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With a win and playoff loss in the last three years, Rory McIlroy hasn't had many issues navigating …

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)

Stimpmeter: 11-11.5’

Rough: Bermudagrass over-seeded with ryegrass and fescue, playing at 2”

Bunkers: 58

Water Hazards: 3

Course Architect: Greg Norman (2009)

Purse: $6,200,000

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.

History Lessons

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.

Of Course

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.

Whoa.

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.

Don’t Overlook

Jeff Overton: He’s fourth on TOUR in total putting and only made seven bogeys last week in finishing T27 at SHO. He makes tons of pars and plays tough courses well.

Bob Estes: He’s made six cuts from seven starts and the Texas native racked up a T4 here last year. He also remarked on Twitter that he found something last week but I like him in tough conditions on a tough, Texas course. His short game will keep him in this.

Brendon de Jonge: The “machine” has already played 11 events this year and has made cuts in nine of them. He’s hit the top 11 in two of his last four, including a T10 last week at SHO after posting the second-best round of the day, 66, on Sunday. He’s ninth on TOUR in ball-striking and 10th in the all-around.

Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano: When we last saw the Spaniard he was racking up a T3 at API. That was his fourth top 10 in his last seven starts world-wide so he’s in excellent form heading towards Augusta.

Peter Hanson: He missed the API with a neck injury but showed it wasn’t a major deal as he was participating in the Tavistock Cup shortly afterwards. His short game is his calling card and he’ll need the wedge and flatstick working this week. He was the 54-hole leader at Augusta last year so this should be the time of year when he starts to warm.

Marcel Siem: He was the European Tour’s winner last weekend in Morocco. When he was holding the trophy last Sunday he probably thought that he was in the field for the Masters. Come early Monday morning, that wasn’t the case as he missed out at No. 51 after Henrik Stenson’s big finish at SHO. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, hot golf anywhere is hot golf and he played very well to win easily last weekend.

Robert Streb: A very solid ball-striker and putter, Streb quietly fired 68 on Sunday at SHO to jump into the top 25. I like guys who finish well to springboard the following week so I like Streb.

K.J. Choi: If you’re looking for an experienced flier this week, Choi could fit that bill.  He’s lived in Texas long enough to figure out the wind, plus his short game is excellent and that can’t possibly hurt this week either. The downside is his game has been uneven for the last 15 months.

Jordan Spieth: No point in abandoning him after one down week! His worst round of the year was 74 last week on Saturday yet he rebounded with 69 on Sunday. His ball-striking has been excellent to start and this Texas native will enjoy it if the winds pick up this weekend. He was T41 here last year.

Bud Cauley: The sophomore slump looks like it might be breaking up after his rounds of 68 and 65 at SHO last week for a T16. Cauley was cruising along here last year until a Saturday 77 derailed his chances for his first win and he settled for T18. I’ll take his form in general over his putting numbers. Don’t look them up.

Off the Beaten Path

Either “horse-for-course” or guys off the radar

Charlie Wi: He’s made seven of eight cuts to start 2013 and loves the AT&T Oaks Course. He posted T4 here last year and T17 in 2010 in his only two appearances here. His short game is where he makes his money but his best finish this season is only T16. Horse-for-course.

Hunter Haas: He’s played five straight weeks but last week was his first on the big TOUR this season. The Texan will be looking to extend his streak of excellent performances in San Antonio again this week. In 2011 he was T15 and last year he used bookends 66-67 to finish T8. Long, calculated shot this week.

Kevin Chappell: Known for his play in U.S. Open’s, Chappell obviously likes difficult courses. His T2 here in 2011 reinforces that and his form last week at SHO (T6) is a nice confluence.  He MC six of nine this year so might as well get on at the hottest point!

James Driscoll: After hitting three in a row, Driscoll barely missed the cut last week in Houston. He returns to San Antonio where he was T9 in 2010 and T51 in 2011.

Ben Curtis: He MC at Houston last year and yet won here. He MC at Houston again this year.  There are worse options to have in a deep draft than the defending champion.

Ben Kohles: Have putter, will travel. He MC last week for the first time in five starts so I would expect him to jump right back on this week.

Riding Off Into the Sunset

Guys I’m leaving alone this week, also known as the “winner’s” section…

Joe Ogilvie: He’s 0-fer on the season and T71, MC, and MC here. WE HAVE FOUND THIS WEEK’S WINNER!

Colt Knost: In nine events this season he’s finished better than T63 once. He was MC last year and +19 in 2011. RUNNER-UP.

Tommy Gainey: “Two Gloves” blows hot and cold and right now he’s in the middle of a COLD spell. He’s made one cut in 9 and he finished T57. He was 77-79 last week and 80-84 here last year. Yikes.

Rookie of the Week Last Week

I keep an eye on the youngin’s each week to see who is making the most noise.

