Ya hear, pards? There's a new sheriff in town.
With the revised look of the PGA TOUR schedule this season, the Valero Texas Open has assumed a new position. This week's edition is the first of 10 straight in the week preceding the Masters.
The AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio hosts for the 10th consecutive year. For more on this extreme par 72 and other nuggets of knowledge, scroll past the ranking.
Corales champion Graeme McDowell, Jordan Spieth, Charley Hoffman and former VTO winners Jimmy Walker and Andrew Landry will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday's Fantasy Insider.
For the tournament that's never left San Antonio since it debuted in 1922, it's not easy to present fresh perspective. And truth be told, this isn't the first time that the Valero Texas Open has been contested on the eve of the Masters, but it's just the second.
Six years ago, in the last season before the PGA TOUR introduced the wraparound schedule, the VTO immediately preceded the Masters. The primary difference between then and now is that the 2013 field went the full 156 deep. This week's field was limited to 144 entrants. Even at San Antonio's latitude in early April, the limitation of daylight impacts field size.
The last exemption into the Masters is reserved for the winner of the Valero Texas Open. As of midday Monday, only 17 in the field at TPC San Antonio have qualified for the season's first major. While the opportunity to play is invaluable, the opportunity to be tested is guaranteed.
TPC San Antonio is a beast of 7,435 yards. Despite the full complement of four par 5s, it's never averaged under par. Last year's clip of 72.367 slotted it third-hardest among par 72s in non-majors. The field averaged 4.81 on the par 5s, which have never ranked easier than fourth-hardest of any course during a PGA TOUR season.
Greens average 6,400 square feet, so they're not small targets, but they're among the stingiest in holding for scoring opportunities. Last year's field average of 11 greens in regulation per round ranked the course ninth-lowest all season, and that was more than half a click higher than the previous year. As a result, splitting fairways eases the challenge more than usual, but despite two-inch primary rough which is overseeded, proficiency in finding the shortest grass still isn't a prerequisite for success.
En route to his breakthrough title last year, Andrew Landry beat the field average of fairways hit by less than one percent, and then paced it in GIR. He also brought his touch around and on the targets in ranking eighth in strokes gained: putting and second in scrambling. This combination likely will define this week's champion.
The undulating putting surfaces (overseeded bermuda) are governed to run no faster than 11 feet on the Stimpmeter due to winds that are a way of life in south Texas. However, and with a note of respect for the possibility of change, breezes are forecast to be negligible throughout the entirety of the tournament. This wasn't the case in 2013 when gusts reached 25 mph, much more in line with what's expected in the Hill Country. With sunshine warming, daytime temperatures will rise into the mid-80s every day but Saturday when clouds and the risk of inclement weather will make it feel 10 degrees cooler.
ROB BOLTON'S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.COM’s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous angles. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Fantasy Insider
WEDNESDAY: One & Done
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesdays.