By Tom LaMarre
The PGA Tour wraps up its two-week stay in Texas heading into the Masters next week with the Valero Texas Open, which was first played in 1922.
The tournament has always been contested in the San Antonio area, and the sixth-oldest event on the circuit will be played for the 10th consecutive year on the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio https://tpc.com/sanantonio, where Andrew Landry became the latest Texan to win the title when he claimed his first PGA Tour victory last year.
The event has a storied history, with the great Walter Hagen winning its second playing in 1923, while Arnold Palmer claimed three straight titles through 1962 and Texan Justin Leonard equaled Arnie’s tournament record for victories by winning in 2000, 2001 and 2007.
Another Texan, Ben Crenshaw, won the Texas Open twice along with the likes of legendary Sam Snead, Dutch Harrison, Jay Haas, Duffy Waldorf, Zach Johnson and Bill Mehlhorn.
Other Texans to keep the trophy at home were Byron Nelson (1940), and Ben Hogan (1946), Lee Trevino (1980), Bill Rogers (1981) and Jimmy Walker (2015), who held off a charge by fellow Texan Jordan Spieth, who finished second.
“(Winning at home) is like what the Spurs feel like when they win a big game at home,” said Walker, who lives in the San Antonio suburb of Boerne. “You’ve got that huge support. And everybody is there for you. And that’s kind of how it felt. So it was special.
“I laid up (on the 18th hole) and I started to walk up and everybody started to clap. … Just walking up and having everybody there, it was surreal. I tried to just really soak it in, just let it all soak in. It was cool.”
Said Spieth: “It’s great to see all those Texas flags out there and play a home game like this.”
Walker and Spieth are among the headliners in the field this week, along with Rickie Fowler (pictured), Tony Finau, Jim Furyk, Luke Donald of England, J.B. Holmes, Matt Kuchar, who on Sunday lost in the final of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, and Lucas Bjerregarrd of Denmark, who upset Tiger Woods and finished fourth in the match-play event.
Other former Valero Texas Open champions playing this week are Kevin Chappell (2017), Charley Hoffman (2016), Martin Laird (2013) of Scotland and Brendan Steele (2011).
The Masters is looming, but the Eyes of Texas won’t look that way until next week.
- Rickie Fowler, United States – The eighth-ranked Fowler is well-rested after being off since The Players Championship and is making his debut in the Valero Texas Open to prepare for the Masters. Rickie has three top-10 finishes this season, including a victory in the Waste Management Phoenix Open and a tie for second in the Honda Classic.
- Matt Kuchar, United States – Kooch admitted he was worn out after losing in the final of the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play, but if he can get enough rest he should be a factor in San Antonio because he is playing so well with two victories this season. Makes his 15th start in the Texas Open, tying for second in 2001 and tying for fourth in 2014.
- Tony Finau, United States – Although he has six finishes in the top 25 this season, Finau hasn’t played his best since he finished solo second in the WGCHSBC Champions at the end of September. Is making his third start in the Valero Texas Open and took the lead with a 64 in the second round two years ago before finishing in a tie for third.
- Sungjae Im, South Korea – The 21-year-old rookie, a two-time winner on the Web.com Tour, is playing in his sixth consecutive event and shows no signs of tiring as he makes his tournament debut. Im recorded his fifth top-10 finish of the season last week with a tie for seventh in Puerto Rico, one week after tying for fourth in the Valspar.
- Jim Furyk, United States – The 48-year-old Furyk, who leads the PGA Tour in driving accuracy, is playing some of the best golf of his career. He posted his sixth top 25 of the season with a tie for 17th in the WGC-Match Play, after finishing second in The Players. Tied for third in 2013 Valero Texas Open and tied for sixth the following year.
- Jordan Speith, United States – Even though he did not advance out of group play in the WGC-Match Play, Spieth showed some signs his game might be coming around. The native Texas is playing in the Valero Texas Open for the fifth time and finished second behind Jimmy Walker in his last appearance in 2015 after finishing 10th the year before.
- Graeme McDowell, Northern Ireland – The 2010 U.S. Open champion, fighting a mid-career slump, finally made it back to the top when he claimed his fourth PGA Tour victory in the opposite field PGA Tour event last week in the Dominican Republic. Best finish in three starts in the Valero Texas Open was a tie for 27th two years ago.
- Charley Hoffman, United States – Although Hoffman’s tie for 18th in his last start at the Valspar Championship two weeks ago is his best this season, the Valero Texas Open might be just the place to get back on track. He won the title at TPC San Antonio three years ago, also tied for second in 2011, tied for third in 2013 and tied for eighth in 2006.
- Lucas Bjerregaard, Denmark – The Dane was the surprise of the WGC-Match Play, upsetting Tiger Woods and reaching the semifinals before finishing fourth, but he won twice on the European Tour in the last two years and barely missed another title by losing in a playoff. Bjerregaard also tied for 12th in the Honda and tied for 30th in The Players.
- Billy Horschel, United States – It’s been eight months since Horschel missed a cut and with six top-25 finishes this season, he figures to be right there on the weekend because of his previous success in the Valero Texas Open. He is playing in the event for the ninth time, finishing third in 2013 and 2015, and also tying for fourth in 2016.
- Mackenzie Hughes, Canada – The 2017 RSM Classic champion missed the cut 32 times since, but finished T2 last week in the Dominican and T13 in the Valspar.
- Sepp Straka, Austria – Winner of the 2018 KC Golf Classic on the Web.com Tour finished T13 in the Farmers, T16 in Puerto Rico and T26 in the Domincan last week.
- Curtis Luck, Australia – The Aussie, winner of 2016 Nexus Risk TSA Group WA Open, finished T13 in the Valspar, T25 in Puerto Rico and T35 at Pebble Beach this year.
- Wyndham Clark, United States – The 2017 Pac-12 champion while at Oregon, Clark finished T7 at the Honda, T10 in Puerto Rico and T18 in the Desert Classic this year.
- Denny McCarthy, United States – Winner of 2018 Web.com Tour Championship has placed T7 in the Sanderson Farms, T9 in the Valspar and T15 in the Shriners this season.
For first-round tee times visit https://www.pgatour.com/leaderboard.html