I certainly don’t want to upset anyone here, especially Connie Black, but TPC San Antonio is not at the top of most players list of preferred PGA Tour stops. So when The Valero Texas Open tees off tomorrow, most of the field is packed with players trying to get that Maters Invitation, or like Phil Mickelson, needing some work on his game before he goes to Augusta.
The course at TPC San Antonio is long, the fairways narrow with protective bunkers, and the greens are quirky, and players who survived the US Open conditions on the Florida Swing taking a break, it was difficult to come up with featured groups, but they did. Don’t get me wrong, there are still some good names in the field, just not plentiful.
The four players who are in the Top 15 in World Rankings are Phil Mickelson, Zach Johnson, Matt Kuchar, and Jordan Spieth. The remaining names that dot the lineup are FedEx Cup leader, Jimmy Walker, Cadillac Champ and wannabe #5, Patrick Reed, and super grinder, Jim Furyk.
Phil Mickelson-Jordan Spieth-Martin Laird – 9 a.m. ET, 10th tee on Thursday; 1:50 p.m. ET, 1st tee on Friday:
This has to be the marquee pairing for Thursday and Friday. Phil Mickelson hasn’t been to San Antonio for 22 years, Jordan Spieth is from Texas, and Martin Laird is your defending champion. Laird teed off on Sunday morning last year trailing 54-hole leader Billy Horschel who was hungry for a win, and a Masters invite. During the final round he picked up a motivated challenger in Rory McIlroy who was having his best day of the year. Laird made a putt from the fringe for birdie at 17, and dropped a 15 ft putt on 18 to close the door on McIlroy for the win.
Chesson Hadley-Matt Kuchar-Billy Horschel – 2 p.m. ET, 1st tee on Thursday; 9:10 a.m. ET, 10th tee on Friday:
This group intrigues me because not only is University of Florida grad, Billy Horschel very animated, but is fun to watch, especially if he is playing well. I like Matt Kuchar, but with his tight game that usually features a drive in the fairway, an iron shot to the center of the green and a make or break birdie putt is somewhat boring to watch. With that being said, The Kuch is high in my rankings because that is the kind of game that will win this event. The intriguing watch here is the 26 year-old Chesson Hadley. Hadley is also animated when he is playing well, and can make the Masters if he can squeeze a good finish out here or a win.
Jimmy Walker-Ernie Els-Justin Leonard – 1:50 p.m. ET, 1st tee on Thursday; 9 a.m., 10th tee on Friday:
Jimmy Walker hasn’t played well since the tour moved out of California, but he still has a commanding lead in the FedEx Cup standings, and far as I am concerned, has the game to pick up a win here. He has never fared well East of the Mississippi, but hey…Texas is West of the big river so I give Walker a chance. Ernie Els is always a pleasure to watch, and still has the game to sneak to the top of a leaderboard. Now that Ernie has went back to the regular-sized putter, it’s only a matter of time when he adds another win to his resume.
John Senden-Zach Johnson-Jim Furyk – 9:10 a.m. ET, 10th tee on Thursday; 2 p.m. ET, 1st tee on Friday:
Neither Valspar Champion, John Senden, or 2003 US Open Champ Jim Furyk are must-see-tv, but the one to keep an eye on here is 2007 Masters Champ, Zach Johnson. Zach has not been able to find the magic that holed out a must-have wedge shot at Tiger’s tournament, or beat the big hitters on Kapalua, but it’s only a matter of time. Zach hasn’t played particularly well since taking a break earlier in the year, but this golf course fits his game to a tee. For that reason, Zach was my number one pick to lift a trophy on Sunday afternoon.