It is a welcome change in venues for the players who seem to approve of the Robert Trent Jones designed venue and to the delight of central California golf fans, who can’t seem to get enough of the pro game.
The $5,000,000 event is another key tournament in the Fall Series as the final money list shapes up to determine who will keep their playing privileges for 2011.
Last year Troy Matteson sat 288th on the money list heading into the tournament but a playoff victory over Jamie Lovemark and Rickie Fowler provided the comfort of an ample winner’s check and a two-year PGA Tour exemption.
Each of those three players is back in the field seeking the $900,000 first prize. Matteson is coming off a missed cut at the McGladrey Classic but Lovemark and Fowler are both in fine form and have extra motivation to grab the win – both hail from California and each are seeking their 1st PGA Tour title.
Lovemark, currently #1 on the Nationwide Tour money list, even has experience at CordeValle having played there, by his account, 12 times in tournaments during his outstanding collegiate career at the University of Sothern California. “The course has changed a little bit,” said Lovemark yesterday after a practice round. “There are some new tees, the rough is longer. It’s playing a lot tougher, but some of the lines and the greens are the same, so it definitely does help. There’s not a whole a lot of local knowledge that you need, but playing rounds on a course can be the only thing that helps.” He is predicting a winning score between 16 and 20 under par.
Fowler just returned from the Ryder Cup where the leading contender for the PGA Tour Rookie of The Year Award, played commendably, including an inspirational birdie charge during final day singles play. In 25 PGA Tour events this year he has managed two second place finishes and 5 top tens; all signs that he is ready for his breakout performance in his home state.
Other notables in the field this week include 2010 tour winners Charley Hoffman and Tim Clark, Stockton native Ricky Barnes, Henrik Stenson and Bo Van Pelt.
Like Fowler, Van Pelt has had an exceptional year with three 3rd place finishes and seven top tens so don’t be shocked if he grabs his 2nd PGA Tour victory this week.
The CordeValle course, located just 30 minutes south of San Jose, should prove quite agreeable to the contingent of contenders. While beefy at nearly 7400 yards from the tournament tees and playing to a par of 71, there are just two water hazards on the layout and 63 bunkers, all justifying Lovemark’s scoring prediction.
Wandering over 260 acres the course is continually ranked among the best people can play in both California and America. It opened in 1999 and last received touch up work by designer Robert Trent Jones, Jr. earlier this year.
Elevation changes will be noticeable this week as the course tumbles up and down some 150 feet over the length of expanse of the course.
Golf Channel has the television coverage this week from 4 P.M. to 7 P.M. EST. Sirius 209/XM 146 has it covered from 1 P.M. to 7 P.M. EST each day.
This report provided to GolfWRX.com by Canada’s Flagstick Golf Magazine (www.flagstick.com)