If you weren’t already aware, we’ve rolled out a pair of brand, spankin’ new features on the last two Fridays. On April 6, John McNamara’s declared his return to our coverage with “Long-Term 101, Volume One.” Then, on April 13, our newest hire, Ryan O’Sullvan, submitted his debut column, “Ryder Cup Update, Part 1.”
Both authors will submit new editions once a month. In the meantime, you can follow both on Twitter: Johnny Mac and RyanO. And remember that our Rob Bolton and GolfChannel.com’s Ryan Ballengee co-host a live fantasy chat every Wednesday at noon ET.
Inside the Ropes
Valero Texas Open
TPC San Antonio, San Antonio, TX
AT&T Oaks Course
Yards: 7,435 as per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Average green size: 6,400 square feet
Stimpmeter: 10.5-11 ft.
Water Hazards: 3
Course Architect: Pete Dye and Greg Norman (2009)
Notes: Bermudagrass with Poa trivialis greens; Bermudagrass fairways
Winner’s Share: $1,116,000 and 500 FedExCup Points
Defending Champion: Brendan Steele held off Kevin Chappell and Charley Hoffman by one stroke to claim his first career Tour victory.
Date: April 19-22
Notes: Gamers please note that this course has hosted the event only since 2010.
The Valero Texas Open is the sixth-oldest professional golf tournament in the world and the longest running tournament hosted in the same city.
Since 1970 only Brendan Steele (2011), Eric Axley (2006), Terry Diehl (1974) and Ben Crenshaw (1973) are the only rookies to win the Valero Texas Open.
Since 1970 there have been 10 players win the Valero Texas Open in their first start at the event: Brendan Steele (2011), Adam Scott (2010), Zach Johnson (2008), Eric Axley (2006), Ron Streck (1978), Hale Irwin (1977), Don January (1975), Terry Diehl (1974), Ben Crenshaw (1973) and Mike Hill (1972). Only Eric Axley and Brendan Steele are in the field this week.
In 2012 11 of the 16 winners (17 events) on Tour won when they were ranked in the top 50 OWGR (Mahan has two wins). Matt Kuchar, K.J. Choi and Fredrik Jacobson are the only three players this week inside the OWGR top 50.
In 17 tournaments this season the “Young versus Old” argument now stands at 9-6-2 as Carl Pettersson scores another point for the “middle”.
For the “young”, Johnson Wagner (31), Brandt Snedeker (31), Kyle Stanley (24) and Bill Haas (29), John Huh (21), Hunter Mahan TWICE (29), Rory McIlroy (22) and Justin Rose (31) lead the way for the Young guys.
Mark Wilson (37) is joined by George McNeill (36), Luke Donald (34), Tiger Woods (36), Bubba Watson (33) and now Carl Pettersson (34) in the “middle”.
Steve Stricker (44) and Phil Mickelson (41) are flying the flag for the “old” folks on Tour.
The internationals break up the American’s three-week string of victories with Pettersson’s victory last week. He’s now a U.S. citizen so I’m confused on which Ryder Cup he’s would play on come September.
Hunter Mahan (WGC-Match Play, SHO) is the only two-time winner on Tour in 2012.
So What? So Let’s Dance!
The best way to describe the Valero Texas Open is that it’s golf with a very Texas twist to it. Sure, we’ll have world-class golf, great players and a big purse at stake, but we’ve also got a course like you’ve never seen with rolling fairways, untamed roughs and rugged sand traps that will challenge even the greatest golfers. It’s almost like Greg Norman, Sergio Garcia and Mother Nature teamed up to create the perfect Texas Golf Course. Source: GCSAA
AT&T Oaks Course ranked 7th out of 51 courses on Tour as most difficult in 2011. Texas is known for its windy conditions and last year at Valero that was evidenced by the winning score being just eight-under par. Adam Scott won the inaugural event on this course at 14-under in 2010. History at this course is nice but there is only a two-year sample so I wouldn’t get wrapped up one way or another. This course is long and difficult if the wind blows. Big hitters and guys who can get it up and down this week will be on my radar. Oh, and guys who can putt. That seems to be a part of the winning formula each week and this week the greens are big, humpy and severely sloped so it will be even more important.
In the last two weeks on Tour we’ve learned a good training regiment consists of multiple beers and ice cream and that having swing coaches and gurus are not necessary to be successful. I have learned over the years that I am much better at drinking beer, eating ice cream and WATCHING golf than playing it. I feel as I’m not alone in this…
Is this the week where the young’uns break back into the winner circle? Will this week’s winner be the “modern” golfer or the “feel” player from days of yore? The best part of the Tour is the storyline changes every week and keeps us interested, right? Right!
Here we go!
Lone Stars in the Lone Star State
Five of them. One for each point on the star. Keep up, people!
Last year’s winner Brendan Steele received a pair of boots for winning here. He asked if he also got a horse. That’s a great line! I like this kid, but not that much this week.
Harris English: There. I did it. Poor kid has no chance now that I’ve rated him to win this week. He’s made the cut in eight of 10 starts in 2012 including T8 last week at T18 at SHO in his start before that. He’s eighth in driving distance so he’ll have no trouble bouncing it around the AT&T Oaks Course. He’s 14th in GIR. He’s 30th in strokes gained-putting. The rookie from Georgia has been killing par-fours and par-fives all year as well. He’s playing many courses this season for the first time so that’s not a big factor here. Plus, Georgia Bulldogs have been doing OK lately, right Bubba?
J.B. Holmes: After being CUT in two of the first three events of the season, Holmes has rallied to finish in the top 10 twice in his last five starts on Tour. This will be his first action since finishing T8 at SHO but his record the last two years at this course has been excellent, finishing T11 last year and T13 in 2010. Holmes can overpower most courses and his length off the tee can be a huge advantage as this course approaches 7,500 yards. It doesn’t hurt that he’s 30th in strokes gained-putting in 2012. It’s pretty cool that we’ve gone from talking about “routine off-season brain surgery” to contending on Tour with Holmes.
Charley Hoffman: I’m probably over-reaching here for Hoffman but with a light field this week, he’s worth the shot. His record in 2012 was spotty at best but his T8 finish last week combined with his love for San Antonio makes this a calculated gamble. In his six career outings in San Antonio, Hoffman has finished T2 (2011), T13, T9, T70, T11 and T8 in 2006. If he wins this week, will everyone on Tour start growing their hair out? I didn’t think so. It’s not like we’ve seen moustaches on every tee box after Johnson Wagner won, though I do give Rickie Fowler props for trying!
Matt Kuchar: The highest-ranked player in the field deserves merit this week as he’s been playing awfully well of late. Kuchar enters this week coming off a T44 at Harbour Town which was inflated by a final round 77. He began Sunday T14 but hit the bogey-train on the back nine. Before last week, Kuchar was T3 at the Masters, T10 at TC and T8 at WGC-CC at Doral. His superb driving and iron play (ball striking) will translate well on this course. It’s his hot-and-cold putter that has me guarded. This is his first appearance at AT&T Oaks Course.
Kevin Na: Na stole the show last year here after making 16 from the brush in round one on hole nine. Yes, 16. That’s not an error. Take that 12-over off his card and he was four-under-par for the day otherwise. He followed that up with 77 and was on his way out. The organizers have cut back some of the brush around the fairways to help prevent such a number in the future and Na was on hand to help chainsaw it down. In his last three starts on Tour, Na has finished T8 at RBC, T12 at the Masters and T4 at API. That’s hot. I’m staying with him. Plus, he got his revenge on the untamed wilds of the AT&T Oaks Course. Revenge makes everything better!
Ten Gallon Hats:
Since everything is bigger in Texas, I have added one more to this list to fit in.
Greg Chalmers: He’s made seven cuts in 10 appearances this year and is an excellent putter. His worst finish in seven cuts-made is T33. After taking three weeks off, the Colleyville, TX resident jumped right back into form with T20 last week at Harbour Town.
