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At Royal Liverpool this week, Phil Mickelson looks to join Old Tom Morris as the only players in their …

Valero Texas Open

TPC San Antonio

Oaks Course

San Antonio, Texas


TPC San Antonio

Oaks Course

Yards: 7,435 per the scorecard

Par: 72 (36-36)

Greens: Bermudagass over-seeded with Velvet Bentgrass and Poa trivialis; 6,400 square feet on average

Rough: Bermudagrass and ryegrass at 2”; Native wild grasses are also in play.

Stimpmeter: 11-11.5’

Water Hazards: 3

Bunkers: 58

Course Architect: Greg Norman (2009)

Purse: $6,200,000

Winner’s Share: $1,116,000

FexExCup Points: 500 to the winner

Defending Champion: Martin Laird fired a bogey-free, course record 63 on Sunday to defeat Rory McIlroy by two shots.

Dates:  March 27-30

Format: Stroke play

Notes: As of Monday afternoon just 10 of the top 50 players in the OWGR rankings are entered this week.

Recent History Lessons

After winning 31 of 40 tournaments in 2013, the USA has now won the first 17 of 19 events of 2013-14. Harris English, Jimmy Walker (THREE), Webb Simpson, Ryan Moore, Dustin Johnson, Chris Kirk, Zach Johnson, Patrick Reed (TWO), Scott Stallings, Kevin Stadler, Bubba Watson, Russell Henley, Chesson Hadley and Matt Every have collected the hardware this year for the stars and stripes. John Senden joined Jason Day last week as only Australia is representing the rest of the world.

Matt Every joins Jimmy Walker, Kevin Stadler and Chesson Hadley as the first-time winners this season. There were 12, first-timers in 40 events last year.  Sadly for gamers, Every withdrew on Monday morning.

Walker (three wins) and Patrick Reed (two) are the only two players on TOUR with multiple victories this season.

Young Guns versus Prime Time versus Old Guys

Jimmy Walker (34) started the season out on the right foot for the Prime Time guys and has since added two more wins to lead the FedExCup standings. He has been joined by Ryan Moore (30) in Malaysia, Zach Johnson (37) at Kapalua, Kevin Stadler (33), at WMPO and Bubba Watson (35), joined them at Riviera. Matt Every turned 30 last December so he has been “bumped” up to the Prime Time crew. They sit just one victory behind the Young Guns for bragging rights.

Scott Stallings (28), Patrick Reed TWICE (23), Chris Kirk (28), Webb Simpson (28), Dustin Johnson (29), Harris English (24), Jason Day (26) and Russell Henley (24) are the twenty-somethings on the board. That’s nine wins from 19 events this year from the up-and-comers!

The Old Guys couldn’t fire up after seeing John Senden’s victory at Tampa. The man that time forgot, Vijay Singh, 52, found time to rattle off a T20 last week to pace the old folks. #ballstriker

Pay Attention: It’s FREE

This tournament reeks of history as it’s the longest running tournament held in the same city, San Antonio, on TOUR.

This is the third oldest event on TOUR as the first event was held in 1922.

Please remember that TPC San Antonio was made the host course in 2010 after its completion in 2009. Any “horse-for-course” history should come from a course that’s no longer in play.

Past Champions

2010 Adam Scott 274 (-14)

2011 Brendan Steele 280 (-8)

2012 Ben Curtis 279 (-9)

2013 Martin Laird 274 (-14)

Adam Scott is not in the field this week.

Martin Laird (2013, round 4) and Matt Every (2012, round 1) share the course record with 63.

Laird and Scott share the tournament record here on 14-under-par, 274.

Only Brendan Steele has broken his maiden on this track. It remains his only victory on TOUR.

Scott, Steele and Curtis all won on their first rodeo around the Oaks Course. Yes, this was their first rodeo.

Last year, this event was held the week before the Masters because of a conflict with the Easter holiday. This year, the Shell Houston Open resumes its position as the tune up for the Masters.

Only four players over the years have defended their title at this event. None of them repeated on TPC San Antonio.

Inside the Ropes

Here’s where the Valero Texas Open has ranked, relative to par, since moving to TPC San Antonio:

2013: 15th-most difficult; +.740 above par

2012: fourth-most difficult; +1.989 (hardest par 72, non-major on TOUR)

2011: seventh-most difficult; +1.665 (hardest par 72 on TOUR)

2010: 17th-most difficult; +.353

For the FIFTH week in a row, the TOUR stops at another difficult track as the best players in the world take their fifth look at TPC San Antonio Oaks Course. Opened in 2009 and available for play in 2010, the Oaks Course was collaboration between designer Greg Norman and current player Sergio Garcia. As shown above, this has routinely checked in as one of the most difficult tracks on TOUR.

