This is the 100th anniversary of the Valero Texas Open. Las Vegas, Nevada, owns the familiar slogan, but what has happened in San Antonio has stayed in San Antonio. Every edition of the tournament has been contested in the city.
Whoever wins this week will represent an extra special piece of tournament history, but he has hard acts – plural – to follow. From Andrew Landry winning close to home and as a new father in 2018, to Corey Conners breaking through as an open qualifier in 2019, to Jordan Spieth’s reemerging as a winner last year, the Valero Texas Open has delivered one fantastic headline after another.
TPC San Antonio’s Oaks Course hosts for the 12th time (2010-present). The par 72 resharpened its bite last year. For details on that, how Spieth checked all of the boxes and more, continued reading beneath the ranking of projected contenders.
POWER RANKINGS: VALERO TEXAS OPEN
Bryson DeChambeau, Hideki Matsuyama, Jason Day, Tony Finau and Corales champion Chad Ramey will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Draws and Fades.
You’ll pardon the recurring theme but the winds of Texas forever demand respect and attention. The invisible force is the primary defense at TPC San Antonio in the Hill Country. Last year’s scoring average of 72.475 was front-loaded with averages north of 73 in each of the first two rounds. When the winds abated slightly and the best of the field played on, scoring dropped well below average. But the message is clear, wind wins.
Seriously gusty breezes extend into Wednesday of this week, and then it’s forecast to calm for Thursday’s opening round. The machine cranks up again on Friday. It’ll likely continue to blow enough to cause pause over the ball on the weekend, but wind is the most challenging element to project this far in advance. It’s a keep-your-head-on-a-swivel kind of experience. Rain isn’t expected and daytime temperatures will climb into the 80s, so the conditions will be seasonable.
The entirety of the Oaks Course is overseeded as usual. In a customary agreement to help offset the wind, greens (overseeded with Poa trivialis) that average 6,400 square feet are maintained to run no longer than 11½ feet on the Stimpmeter.
Primary rough extends to 2½ inches. That’s up half-an-inch over last year, but the gnarliest hay found on the edges of the property will be as high as six inches. This is why there is a perception that hitting fairways is at a premium. While golfers who profile as ball-strikers have an advantage, the objective is more about hitting “enough” fairways on a track where last year’s field averaged just 7.70 per round.
The stock par 72 tips at 7,438 yards. It’s down 56 yards with reductions of 42 yards at the par-3 third hole and 14 yards at the par-5 14th. Spieth’s splits in fairways hit (T49) and greens in regulation (T57) defy him ranking third in Strokes Gained: Tee-to-Green. The simple translation is that he optimized his opportunities when he was accurate.
En route to posting 18-under 270 for the two-shot title, Spieth led the field in both converting GIR into par breakers and par-4 scoring. With 10 birdies and six pars to average 4.375 on the par 5s, he also co-led in par-5 scoring. It’s a statistic that almost always matters, but this is accentuated on tougher courses with commensurate par 5s that ranked T7 among all courses during the super season of 2020-21. Mike Glasscott’s Horses for Courses on Tuesday devotes more attention to this.
Spieth being Spieth, he flashed his buttery touch throughout the tournament to finish fourth in scrambling and sixth in Strokes Gained: Putting. Did he put more pressure on his short game and putting than advised? Yes. Does he have the confidence and ability to overcome that if it happens again? Duh.
As of Monday afternoon, Spieth is among 22 golfers in the field of 144 who have qualified for next week’s Masters. If the winner at TPC San Antonio isn’t already eligible for the season’s first major, he’ll be the last man in.
ROB BOLTON’S SCHEDULE
PGATOUR.com’s Rob Bolton recaps and previews every tournament from numerous perspectives. Look for his following contributions as scheduled.
* - Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COM’s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf, which also publishes on Tuesday.