Bud Cauley: After being CUT at Honda, Cauley has followed with T16, T8, T4 and T37 last week. This kid has no fear, a great short game and he destroys par-fives. A rookie won here last year and Cauley could make it two in a row.
Kevin Stadler: Speaking of hot, Stadler has hit the top 25 in six of his nine starts in 2012 including three times in the top 10. He had the best finish of the weekend at Harbour Town with 67-68 last week. He ranks 41st in total putting which will come in handy this week at TPC San Antonio.
Fredrik Jacobson: I’m looking to Jacobson’s history here to offset his outing last week at Harbour Town. Yes, he made SIX double-bogeys last week but he was also T7 GIR so he wasn’t catastrophically awful! Jacobson has finished T5 and second in the last two years here so he fits the “horse for course” this week to a T.
Johnson Wagner: The man with the moustache originally from Amarillo has struggled his last two times out but anyone who putts as well as he does has a chance this week. After finishing T4 at API for his fourth top-10 finish of 2012, Wagner was quiet with a T29 at SHO and CUT at Augusta. He took last week off to re-charge the battery and was T15 in his only appearance at AT&T Oaks Course last year.
Boo Weekley: Since finishing T53 at API, Weekley has bounced back nicely with T14 at SHO and T6 last week at Harbour Town. Weekley’s putting problems have been well-documented but there is more than one way to skin a golf course. His driver and iron play will keep him in the tournament as long as he makes something this week. Last week, he was only 25th GIR and T28 putts per GIR and still finished T6.
Spencer Levin: After being CUT at API and WD at SHO, Levin looked like he needed a break from golf and he took one. He came back quietly last week and progressively scored better as the week continued 73-72-71-70. He finished the weekend under par and looks like he’s rejuvenated. His putter is what makes him money and it will need to be on full display this week. He’s currently 19th in strokes gained-putting in 2012. He was CUT last year but was T9 in 2010 so he knows his way around this place.
Jimmy Walker: Walker has made the cut in eight of 10 events this season and has amassed three-top 10’s in that time. The San Antonio resident finished T3 here in 2010 and was CUT last year. He’s coming back after a three-week break and should be ready to fire. He also played his college golf at Baylor and his familiar with the weather conditions in this part of the world (read: wind).
Cam Tringale: The youngster has had only two rounds over 75 this season and has made the cut in eight of 10 events. His best finishes are T4 at FIO and T8 last time out at SHO. He’s 10th in total driving and 53rd in total putting. That’s a nice combo around here. He also sits 63rd in scrambling. In two events here he’s was T5 last year and T25 in 2010.
Vaughn Taylor: Taylor has made six-straight cuts and has hit the top 25 in four of them. His best finish in this stretch was T13 last week at Harbour Town. If he hits greens, T18 GIR in 2012, this might be the pick of the lot.
Deep in the Heart of Texas:
Sometimes we have to dig deep to find some answers just like the oilman digs deep to find oil. Note: Henrik Stenson, the mayor of this column, is off this week. Check back next week to see if he gets re-elected.
Steve Flesch: I always give you one stretttttttttch pick a week and this week it’s Steve Flesch. The last time we saw Flesch on the weekend he was helping out with the Golf Channel pre-game show from the Masters. He’s been CUT all three times he’s played in 2012 but he’s finished T15 and eighth alone in his last two starts here. Please do some stretching before reaching for this “horse for course” pick this week. Please and thank you.
Brandt Jobe: The Dallas resident finished T15 here last year in his only time out on the new course. Jobe began 2012 with four-straight CUTS before hitting the weekend at Mayakoba for T60. T16, T9, CUT and T36 at SHO have been his last four results. Jobe has no problem with his length getting around here and he’s 50th GIR and 63rd strokes gained-putting. He’s also 21st in total putting.
