Still suffering in the wake of the Masters, it’s another underwhelming week on the PGA Tour with few big name players entering the Valero Texas Open.
One man that is taking to TPC San Antonio, though, is Kevin Chappell. The world-number-43 won his first Tour title here in 2017 with a last ditch birdie to keep Brooks Koepka at arms length.Embed from Getty Images
As a result, Chappell will be defending a title for the first-time in his career this week. Although he doesn’t enter in the richest vein of form having missed the past two cuts at the RBC Heritage and the Masters.
Chappell’s Sunday challenger, Koepka, will not be back but Sergio Garcia, who was instrumental in the design of TPC San Antonio’s AT&T Oaks course is returning for the first time since it debuted in 2010.
Garcia heads into this one on the back of a missed cut at his title defence at Augusta National but will be hoping to call on some of the pre-Masters form that led him to three consecutive top 10s.Embed from Getty Images
The Spaniard is the only player entering from inside the world’s top 10 but Matt Kuchar, Charley Hoffman and Xander Schauffele do join him from the top 30. There are starts too, for Si Woo Kim (runner-up at last week’s RBC Heritage), Beau Hossler (runner-up at the Houston Open) and Shubhankar Sharma (two-time European Tour winner this season) after making their marks in recent weeks.
Hoffman won himself here in 2016; he and Chappell will not be the only returning champions. All winners dating back to 2008, with the exception of 2012 winner Ben Curtis, will be back including Jimmy Walker (2015), Steven Bowditch (2014), Martin Laird (2013), Brendan Steele (2011), Adam Scott (2010) and Zach Johnson (2009 & 2008).
Joaquin Niemann finished as tied second amateur at the Masters two weeks ago and has now taken the leap to turn professional. His start at the Valero Texas Open will be his first as a pro.
Having run since 1922, this event is the third oldest on the PGA Tour and the sixth oldest worldwide. In that time there have been eight different host courses, 16 different names and 76 different winners.
TPC San Antonio has only hosted since its opening in 2010. The tournament AT&T Oaks Course was designed by Greg Norman, with the help of Garcia. It’s a 7435-yard par-72 famed for heavy winds, deep hazards and punishing rough patches. It was this course that was the scene of a Kevin Na 16 on the ninth hole in 2011 (watch out Garcia…).
Since the event moved here eight years ago, winning scores have ranged by just six shots with Scott and Laird both winning at 14-under but Bowditch winning at as little as eight-under.
We’ve got a full 500 FedExCup points on offer. Bur remarkably, the prize-fund for this event has not risen since 2011. It sits at $6.2million with $1.116million for the winner.
It’s true, events following the Masters fail to inspire much excitement. But as the weeks pass by we are edging ever closer to major season.