Valero Texas Open: Can Rickie Fowler finally win again in time to secure Masters trip?

Rickie Fowler hasn't won in years, and is at risk of losing his PGA Tour card at the end of the season

Rickie Fowler
Rickie Fowler is a popular pick this week in Texas, where a win would earn him a last-second trip to Augusta National. (Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)

It’s almost time for the golf world to hit Augusta National.

Before the first major championship of the season, though, there’s one last stop at TPC San Antonio.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of this week’s Valero Texas Open.

Valero Texas Open Basics

March 30-April 2

TPC San Antonio | San Antonio, Texas

Par 72 | 7,438 yards

Purse: $8.9 million/$1.6 million

FedExCup points for winner: 500

Betting favorites, via BetMGM: Tyrrell Hatton (+1,200), Rickie Fowler (+1,800)

Last time out: J.J. Spaun grabs first win, last-second ticket to Masters

J.J. Spaun’s first career win on the PGA Tour came at the perfect time.

Spaun held on to win the Valero Texas Open last year in what was his 147th start on Tour. He narrowly beat Matt Jones and Beau Hossler to pick up the first win of his career and secure a last-second trip to his first Masters. That appearance worked out pretty well, too. He finished T23 at Augusta National last spring.

“I've heard the cliche, like the ‘pinch me’ moments and ‘am I dreaming?’ That's kind of what I felt for the first time in my life, going from the win here and then literally like flying over the next morning to Augusta and then registering,” Spaun said Wednesday. “It just happened so fast that I felt like I was in a dream, because I was there signing the registration book at the player office at Augusta National and I'm just like, everything's happened so fast. Like, I can't believe not only did I just win my first Tour event yesterday, but now I'm here at the Masters already like preparing to play my first time at Augusta.

“It was definitely a fantasy as far as like the whole experience. I was super happy to be there and to also have a good week, a good showing at Augusta. I know what I've got to do this week to get back there.”

Spaun’s win in San Antonio came after opening with a double-bogey. He still finished with a 3-under 69 and at 13-under on the week, and was the first person to hold on and win a tournament after starting the day with a double-bogey since Tiger Woods did so at the 2008 U.S. Open.

Spaun had a solid start to the season last fall, but he has struggled early in 2023. He finished T9 at the Match Play last week in Austin, but entered that tournament having missed four of his last five cuts.

Rickie Fowler desperately needs a win

Rickie Fowler needs a win.

Though to be fair, he’s needed a win for quite some time now.

The ever-popular Fowler has won five times in his career, but not since the 2019 WM Phoenix Open. Since then, though, he’s struggled. Fowler has only recently climbed back into the top 100 in the Official World Golf Rankings — he’s No. 59 this week, his highest position since 2020. He needs to maintain a high level of play to keep his Tour card for next season.

Currently, Fowler is set to miss the Masters for the third straight year. It would take a win this week to snag a last-second invite, just like Spaun did last year.

The elusive win that Fowler needs feels like it’s right around the corner, too.

Fowler has seven top-25 finishes in 11 events so far this season, and has missed the cut just once. That was back in October, and came between a T6 finish and a runner-up finish at the Zozo Championship. Fowler didn’t make it to the knockout round last week in Austin, but finished T13 at The Players Championship earlier this month after three very solid showings to close out the West Coast Swing in February.

Fowler will be in the winner’s circle soon. He’s trending up, and looks like he’s comfortable out on the course consistently again for the first time in years.

Getting it done before the end of the season is a must so he can keep his Tour card active. But pulling off his comeback win this week would be much, much sweeter.