Even though San Antonio is considered Hill Country the Oaks Course is rather flat. Only 100 feet separates the highest and lowest points on the layout. The difficulty in this course is multiple: Tree-lined fairways force players to keep the ball in play or pay the price in native areas. The bunkering is far from the pristine white sands of Florida as the traps are more natural and rugged. It’s weird seeing bunkers that are actually penal! Finally, anytime that golf is played in Texas, the wind will be an issue. The Oaks Course is designed with prevailing winds in mind but if the weather doesn’t cooperate, the longer hitters will be favorites. Norman did leave some space for the non-bomber as most all holes are not forced carry and the short, accurate hitter is rewarded for hitting fairways and greens.

As we have seen by former winners, length and power never hurts but Ben Curtis, John Huh and Matt Every don’t exactly scream LONG HITTERS and they have also had successes here. The formula this week is quite simple and quite similar to last week: Eliminate big numbers and take advantage of the par fives. John Huh only made ONE bogey in his final three rounds here in 2012 so there are definitely multiple ways to attack this track.

The Chalk

The players who should be atop the leaderboard come Sunday sunset; Yahoo! group in ( )

Jordan Spieth (B): The Texan has the most top fives on TOUR since the beginning of 2013 and his game has translated on every style of course possible. He was in Austin this week hanging with Ben Crenshaw so he should be in a great place mentally. The wind, if it blows, shouldn’t bother him and his game is not filled with many weaknesses. This will be his third adventure in Hill Country so he should have a handle on what’s necessary to win around these here parts.

Matt Kuchar (A): His T38 was his first finish outside of the top 10 in eight events on TOUR. He’s made just about every cut in regular tournaments over the last four years and he can work his golf ball on just about every track. He’ll keep it out of trouble and know when to attack and hold back plus his short game is a great bonus. #metronome

Phil Mickelson (A): Last year Mickelson added the FedEx St Jude Classic to tune up for the U.S. Open and finished T2 so beware the power of positive thinking. Also be aware that he’s found the 60s in just four of 16 rounds in 2014. I’m playing the form is temporary, class is permanent angle here. I don’t see him wasting his time with the Masters right around the corner.

Jim Furyk (B): Last year was the first time he laid eyes on the place and he put all four rounds under par, including three in the 60s. He’ll be rewarded for hitting most fairways and if his iron game is normal, he’ll be contending. His patience and will to grind always makes him a name to circle on difficult courses.

Ryan Palmer (C): With five starts in 2014, Palmer has found the top 10 three times including a solo second and a P2. He’s third in the all-around and is coming off that P2 his last time out at Honda so he should be flying. He’s 11th in ball-striking and 18th in total putting. He’s finished T9, MC, T32 and T15 in four starts on this track.

Jimmy Walker (C): The San Antonio resident is leading the FedExCup standings and has already racked up three wins. He played at his home course’s Match Play last week (off a +10 according to his wife via Twitter) to prep for a tournament where he’s struggled a bit since his T3 in 2010. With those wins already under his belt, I expect a big performance for the home town crowd which should be quite large this week. He is a birdie machine with a hot putter so if he can keep it in the fairway, look out!

Zach Johnson (B): With two wins under his hat already in San Antonio, ZJ should be comfortable in Hill Country even though he earned those on a different course. Johnson loves playing golf in Texas as he’s also won twice at Colonial. He’s another player who’ll be attacking most greens from the middle of the fairway.

Charley Hoffman (C): He was off for almost a month and jumped right back in with T25 at Valspar that could have been better except for a Sunday 76. He’s knocked the rust off and returns to a course where he’s flat-out dominated with finishes of T13, T2, T13 and T3 in the four events held on the Oaks Course. Only two of his 16 rounds are worse than par so it’s quite obvious that this course fits his eye.

Jason Kokrak (B): His T41 is his only finish outside of the top 20 in eight weekends in 2014. Kokrak was also front and center last week as he saw Matt Every break his maiden and should have picked up some pointers during his final round at API. He’s plenty long but has a well-balanced game that has seen him cash T14 (Innisbrook) and solo fourth (Bay Hill) in his last two outings. #enfuego but is still looking for his first win on TOUR.

