Brendan Steele won the Valero Texas Open as a rookie last
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.”
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.
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.
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.
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.