Sony: Russell Henley WIN

Humana: David Lingmerth P2

Farmers: Brad Fritsch T9

WMPO: James Hahn T16

AT&T: James Hahn T3

NTO: Luke Guthrie T21

WGC-Match Play: Russell Henley 2nd round

Honda: Luke Guthrie 3rd

WGC-Cadillac: Russell Henley T28

Puerto Rico: Jordan Spieth 2nd

Tampa Bay: Jordan Spieth T7; Shawn Stefani T7; Ben Kohles T7

Arnold Palmer: Ben Kohles T14

Shell Houston Open: Robert Streb T22

One-and-Done

SEASON TOTAL: $2,065,030

HTOC: Steve Stricker (2nd; $665,000)

Sony: Charles Howell III (T3; $324,800)

Humana: Tim Clark (MC)

Farmers: Rickie Fowler (T6; $204,350)

WMPO: Jason Dufner (MC)

AT&T Pebble: Hunter Mahan (T16; $94,250)

Northern Trust: Bill Haas (T3; $343,200)

WGC-Match Play: Charl Schwartzel (T33; $46,000)

Honda: Lee Westwood (T9; $156,000)

WGC-Cadillac Championship: Matt Kuchar (T35; $68,500)

Tampa Bay: Jim Furyk (T7; $148,892)

Bay Hill: Sergio Garcia (WD after three rounds)

Shell Houston: Jimmy Walker (T50; $14,838)

Valero: Cameron Tringale

GolfChannel.com Fantasy Challenge

Valero Texas Open

(I play as “Glass” for all fantasy games)

Mike Glasscott (Rank: 9,747; $7,145,611)

Group 1: Matt Kuchar

Group 2: Cameron Tringale

Group 3: Jordan Spieth

Group 4: Hunter Haas

Ryan O’Sullivan (Rank: 15,313; $6,236,231)

Group 1: Rory McIlroy

Group 2: Freddie Jacobson

Group 3: Charley Hoffman

Group 4: D.J. Trahan


Ned Brown (Rank: 5,207; $8,133,848) “Pure Spin”

Group 1: Matt Kuchar

Group 2: Freddie Jacobson

Group 3: Brendan Steele

Group 4: Vaughn Taylor

Rob Bolton (Rank: 12,182; $6,733,097)

Group 1: Matt Kuchar

Group 2: Freddie Jacobson

Group 3: Brendan Steele

Group 4: Vaughn Taylor

Kraft Nabisco Championship

Ryan

Group 1: Na Yeon Choi

Group 2: Pornanong Phatlum

Group 3: Moriya Jutanugarn

Group 4: Thidapa Suwannapura

Glass

Group 1: Stacy Lewis

Group 2: Lexi Thompson

Group 3: Karrie Webb

Group 4: Mo Martin

Rob

Group 1: Stacy Lewis

Group 2: Angela Stanford

Group 3: Karrie Webb

Group 4: Amy Yang

Ned

Group 1: Stacy Lewis

Group 2: Angela Stanford

Group 3: Karrie Webb

Group 4: Amy Yang

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. Ned also provides us with his GolfChannel.com Fantasy Challenge selections as well!

GROUP A

Rory McIlroy-- He felt he needed extra work before the Masters, so he is a late addition to the VTO field. McIlroy showed enough good things last week at the SHO that I think he is a strong play this week.

Chris Kirk-- After taking McIlroy, I want a player that will make the cut and Kirk fits the bill, with only one missed cut in eight starts this season. Kirk WD Monday night; please use a “Super Sub” here, just like Ned would!

SUPER SUBS

Brendon de Jonge, Padraig Harrington

GROUP B

Fredrick Jacobson-- He has been playing well and he loves the VTO with a T5 in '09, a second place in '10, a T5 in '11 and a T18 last year.

Matt Kuchar-- Kuchar was super impressive at the Match Play and in his last event at Tampa, he looked good on the way to a T14 result.

Cameron Tringale-- He has played well over the last month and I like his recent record at the VTO of a T5 in '11 and a T8 last year.

Jim Furyk-- I think this spot is a real tossup between Furyk and Jimmy Walker. I'm going with Furyk because Walker has missed the cut here the last two years.

SUPER SUBS

Jimmy Walker, Charlie Hoffman, Peter Hanson, Bud Cauley

GROUP C

Charl Schwartzel- Normally you wouldn't see him playng the VTO, but he is trying to get some work in before the Masters. He is playing well right now and is almost a must use this week.

Brendan Steele- He's playing so-so golf right now, but he is a horse for the course with a T4 last year and a championship in '11.

SUPER SUBS

Ian Poulter, Justin Leonard, Jordan Spieth, John Huh

“Pure Spin”

Points last week: 223

Points this year: 2,109

Overall Ranking: 234 (99th percentile)

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 ET. We 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.

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