Kevin Chappell (C): Speaking of maiden breakers, the UCLA product has proven his worth on difficult courses as he’s posted two top 10s in two of the last three U.S. Opens. He also was second at the Memorial last year on another difficult par 72. He likes the Oaks Course as he was T2 in 2011 and T15 last season.

Freddie Jacobson (B): The Junk Man has been just that in his last three tournaments in the final round as he’s carded 71, 73 and 73. The good news for gamers is those rounds resulted in finishes of T12 (Honda), T20 (Valspar) and T10 last week at Bay Hill. Those aren’t easy courses and those are three very solid results. Freddie Yach loves him some Oaks Course as well as he was second to Adam Scott in 2010, T5 in 2011, T18 in 2012 and T15 last year. Only three of his rounds have been over par. The confluence excellent form and course history is what gamers drool over. That, and his putter and short game!

Martin Laird (B): The first of the former champions playing this week has to be accounted for because he’s played seven weekends in a row and his eye fits this track. His bogey-free 63 to close last year is worth a place on this list alone. He’s seventh in total driving and he takes advantage of the par fives.  He won’t be on my OAD list because I’ve burned him already at Kapalua. Remember, he had a month off before finishing DFL at API last week. #rustynail

Brendan Steele (C): The 2011 champ backed up that performance with T4 in 2012 and was T41 last year. He’s currently 22nd in the all-around ranking and third in total driving. He should be right at home again this week and should be looked at in most formats.

Form Players

Ryo Ishikawa (C): He’s starting to boil and he’s been torturing par fours and par fives this season. His confidence has come from his health and he’s starting to fire on all cylinders that we all expected from him the last few years. After MC at Honda, he’s posted T19 (PRO), T25 (Valspar) and opened with 65 en route to T8 at Bay Hill last week. #konnichiwa

Camilo Villegas (C): His bogey-free 67 on Sunday at Bay Hill moved him up 38 spots to T20 and his best finish of the season. He’s made nine of 11 cuts, including five of his last six.

Chesson Hadley (C): He was nine holes from being in the Chalk this week but an inward 42 on Sunday at API knocked him out of the top five to T26. #growingpains. In his last three he’s won, T14 and T26 last week. #form

Seung-Yul Noh (C): Make it 10 cuts on the bounce for Noh as he keeps pushing along to his breakthrough. He’s two-for-two here with T13 and T46 the last two years.

Brooks Koepka (C): He’s cashing in his final sponsor’s exemption for the season. #pressuregolf.

Russell Knox (C): He’s 15th in the all-around ranking and has P2 to show on another difficult course at Honda.

Scott Langley (C): After closing with 65 at PRO to finish T19, he parlayed that into four rounds of par or better in his solo third the following week in Tampa. #giddyup

Jeff Maggert (C): He won his debut on the Champions Tour last week in Mississippi. Deep flier.

Horses for Courses:

Ernie Els (B): On a course where driving in it the fairway and hitting greens is a premium, it’s hard to overlook a legend like Els. He’s played here once and was T3. In thin field, he can make plenty of sense this week in certain games.

Pat Perez (C): After a T22 in the first event here Perez backed that up with T5 in 2011. Perez destroys par fives and most gamers will be looking away from him after three straight of events T44 or worse. Perez has made the cut in 10 in a row as well.

K.J. Choi (C): His 68 on Sunday was lost last year as Laird’s 63 stole the show but that was his second round of 68 or better (67 on Friday) of the week. This will be his third event in a row at the Oaks Course.

Brian Harman (B): In two trips to Hill Country, he’s turned in cards that saw him finish T18 and T22 last year.

Martin Flores (B): Trending perfectly on this track with finishes of T51, T24 and T10 last season.

Cameron Tringale (C): His 77-69 was a game rally that fell just short of the weekend. He had previous finishes of T28, T5 and T8 so I’m expecting another big performance this week as well as he’s played 11 of 14 rounds at par or better here.

Aaron Baddeley (C): In two starts he’s finished T3 (2010) and T15 last season. Both of those tournaments included OVER par first rounds and three closing rounds ALL under par! If he gets a decent start…

J.B. Holmes (C): His T13 and T11 in the first two starts at the Oaks Course. He’s also coming off his first top 10 last week since SHO in 2012.

