By Rob Bolton, PGATOUR.COM Fantasy Columnist
When a new golf course is introduced on the PGA TOUR, it's first played like a child unwrapping the biggest present underneath the Christmas tree. Experiences may vary. Sometimes, just as the holidays conclude and school resumes, the novelty of a new track fades.
Now in its fourth year hosting the Valero Texas Open, the par-72 AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio is maturing. It's no longer identical to the fierce test that averaged 73.989 strokes last year.
For starters, the green at the 12th hole received a facelift. It's flatter, which should appease the field of 156 and offer a greater number of potential hole locations. Greens at the first, fourth and 10th holes also underwent renovation. Another noticeable change is that many of the runoff areas around greens are gone. This includes the complex shared by the second and seventh holes. In its place is taller grass around the collar, thus preventing balls from plunging into what were once closely mown chipping areas.
The fairways at Nos. 1 and 4 were also widened in response to player feedback. The numbers also support the move. Since 2010, the par-4 first hole has ranked first, second and third, respectively, in highest scoring average among all opening holes on the PGA TOUR. It's 4.289 clip last year was the lowest in its brief history. Conversely, the par-4 fourth has slowly climbed in scoring average, topping out at 4.328 in 2012.
The rough is also down to no more than two inches this year; it used to be cut at three inches. This is partially due to the fact that the tournament is being played in early April for the first time and some grass remains dormant. That should help allows those hitting from those lies a greater chance of holding greens that average 6,400 square feet.
The aggregate impact of the adjustments across the property should result in more favorable course splits. The golfers know just how punishing TPC San Antonio plays, and there really is no relief. Last year, it ranked ninth in fairways hit (53.11 percent), fourth in greens in regulation (55.26 percent), fourth in proximity to the hole (39 feet, 3 inches) and 14th in scrambling (54.51 percent). Its set of four pars 5s (Nos. 2, 8, 14 and 18) averaged 4.96, highest among all non-majors for the second consecutive year. The par 3s ranked T7 at 3.14 while the par 4s finished T6 at 4.16.
Unlike the last two weeks, there is no long-range expectation for inclement weather during the tournament. The wind will blow as it always does and steadily rising temperatures will max out in the mid-80s.
NOTE: For similar characteristics among all three winners at TPC San Antonio, please look for "Stats Suggest" in The TOUR Report on Wednesday.
|Power Rankings: Valero Texas Open|