After scintillating Sundays at Quail Hollow and Sawgrass it will be a tough go for the Valero Texas Open. The opening event of the Texas swing has big boots to fill if they want to keep the streak alive of compelling 2010 PGA Tour events.
Even with a new venue, TPC San Antonio AT&T Oaks Course designed by Greg Norman with the help of Sergio Garcia, it will be hard for hardcore golf fans to get fired up for this one. Take the field alone – gone are the Phil Mickelson and Lee Westwoods and in their place are the likes of Rich Barcelo, Matt Bettencourt, and Michael Connell. Thankfully 2010 two-time PGA Tour winner Ernie Els has decided to show up (his first-ever appearance) along with the Vijay Singh, Zach Johnson (2-time defending champion) and Justin Leonard. David Duval, John Daly, and Lee Janzen will also be around as they attempt to resurrect their careers.
The best news for all in the field is that the La Cantera Golf Club has been left behind in favor of the new layout affiliated with the JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort & Spa. La Cantera, at less than 7000 yards and playing to a par of 70, could not withstand the pressure of PGA Tour players. Take the example of 2009 winner Zach Johnson’s 3rd round score of 60 or Tommy Armour III’s tournament record of 254 (2003) as testament to that. This is a tournament that dates back to 1922 and it deserves better than that.
In its place the PGA Tour has shuffled in 7522 yards of burly golf. Strong and lengthy par four and three holes are trademarks of the Oaks Course and the pros should have their hands full as they get to know the terrain. "The topographic subtleties of the rolling Texas Hill Country terrain, framed by magnificent stands of mature live oaks, create a pristine natural setting that is as playable as it is beautiful," says Greg Norman of The Oaks.
Of course, that is the man wearing his marketing hat. The player in Norman will probably be more interested this week to see the entire field push themselves to traverse his handiwork in a successful manner. His co-designer (more of a player consultant) Sergio Garcia, is in the field and we’ll soon see if his extra insight proves to his advantage.
If this event was still back at La Cantera then placing a bet that Zach Johnson would pick up his third consecutive win might be a safe gamble but with the new venue it could come down to other factors in picking a winner. Leonard is after his 4th Texas Open win but the extra length of the course might keep him away from the hardware. Els is obviously the strongest player in the field but his missed cut at THE PLAYERS could work against him.
Poolies should take a hard look at Ben Crane who has a win this year and was in the mix for a time at Sawgrass. J.B Holmes could be a contender as well with length and quality play of late.
But if I had one player to call as a possible winner I would have to take Bo Van Pelt. He has been spending a lot of time on the leaderboards of late and he just might be the guy to grab the near $1.1 million prize the winner will receive this week.
Golf Channel has the early coverage and CBS picks up the weekend.
The report provided to GolfWRX.com by Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)