Mark Anderson: Anderson has also gone quietly making his last six cuts in a row on Tour. He top 10 in par-five scoring and birdie-or-better conversion percentage. He finished T13 last week at Harbour Town, firing 69-68 on the weekend.
Colt Knost: Texas native? Check. Played well last week? Check. Complete form play? Check.
Chad Campbell: Another Texan who is moving in the right direction. In his last three outings he’s finished T42, T47 and T24 last week, hitting the top 25 for the first time in 2012.
In honor of Kevin Na’s 16 here last year, these are some players based on history and recent play that you might want to leave off this week.
K.J. Choi in his last four stroke-play events has finished CUT, T36, T46 and T35. I’ll wait for the correction.
John Huh: After winning at Mayakoba, Huh has finished T36, CUT, T73, T14 and CUT. I don’t like the streak he’s currently riding.
Ryan Moore: Here’s another interesting pick for you. Moore has as many 70th or worse finishes as he does top 20 finishes, three. He was playing great at SHO, 66 in round two, before completely losing the plot in the third round firing 85 to MDF. How’s that then? It’s his first time at this course. And there’s only 3 water hazards so he has that going for him, which is nice.
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: Valero Texas Open
Group 1: Kevin Na
Group 2: J.B. Holmes
Group 3: Harris English
Group 4: Steve Flesch
Ned said, “…
Ned Brown is a long-time contributor for Rotoworld Golf. He’s had documented success in Yahoo!’s game for years. Even if you’re confident in your selections for that game, give his insight a read. Now, Ned also provides us with his Golf Channel fantasy game selections as well!
Full Disclosure: I am NOT Ned! He’s smarter and better looking!
Matt Kuchar-- He is by far the class of this week's field. Kuchar had four consecutive top-10s going into last week, but he disappointed T44 at the Heritage. This will be his first start at the TPC San Antonio course.
J.B. Holmes-- Holmes had a slow start to the season after brain surgery, but he is regaining form and he looked good last week in a T8 finish at the Heritage. His record at the TPC San Antonio is good with a T13 in '10 and a T11 last year.
Kevin Na, K.J. Choi
Fredrick Jacobson-- Jacobson last week was on his way to a good finish, but he shot a final round of 10-over-par 81 and fell down the leaderboard into 67th place. I like him this week because of his strong record at TPC San Antonio of a second place in '10 and a T5 last year.
Charlie Hoffman-- Right now is the best form that Hoffman has had all season and he cashed in last week with a T8 at the Heritage. Hoffman also has a solid record at TPC San Antonio of a T13 in '10 and a T2 last year.
Jimmy Walker-- Walker has three top-10s this season and his only missed cut was at the start of the year. He did miss the cut last year at the Texas Open, but in '10 he played well in a tie for third place.
Kevin Streelman-- After taking a very save pick in Walker, I'm rolling the dice on Streelman. He has either missed the cut or played well in his last five starts on the TOUR.
I'm hoping that he can build on his T15 here last year.
Ryan Moore, Chris Stroud, John Rollins, Kevin Chappell, Marc Leishman
Johnson Wagner-- There are a lot of interesting ways to go in Group C this week. One of the safest is Johnson Wagner. He already has had a great year with a win, a second place and two other top-10s. Also, Wagner played well at last year's edition of the Texas Open and his T15 was his third best result for the season.
Cameron Tringale-- He collected his second top-10 of the season last time out when he tied for eighth place at the SHO. Tringale was in the hunt for the title at last year's Texas Open, but a final round of 1-over-par 73 dropped him down into a tie for fifth place.
Kevin Stadler, Harris English, Bud Cauley, Matt Every, Vaughn Taylor
Golf Channel Fantasy Challenge: Valero Texas Open (Ned’s Picks)
Group 1: Matt Kuchar
Group 2: J.B. Holmes
Group 3: Boo Weekley
Group 4: Matt Every
“And another thing…”
The analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat with GolfChannel.com's Ryan Ballengee on Wednesday at NOON. They will be breaking down the field at the Valero Texas Open and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.