The First Look: Valero Texas Open
April 13, 2018
By Jeff Shain, PGATOUR.COM
Kevin Chappell captures his breakout win at Valero
Sergio Garcia ends a seven-year absence from the PGA TOUR venue he helped design, while Kevin Chappell makes his first career title defense as the TOUR heads back to Texas for the third of five stops this year.
Beau Hossler, a former University of Texas standout who just missed a Masters berth in a Houston Open playoff, heads a solid list of players with Texas ties. That also includes Garcia, former PGA Championship winner Jimmy Walker and Jhonattan Vegas.
FIELD NOTES: U.S. Ryder Cup captain Jim Furyk returns to San Antonio for the first time since 2015, with two top-10 finishes in three visits to TPC San Antonio. … In all, the lineup features six of the top 30 in the current world rankings. … Joaquin Niemann, who held the No.1 amateur ranking for nearly a year, will make the VTO his professional debut. The Chilean teen already holds conditional Web.com Tour status.... The list of international invitees also features two-time major champion Martin Kaymer, India’s Shubhankar Sharma and England’s Chris Paisley. For Paisley, it’s his first start on U.S. soil since his college days at Tennessee. … Julian Suri, a Florida native who has spent the past two years on the European circuit, hopes to build on his top-10 finish in Houston earlier this month.
FEDEXCUP: Winner receives 500 points.
STORYLINES: Garcia tees it up for the first time since a disappointing title defense at the Masters, where a 13 at Augusta National’s feast-or-famine 15th produced a hole too big to climb out of. Garcia was a consultant on the host AT&T Oaks course, but hasn’t been back since its 2010 debut. … John Senden makes his second PGA TOUR start since taking a nearly yearlong break to deal with his son’s brain tumor. He was on track to make the cut at the RBC Heritage, until a bogey/bogey finish put him on the wrong side of the line. … Chappell now seeks to become the third man this century to win back-to-back in San Antonio. Justin Leonard did it in 2000-01, followed by Zach Johnson in 2008-09.
COURSE: TPC San Antonio (AT&T Oaks), 7,435 yards, par 72. Winding through Texas Hill Country north of the city, the Oaks tends toward a minimalist look and feel – often employing native vegetation as a peril for wayward shots. Garcia served as a consultant in the 2010 Greg Norman design, which is widely considered to present a tougher challenge than its sibling Canyons layout built by Pete Dye. The Oaks’ most memorable moment may have come in 2011, when Kevin Na recorded a 16 at the par-4 ninth hole after struggling to free himself from rocks and underbrush. A year later, Na returned with a chainsaw for a good-natured publicity shoot.
72-HOLE RECORD: 254, Tommy Armour III (2003 at LaCantera). TPC San Antonio record: 274, Adam Scott (2010), Martin Laird (2013).
18-HOLE RECORD: 60, Bart Bryant (3rd round, 2004 at LaCantera), Zach Johnson (3rd round, 2009 at LaCantera). TPC San Antonio record: 63, Matt Every (1st round, 2012), Martin Laird (4th round, 2013).
LAST YEAR: Chappell finally notched his long-awaited first PGA TOUR victory, ramming home an 8-foot birdie putt on the final hole to hold off Brooks Koepka’s Sunday charge. Chappell began the final day with a one-stroke advantage, but found himself tied going to the 18th tee after Koepka birdied ahead to complete a 7-under-par 65. Two solid shots left the California native 89 yards from the pin, where he got the ball below the hole to set up the winning putt. Chappell’s triumph followed four runner-up finishes the previous season, including THE PLAYERS Championship and TOUR Championship. Tony Finau and Kevin Tway tied for third, three shots behind Chappell.
HOW TO FOLLOW
TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3:30-6:30 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-2:45 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (CBS)
PGA TOUR LIVE: Thursday-Friday, 8:15 a.m.-3:30 p.m. (featured groups), 3:30-6:30 p.m. (featured holes)
RADIO: Thursday-Friday, 1-6:30 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, 1-6 p.m. (PGA TOUR Radio on SiriusXM and PGATOUR.com)