Valero Texas Open
JW Marriott TPC San Antonio
AT&T Oaks Course
San Antonio, Texas
AT&T Oaks Course
Yards: 7,435 per the scorecard
Par: 72 (36-36)
Greens: Bermudagrass over-seeded with Velvet bentgrass and Poa trivialis (6,400 square feet on average)
Rough: Bermudagrass over-seeded with ryegrass and fescue, playing at 2”
Water Hazards: 3
Course Architect: Greg Norman (2009)
Winner’s Share: $1,116,000
FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner
Defending Champion: Ben Curtis won for the first time in six years as he held off Matt Every and then rookie John Huh by two shots for his fourth title on TOUR.
Dates: April 4-7
Notes: This is the last chance for a player to WIN their way into the 2013 Masters.
The Valero Texas Open is one of the longest running events in the WORLD, let alone the TOUR, but it’s important to note that this course has been the venue only since 2010. Any historical course data that you look at this week will not matter if it is before 2010.
The first Valero Texas Open was held in 1922. That will win you a bet.
Since moving to TPC San Anotonio in 2010, the winners have been Adam Scott, Brendan Steele and Ben Curtis. Scott is not in the field this week.
Steele’s victory here was his first and last on TOUR.
Americans have won all 14 events on TOUR this season. It’s their best collective start since 1982 when they won the first 14 events to open the season.
The winners on TOUR have been Johnson (28), Henley (24), Gay (41), Woods THRICE (37), Mickelson (42), Snedeker (32), Merrick (30) Kuchar (34),Thompson, M (27) Brown (29), Streelman (34) and now Points (36). The young folks (30 and younger) have five victories; the 30-somethings now have seven victories, and the “old folks” (40 and up) have their two wins. Last week’s “great hope” for the Old folks was Phil Mickelson checking in at T16.
Rank and File
According to the OWGR, just 11 of the top 50 are entered this week.
The Valero Texas Open will take its place on the calendar next year BEFORE the Shell Houston Open. The weeks were switched this year due to the Easter Holiday. Last year, this tournament was two weeks AFTER the Masters.
Greg Norman and his crew are now in charge of managing and running everything associated with this tournament. The AT&T Oaks Course ranked No. 17 most difficult in 2010, No. 7 in 2011 and No. 4 last year.
It seems like the wind always blows in Hill Country this time of year and that has been the case the last two editions of this event. The course plays long and difficult without the wind as most of the fairways are tight and the bunkers aren’t exactly white, sand beaches. This will be a grinder’s paradise this week and players who get up-and-down, make pars and keep the golf ball on the straight and narrow should flourish. With Ben Curtis winning here last year, it show that you don’t need a long-ball hitter to guarantee success here. Heck, Bob Estes was T4 as well last year.
Guys who are excellent ball-strikers won’t hurt you this week; neither will premium putters who can navigate the tilted, sloped greens. Since this course has only hosted three tournaments, I’m not sure how much course knowledge can be attained so rookies shouldn’t be dismissed this week either. The course, now under Greg Norman’s watchful eye, has limited the rough this year so that should help. John Huh made one bogey here last year in the final three rounds. One bogey. Guys will try to overpower this course and other guys will gladly hit all the fairways and greens. Interestingly enough, this will be the first time that this tournament will be held immediately before the Masters.
Let’s see who I think will eventually come good.
Top 10, Plus One TWO
Matt Kuchar: He saw this course last year for the first time and racked up a T13 so he’ll have an advantage over some of the players showing up here this year for the first time. Kuchar’s short game has been shining so far in 2013 and it’s led him to 11 cuts on the bounce. If there’s anything to be concerned about, it would be his tee ball and irons but his short game has neutralized that. He’s hit five top 25s in seven starts.
