it to 11-under at one point but played the last 14 holes in 3-over. He ranks 6th for SG: Putting but just 44th Tee To Green.

The bunch at -7

There are no less than nine players tied for seventh place on 7-under, just three back.

Of that group, Si-Woo Kim and Gary Woodland are already in The Masters so does that mean they'll have slightly less pressure on them?

Another five players lurk at 6-under with Lucas Glover the only one already in the field for Augusta.

Conclusion

So who wins?

Seven of the last 10 winners at TPC San Antonio had a piece of the lead going into the final round so being out in front is the best place to be.

Let's use that info to narrow it down to the four leaders: Snedeker, Hossler, Frittelli and Spaun.

On a course where history says ball-striking is a more reliable pointer than putting, Snedeker's ranking of 1st in SG: Tee To Green and 2nd for Approach catches the eye.

He's also done well from this position before, converting four times.

A vastly experienced pro, the lure of a return to Augusta should be a help not a hindrance so he's the call at around 13/2.

READ MORE: Valero Texas Open Halfway Hut: Lone Star State experts thrive as Rory McIlroy misses cut

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