Jim Neveau, TGW Columnist
You can follow Jim on Twitter at @JimNeveau
In the weeks after The Masters, the PGA Tour usually takes a big sigh of relief, and most of the game’s biggest stars will take a few weeks off to recuperate before a string of big events like the Wells Fargo Championship and The Players in May. For now though, the Tour swings into Texas for the Texas Open, contested at the Greg Norman-designed TPC San Antonio.
The field is one of the weakest that the Tour is likely to see this year, with the highest ranked player being World Number 15 Matt Kuchar. Some events have weaker fields, but that is usually because there is a World Golf Championship opposite it, such as the Mayakoba Classic or the Puerto Rico Open, but just because the competition isn’t the most skilled doesn’t mean that this tournament isn’t going to be compelling.
The course is one of the longest on Tour, and last year it played as the most difficult par-72 course on the entire PGA Tour. The reason for this is simple: the par-3’s are nearly all above 200 yards, the shortest par-5 is 587 yards, and the wind in Texas is, needless to say, a difficult component. It’s no small wonder that Texans like Justin Leonard have been adept at winning at events like the Open Championship where adapting to elements like wind is a crucial key to success.
The defending champion at this event is Brendan Steele, and he will be paired with Kevin Na and Bud Cauley for the first two rounds of the tournament. He hasn’t exactly had the most successful season this year, finishing in the top-10 only once and making the cut in only five of the 10 tournaments that he has entered. His scoring average is also 72.61, meaning that he just isn’t striking the ball as well as he would like to be coming into the tournament where he is trying to defend his crown.
Speaking of Na, he has his own checkered history at the event, bearing the dubious distinction of shooting the highest score on a single hole in PGA Tour history. He made a 16 on the par-4 9th hole last year, and in a fitting act of retribution, he showed up at the course with a chainsaw to pretend to take down some of the trees that had made his life a living hell last year.
There really aren’t any all-star groups in this one, but one that sticks out is the group featuring Kuchar, KJ Choi, and Johnson Wagner. Kuchar is obviously a big contender for the FedEx Cup championship with his consistent play and even demeanor, while Choi is the defending champion at The Players and always a threat to go low even if conditions deteriorate into a tough slog. Wagner has a win and a second place finish to his credit this year, and by making the cut in nine of the 11 events he’s played, he has already racked up over $2 million in winnings.
The tournament kicks off Thursday, with coverage beginning at 3pm EDT on The Golf Channel.
-Masters Champion Bubba Watson has elected to pull out of the Wells Fargo Championship at Quail Hollow in two weeks. The decision was made because he was going to be spending three weeks away from his adopted newborn son Caleb and his wife, and he chose to spend time with his family instead. He will still defend his title in New Orleans next week, and is planning on playing at The Players in Florida three weeks from now. [ESPN]
-The European Tour is in China this week for the Volvo China Open. You can catch coverage of this tournament on Golf Channel at 9am EDT. [European Tour.com]
-The other two events this week will be Liberty Mutual Insurance Legends of Golf on the Champions Tour, and the LOTTE Championship in Hawaii for the LPG A Tour. Both events will be featured in coverage on Golf Channel starting on Friday.