With just two weeks left until the 2014 Masters, the PGA Tour moves out of Florida to the mini Texas Swing. Phil Mickelson returns to TPC San Antonio for his first visit in 22 years for The Valero Texas Open, and will be joined by three other top 15 players in the Official World Golf Rankings. With a $6.2 Million Dollars purse, and 500 FedEx Cup points on the line, the Valero Tedxas Open also provides another opportunity for someone needing an invitation to Augusta.
Two-time Texas Open champ, Zach Johnson joins number 11 ranked Matt Kuchar, and 17th ranked Jordan Spieth in a field that will also include the current FedEx Cup leader, Jimmy Walker, and 2014 Cadillac Champ, Patrick Reed.
TPC San Antonio is a 7435 yard par 72 layout which was designed by a Greg Norman/Sergio Garcia collaboration and is located in the Texas Hill country just North of San Antonio.
Though much flatter than the neighboring Canyons course, the Oaks offers a tougher challenge with narrow fairways, bunkers as deep as 12 feet and native vegetation where unplayable lies loom. Three years ago, Kevin Na recorded a 16 at the par-4 ninth hole after struggling to free himself from rocks and underbrush.
A struggling Rory McIroy made a valiant run here last year but was unable overcome a final round 63 by tournament winner Martin Laird. Laird teed off on Sunday four shots behind 54-hole leader Billy Horschel, and carded five birdies on the front nine to get in contention.
Laird held off McIlroy down the stretch by making birdie from the fringe at 17, and making a 15 foot birdie putt on 18 to close McIlroy out.
Phil Mickelson is returning from a two-week rest, and intends to play both Texas stops in preparation for the Masters. Phil has had some spotty play since he withdrew from The Farmers at Torrey Pines. His best finish in that stretch was a T16 at The WGC-Cadillac.
Players coming to Texas still needing invitations to Augusta are Puerto Rico Open, Chesson Hadley and 63rd ranked Ryan Palmer. Hedley’s victory at The Puerto Rico Open Championship was played during the Cadillac, and didn’t come with a Masters Invitation.
Sergio Garcia again won’t tee it up on the course he helped design, taking his name out of the lineup earlier in the week. He’s played the event just once since it landed at its new home.
TELEVISION: Thursday-Friday, 3-6 p.m. ET (Golf Channel). Saturday-Sunday, 1-3 p.m. (GC), 3-6 p.m. (NBC).
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