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April 6 2013

6:10 PM

Prudent play has Estes lurking

By Tim Price, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

SAN ANTONIO -- The last time Bob Estes won the Valero Texas Open -- 19 years ago -- it came at a course that was anything but a bomb-and-gouge layout at the crafty A.W. Tillinghast-designed Oak Hill Country Club.

Though there are some similarities between the pushed up greens that the master Tillinghast designed and the earth eruptions that make up the green complexes on the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio, the 47-year-old Estes has a hard time remembering all of them.

“That was almost like a full career ago,” Estes said Saturday after his 3-under 69 has him four shots out of Billy Horschel’s lead. “So much has changed since then. It’s still about managing your game. It’s still just golf.”

Estes, who played following the Crenshaw-Kite era at the University of Texas, appears cemented in the here and now. He shaved a stroke off the lead with his play in the third round and, with the way he plays on this TPC course that stresses the course management that Estes loves, he looks to have a shot at his first PGA TOUR victory since 2002 which would net him his first Masters appearance since 2005.

But Estes won’t budge through these 25 mph winds in San Antonio to look ahead. The Masters?

“I don’t like talking about it,” he said. “I’m just thinking about tomorrow. There’s plenty to stress out about, think about, playing in this wind.”

He’s made six of seven cuts this season. Though he’s not cracked the top 15, he does have a 16th place at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.

Last year at TPC San Antonio he had his season-best finish of tie for fourth. His Texas Open victory in 1994 was his first of four PGA TOUR wins.

He said he feels good about where he can miss on this golf course, places where he can still get up and down and avoid three-putts.

Though he’s in the top 35 in greens hit, his putting (26 strokes per round) is in the top five and his 4-for-4 sand saves is first.

“It’s just course management,” he said. “A lot of guys, when the wind is blowing, they have trouble keeping it down or playing the right shot, and sometimes you have to play some pretty good defense. You play too aggressively in certain places and you hardly have a chance to two-putt or get it up and down.”

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