The PGA Tour heads to San Antonio this week where Jimmy Walker defends the Valero Texas Open. Last week’s winner Branden Grace is the top ranked player on the start sheet.
Last year Jimmy Walker took the title after Jordan Spieth had made a late run at victory. Played two weeks before the Masters in 2015, Spieth scored four birdies in a row on the back nine to pile the pressure on the older man, but Walker stood firm and made birdies of his own at the 16th and 17th holes to seal a four-stroke win.
Jimmy Walker defends the Valero Texas Open but he’ll have to get past some star players to do so. Branden Grace, Phil Mickelson, Patrick Reed, Charley Hoffman and Bryson DeChambeau all start at TPC San Antonio.
Branden Grace putting challenge:
The Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio was designed by Greg Norman with input from Sergio Garcia. Opened for play in 2010, it’s a natural-looking layout with huge bunkers and sprawling greens. Many of the fairways are framed by stands of mature oaks giving the course its name.
It’s one of the more testing courses visited by the PGA Tour with narrow fairways skirted with bushes. Back in 2011, Kevin Na made a 16 on the par-4 9th hole. He had so many swipes at the ball in the scrub that he lost count and had to consult with playing partners and the TV to work out what to write on the card.
The average score last year was 74.521 which was the highest of any PGA Tour event outside the Majors. Gusty winds tend to add to the challenge here Look for a winning score around the 10-under-par mark.
The weather forecast suggests the winds may not be too strong this week so that could allow scoring to improve slightly. There’s a threat of rain and storms early in the week.
Venue: JW Marriott TPC San Antonio, San Antonio, Texas
Date: Apr 21-24
Course stats: par 72, 7,435 yards
Purse: $6,200,000 Winner: $1,116,000
Defending Champion: Jimmy Walker (-11)
Thursday 21 – Sky Sports 4 from 8pm
Friday 22 – Sky Sports 4 from 8pm
Saturday 23 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Sunday 24 – Sky Sports 4 from 6pm
Charley Hoffman – He comes into this event with form, he’s made every cut since the CareerBuilder Challenge back in January. He also has an excellent record in this event, at this course – he’s never finished worse than a tie for 13th at TPC San Antonio.
Matt Kuchar – “Mr Consistent” is playing solidly right now – a top-10 in last week’s RBC Heritage was his seventh top-15 finish of the season. He’s never missed a cut at TPC San Antonio.
Branden Grace – He won last week so many will expect Grace to be low on energy this week. But, he’s proved in the past that he has what it takes to win back-to-back. He won his first two European Tour events in consecutive weeks back in 2012.
Key hole: The par 5s. The shortest on the course is the 14th at 567 yards so, depending on the wind, any of them could play as a three-shotter. The longer hitters will have a distinct advantage on these holes.
Skills required: Finding fairways. At 7,435 yards, you’d think length was the most important factor at TPC San Antonio. But, with bunkers and huge trees lining the fairways, driving the ball straight is also essential.