The second half of the 2017-18 PGA TOUR season opens with one of the toughest tests on the schedule. The AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open.
Hard-track specialist Kevin Chappell returns to defend his breakthrough title. His 12-under 276 on the stock par 72 is tied for the third-lowest aggregate among the eight champions since the course debuted in 2010. Scroll past the ranking for much more on TPC San Antonio and how Chappell solved, er, survived it.
Zach Johnson, Xander Schauffele and former champions Adam Scott (2010) and Jimmy Walker (2015) will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
The annual irony of the Valero Texas Open is that the incredible charity for which the tournament is known – $11 million was raised last year alone – doesn't extend inside the ropes. Thanks in part to the ubiquitous winds of south Texas, par is a good score at TPC San Antonio, which tips at 7,435 yards.
Last year's field averaged 72.853 and it still didn't score high enough to rank inside the top half of any of its first eight editions. The tournament's co-leaders in bogey avoidance (Carl Pettersson and Kevin Tway) squared eight bogeys or worse, most for any pacesetters in the stat in any non-major since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open (that included one round on an easier Torrey Pines North).
The course relents – with due respect – off the tee. The challenge increases multi-fold on approach into greens that average 6,400 square feet. That's a typical area for putting surfaces on the PGA TOUR, but designer Greg Norman infused undulations that shrink the overseeded bermudagrass landing areas into some of the most difficult targets of the season. Those hills and curves also defend against Stimpmeter readings of approximately 11 feet, which is lower than most other courses due to the winds.
The 2017 field averaged 10.43 greens in regulation per round, third-lowest of any host course, so it's not surprising that seven of the 12 golfers who finished inside the top 10 on the leaderboard ranked inside the top 10 in GIR for the week.
The par 5s aren't pushovers, either. They're always among the most challenging groupings of any course. This is one of the areas that explains how Chappell prevailed. He went bogey-free 8 under to slot T3 in par-5 scoring average for the week. He also ranked third in greens hit and T10 in proximity, and he capitalized on his chances in finishing fourth in birdie-or-better percentages after hitting GIR.
As usual, Mother Nature will play a role this week. Varied threats of rain and boomers are forecast for Friday and Saturday. Sustained winds of 15-20 mph will precede the front and reenter the picture on Sunday, which projects to be beautiful otherwise. Seasonable daytime highs in the upper 70s will assist cutting through humidity.
Touring professionals who embrace this kind of experience can look forward to many more years of it. Last October, it was announced an extension of the existing sponsorship through 2028. It includes a shift to a permanent spot in advance of the Masters.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton covers numerous angles in between tournaments. Look for his following contributions this week.
MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Facebook Live, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done, Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Champions One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, which also publishes on Tuesdays.