Ian Poulter: Sure, it’s his first time playing here but Poulter has only played four times in the States so I would expect him to be peaking towards Augusta. He wasn’t going to win at Bay Hill last time out but his 75 in the final round should have left a bitter taste in his mouth. He’s banged home 19 straight cuts which only trails Billy Horschel’s 20 for most on TOUR. Poulter is excellent on courses where grinding is rewarded and this track fits the profile.
Cam Tringale: After taking two weeks off weeks off after The Honda Classic, Tringale has banged out a solo third, T27 and T16 last week at SHO. His all-around game is completely solid and his scrambling is eighth-best on TOUR this year. Tringale has shown over the last few years that he plays hot in patches and he went bogey free in half of his rounds last week. Tringale has also shown a penchant for killing the AT&T Oaks course as he’s posted only two rounds out of 12 OVER par here. He finished T8 last year, T5 in 2011 and was T28 in 2010. Excellent form combined with “horse-for-course” and this pick is a no-brainer.
Jim Furyk: The last two winners have done so in their first appearance in San Antonio at the AT&T Oaks course so this shouldn’t scare you off Jim Furyk this week. He’s shown us over the years that on courses where par means something, he should always be considered. His steady play, 10 cuts made in a row, trumps his T65 his last time out in Orlando.
Charl Schwartzel: The last two times he played a regular TOUR event before a WGC, he finished T3 at Riviera and T9 at Honda. I would look for him to continue this pattern this week as he prepares to go after his second green jacket in three years. He’s plenty long, can really roll it and he’s made 11 straight cuts. There’s not much downside here.
Freddie Jacobson: I like Jacobson this week because he’s playing with the house’s money after he qualified for the Masters after the final OWGR that came out Monday. He took last week off in hopes that he would secure his spot at Augusta and he did just that. He also loves the Oaks Course as he’s finished T18 last year, T5 in 2011 and second in 2010. He’s made the cut five times this season and each time he’s landed in the top 25. He’s a bit crooked off the tees and into the greens but once he gets near the putting surface his game, watch out! He likes to grind and this is a grinder’s course.
Billy Horschel: He’s made 20 cuts in a row. He’s been so very close to putting it all together. He remarked last week that he just bought a house and that he “found his ball-striking” again. Well, his down payment was taken care of last week at SHO! Let’s hope his ball-striking follows him over to San Antonio this week. He’s played one round of eight under-par here but the way he hit it last week doesn’t scare me off.
Jimmy Walker: The San Antonio resident has missed the cut the last two years here but under Butch Harmon’s tutelage, the bad rounds are few and far between or only when I pick him in one-and-done! He’s nine-for-nine this year and has three finishes in the top 10. The good news about his 78 last Saturday was the 68 he followed it with on Sunday.
Rory McIlroy: Oh yeah, him. Well, if D.A. Points can win, there’s no case to make that Rory can’t as well. He made plenty of putts last week but too many of them were for par. He would make a few birdies and make a few bogeys. Too many mental mistakes and he said after his final rounds he needs reps, plain and simple. I can’t leave him out because he literally can win any week no matter what.
Brendan Steele: The 2011 champion backed up that performance with a T4 last year so to say he’s a “horse-for-course” would be an understatement. He’s played some decent golf this year, making seven of eight cuts, but he really enjoys this course so I would expect his comfort level to be off the charts this year. Via his Twitter: @Brendan_Steele: Who's ready for the @valerotxopen? I know I am! #goodmemories
John Huh: He opened with 77 on Thursday last year and then went on to make one bogey in the final three rounds in finishing T2. Huh paints fairways and can roll the rock and that’s an excellent combo around these parts. He’s missed the cut in five of his last seven events but he was nine-under at API before a Sunday 80 blew him out of the top 10. He’s knocking.
Charley Hoffman: Hoffman tried to blow up last Sunday at SHO but three birdies in his last five holes helped him hold it together for a T20 finish after a double and a bogey. That’s a good sign moving forward this week to a guy who just kills this course. Hoffman excels in hitting fairways and greens and plenty of them. In three appearances here he’s finished T13, second and T13. That’s quite strong.