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April 18 2012

6:27 PM

FedExCup: Chance for another surprise

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Brendan Steele won the Valero Texas Open as a rookie last season.
FEDEXCUP: Standings | Movers | Leaders | 2012 Winners | More Chris Dunham, PGATOUR.COM The 18th event of a 37-event PGA TOUR Regular Season, the Valero Texas Open provides an opportunity to move past a disappointing first half of the year and set the tone for a stronger second half of the season. This is exactly what Brendan Steele did a year ago. A rookie on TOUR last year, Steele had missed six cuts in his first 11 starts and had just one top-25 finish on his resume. He missed just five of 16 cuts from the Valero Texas Open on and notched seven top-25 finishes in that span. “I had a really good mental approach here last year,” Steele said. “I kind of went through (a bad stretch) last year before I got here and that’s why I was kind of off everybody’s radar when I did get here.”
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Steele put himself on everybody’s radar, as well as the FedExCup map, with his victory at TPC San Antonio. The then-rookie moved from 112th in the standings up to 19th. He peaked at No. 18 the following week and went on to finish 52nd in the FedExCup Playoffs -- the sixth best finish of all rookies. The 2011 champion wasn’t the only player whose season changed in San Antonio. Co-runners-up Kevin Chappell and Charley Hoffman also made FedExCup splashes. Chappell jumped 117 spots to No. 63 with his runner-up finish and peaked at No. 61 in a rookie campaign that ended with an 84th-place FedExCup finish. Hoffman, who won the 2010 Deutsche Bank Championship to control his own fate at East Lake, checked in at No. 25 following last season’s Valero Texas Open. He was unable to recapture the magic that pushed him to East Lake in 2010 and finished the year at No. 41. THIS WEEK: Five of the top 30 in the FedExCup standings will be teeing it up this week at the Valero Texas Open. Seven more inside the top 50 are scheduled to play. More than half (26) of the players ranked between Nos. 51 and 100 will also be playing and looking to emerge like Steele, or Hoffman, or Chappell did in 2011. Looking for some players who could have breakthrough weeks in Texas? You can always start with last year’s trio. Hoffman (No. 97), Steele (No. 115) and Chappell (No. 84) all rank well outside the FedExCup top 50 and could again get a much-needed boost at TPC San Antonio. Our experts weighed in with their weekly picks and just three selected players inside the FedExCup top 50. Others to watch include No. 91 Fredrik Jacobson (two top-5 finishes in the last two seasons here), No. 100 Ryan Palmer (Texas native who plays well in the state) and No. 78 J.B. Holmes. (back-to-back top 15s here). Whoever wins this week will certainly crack the top 50, maybe even the top 30, in the FedExCup standings. ROOKIE GATHERING: This week’s field boasts 24 of the TOUR’s 26 rookies. That’s a 100 percent count of healthy first-year players. Sang-moon Bae withdrew last week with a shoulder injury while Joe Affrunti has been out since April. Those two will not make the trip to TPC San Antonio while the other 24 rookies will be attempting to follow in Brendan Steele’s footsteps as a rookie winner of the Valero Texas Open.
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