In its brief two-year history as host of the Valero Texas Open, the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio has proven that it's not for the impatient and the wayward. It's also not a track where any of the 156 in the field should expect to succeed with new strategies in course management. You take what it gives you, which isn't much.
Greg Norman designed the 7,435-yard course with an assist from ball-striking specialist Sergio Garcia. What they concocted was a test that emphasizes precision tee to green as well as imagination around seriously difficult green complexes, mimicking what you might find in Norman's native Australia.
With a scoring average of 73.67 a year ago, it was the most difficult of 22 par 72s on the PGA TOUR schedule. It was the only course that ranked inside the top five most difficult in both driving accuracy (fifth; 51.65 percent) and greens in regulation (fourth; 56.32 percent). (Those stats ranked a respective sixth and seventh in 2010.)
Furthermore, TPC San Antonio submitted the shortest average distance of putts made in 2011 -- by 15 inches -- at 66'5". It ranked second-shortest by one inch in its debut the previous year.
And before the field thinks that it can attack the four longest holes while playing it safe elsewhere, this venue posted the highest scoring average on par 5s of any course in 2011 with a clip of 4.94. It sat third in 2010.
There you have it. The AT&T Oaks Course is the epitome of taking it one shot at a time, and then not trying to do too much with it. Customarily breezy conditions will add to the considerable challenge. A threat of rain and thunderstorms creeps into the picture late Thursday, and it's expected to linger throughout the day on Friday. The weekend looks dry and clear. High temperatures will camp out in the low 80s throughout.
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|Power Rankings: Valero Texas Open|
In 2012, our expert will be publishing his list of players who didn't quite make the top 10 for that particular week. Here are five other players Rob Bolton likes at TPC San Antonio:
11. Kevin Na ... Infamously carded a 16 on the par-4 ninth hole in last year's opener here. More recently, he co-leads the PGA TOUR with four top 10s including last week's T8 at Harbour Town where he ranked fourth in Strokes Gained-Putting. Currently 21st in fairways hit.
12. Brandt Jobe ... The Texan is a good fit. He's 24th on TOUR in total driving, 50th in greens in regulation and 63rd in Strokes Gained-Putting. Faded a bit since resurgence in March capped by a T9 in Puerto Rico, but he shared 15th place here last year.
13. Boo Weekley ... Continues to turn back the clock with a T6 at Harbour Town, his third top 15 in his last five starts. Has status via the Past Champions category. Sits second on the PGA TOUR in total driving and 30th in greens hit. First-timer at TPC San Antonio.
14. Charlie Wi ... Finished T17 in his only appearance at TPC San Antonio in 2010 so he wasn't overmatched by the length. Ranks 50th in Strokes Gained-Putting, but sits a disappointing 165th in final-round scoring average at 73.29.
15. Matt Bettencourt ... This is in respect to his well-documented, streaky reputation. Shared sixth place at last week's RBC Heritage, his first top 25 of the year. He ranked T53 in greens hit at Harbour Town but a lofty sixth in Strokes Gained-Putting and T6 in birdies.