Fade Players:

Kevin Na (C): Well, after finishing T14 last week after his T2 at Valspar the week before, gamers are asking why he’s now a fade. I believe that his last two weeks of slow play chatter and heckling combined with his course form at Valero makes me shy away. In three rounds he’s fired 80-77-79 in the last two times out. I haven’t even brought up his 16 yet.

John Rollins (B): He’s missed his only three times teeing it up here and he’s missed six of eight cuts in 2014. Just because he lives in Texas doesn’t mean he has to be in your lineup this week.

Will MacKenzie (C): He’s had a great run. I’ll let those late to the party jump on now.

The Man with His Own Section

Billy Horschel (B): After playing his previous seven rounds at the Oaks Course 74 or worse, Horschel righted the ship last year and fired all four rounds under par to finish T3. It was SHO and VTO last year where Horschel broke out and began a run of three top 10s in a row which led to a fourth, his first win, in New Orleans in late April. If he’s going to get warmed up, I could see him finding form this week as he looks for his first top 25 since the end of January. Toss in a dash of motivation from former Gator Matt Every in winning last week and I expect to the “old” Horschel this week.

Jordan Spieth of the Week Last Week

The column was taken over and thrashed by the kid from Texas last year. Out of respect, I’m not changing the title of it for 2013-14. It will remind me just how good Spieth was in the last three months of the season. This year, we’ll still identify an up-and-coming player and/or rookie that fantasy players should have on their radar.

Frys.com: Hideki Matsuyama, T3; Brooks Koepka, T3; Max Homa, T9.

SHCO: Ryo Ishikawa is only 22, don’t forget, T2; Chesson Hadley, T5.

CIMB: Kiradech Aphibarnrat, 24, might have enough money after this week to earn Special Temporary Membership. Pay attention!

WGC-HSBC: Jordan Spieth was 17th. Tommy Fleetwood (T18) is only 22 and plays in Europe. Matsuyama WD with a bad back.

McGladrey: Scott Langley turned 24 last April and is in his second season on TOUR. He finished T22 last week and No. 124 last season. #slimpickinngsthisweek

OHL Mayakoba: Harris English turned 24 last July. He won.

HTOC:  Er, Jordan Spieth, solo second.

Sony: Hudson Swafford and Will Wilcox both finished T8. Both played on the Web.com Tour last year and are rookies on TOUR this season.

Humana: Patrick Reed won. He’s 23. You need to pay attention.

FIO: Ryo Ishikawa, 22, bagged another top 10 finish. That’s his sixth in his last 10 events on TOUR or the Web.com Tour. He’s an alternate this week as of Monday afternoon.

WMPO: Hideki Matsuyama is 21. In 11 events the last two years, he’s hit the top 25 in NINE of them, including T4 last week. #ALLRIGHTYTHEN

Pebble Beach: Er, Jordan Spieth, T4. Patrick Reed, 23, finished T13 and he’s won twice since August. Golf is good hands, again.

Riviera: Harris English won’t be 25 until July. He was T10; Spieth was T12.

WGC-Match Play: Victor Dubuisson is 23 and was second. Jordan Spieth was T5. #youthmovement

Honda: Russell Henley is now the fourth player on TOUR under 25 with two wins. He joins Patrick Reed, Harris English and Rory McIlroy in this very elite club of pups.

WGC-CC: Patrick Reed is 23. He’s now won three times in eight months on TOUR.

Puerto Rico Open: Rookie Chesson Hadley, 26, took home his first title on the big boy circuit.

Valspar: Chesson Hadley backed up his first win with T14 on a tough, tough Copperhead Course. Scott Langley, a second year player from Illinois (see above) was third.

API: The young Japanese lad Ishikawa racked up another top 10 (T8) this week. Yep, he’s still just 22.

 

 

Coming Later TUESDAY Afternoon

 

A brand new column, Playing the Tips, will be up and running this and every Tuesday afternoon that will list all of the Rotoworld experts picks in the GolfChannel.com game, the Yahoo! Fantasy Golf game and my One-and-Done feature. Look for it around 5 ET every Tuesday for the rest of the season.

Coming Wednesday

 

And the analysis doesn't end here. Rotoworld's Rob Bolton and I will be co-hosting a one-hour live chat Wednesday at NOON p.m. ET. We will be breaking down the field at the VTO and answering your questions. Simply return to the golf home page to join in on the chatter.

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