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March 29 2013

7:27 PM

First Look: Valero Texas Open

Rory McIlroy will play in next week's Valero Texas Open. (Halleran/Getty Images)

By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

• FULL FIELD: Valero Texas Open

• COURSE: TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks), 7,522 yards, par 72. A Greg Norman/Sergio Garcia collaboration, the Oaks opened in 2010 as one of two courses that winds through Texas Hill Country just north of San Antonio. Though much flatter than the neighboring Canyons course, the Oaks offers a tougher challenge with narrow fairways, bunkers as deep as 12 feet and native vegetation where unplayable lies loom. Two years ago, Kevin Na recorded a 16 at the par-4 ninth hole after struggling to free himself from rocks and underbrush.

• FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.

• CHARITY: Valero Texas Open Benefit for Children, which has contributed more than $76 million to San Antonio-area charities since it began. The tournament annually ranks among the PGA TOUR’s top five in charitable giving, raising more than $9 million last year.

• FIELD WATCH: The late addition of world No. 2 Rory McIlroy generated some buzz, giving the tournament four of the top 15 players in the current world rankings. He joins No. 9 Matt Kuchar, No. 12 Ian Poulter and No. 15 Charl Schwartzel. … McIlroy, Schwartzel and defending champion Ben Curtis are among 12 entrants who have won major championships. Former British Open champ Darren Clarke was given a sponsor exemption, while slots also opened up for David Duval and John Daly. … Texas teen Jordan Spieth, who took special temporary membership after the Tampa Bay Championship presented by EverBank, makes his sixth PGA TOUR start of the year.

• 72-HOLE RECORD: 254, Tommy Armour III (2003 at LaCantera GC). TPC San Antonio record: 274, Adam Scott (2010).

• 18-HOLE RECORD: 60, Bart Bryant (3rd round, 2004 at LaCantera GC), Zach Johnson (3rd round, 2009 at LaCantera GC). TPC San Antonio record: 63, Matt Every (1st round, 2012).

• LAST YEAR: Ben Curtis captured his first victory in six years, prevailing in a tense back-nine battle for a two-shot triumph over Matt Every and John Huh. Curtis capped a closing 72 with a 12-foot birdie putt at No. 18, claiming his fourth PGA TOUR victory and first since the old 84 Lumber Classic in 2006. Every opened with a course-record 63, but was undone by a shaky putter that missed four birdie chances inside 10 feet on the final day. Huh’s closing 69 left him just short of a remarkable comeback after opening with a 77.

• STORYLINES: The Valero Texas Open serves as the warm-up act to the Masters for the first time, thanks to a calendar quirk that puts an extra weekend into the pre-Masters schedule. The final invitation to Augusta National awaits the winner, if not already qualified. … McIlroy barely made the cut when he teed it up in at the Shell Houston Open. … Curtis seeks to become the third man to successfully defend a Valero Texas Open crown since the turn of the century. Justin Leonard won back-to-back in 2000-01; Zach Johnson matched in 2008-09.

• SHORT CHIPS: With his tie for third at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño is eligible for special temporary status that would allow him unlimited sponsor exemptions for the rest of 2013. The Spaniard also tied for ninth at the WGC-Accenture Match Play and 43rd at the WGC-Cadillac Championship. … Four greens have undergone alterations since last year to improve receptiveness and create more possible hole locations. Changes were made at Nos. 1, 4, 10 and 12. … Garcia won’t tee it up on the course he helped design, sitting this week out to hone his game for the Masters.

• TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m. ET (GC), 3-6 p.m. ET (NBC).

• RADIO: Thursday-Sunday, noon-6 p.m. ET (SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio).

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