It’s hard not to look ahead at this point.
One of the golf tournaments fans long for, the Masters, is a week away.
The PGA Tour doesn’t take many weeks off, so of course there’s a warm-up event before all eyes are on Augusta National.
The event preceding the Masters has shuffled throughout the years, but recently the Valero Texas Open has held down that spot.
It’s an event that dates back over a century to its origin in 1922. The historic event has been held at several venues. Its current locale is the Oaks course at TPC San Antonio since 2010.
I’m sure the PGA Tour would love to move away from a Greg Norman design, but we’re still here in 2023. The Oaks course is a par-72 measuring 7,435 yards. Bermuda grass with rye overseed composes the fairways and rough. Poa trivialis and velvet bentgrass are on the greens.
Fairways are fairly generous and the rough is penal in spots at the Texas Open.
The course’s main defense is the usual windy conditions predominant here and throughout Texas. There’s room for off-line tee shots and approaches, but going too far astray can lead to native areas and big numbers.
Length isn’t a prerequisite to win, but it can give a player an advantage on the par-5s where three play over 590 yards on the card.
The field features 144 players vying to make the traditional 36-hole cut of top 65 and ties.
There aren’t a ton of big names in the field with eight top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking. A couple are dealing with injury issues like No. 17 Tyrrell Hatton and No. 21 Hideki Matsuyama. Hatton went 0-3-0 last week at the WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play while battling a hand injury. Matsuyama withdrew with a neck injury after going 1-1 in his first two matches.
I’ve left them out of this week’s top 10 for these reasons.
The forecast this week looks like some storms could pop up mid-tournament. Otherwise, it’ll be in the 70s-low 90s Fahrenheit with winds in the low double digit miles per hour.
Let’s get down to who are the top 10 guys heading into the Texas Open:
Ryan Fox is ready to break out stateside. The New Zealander is a three-time winner on the DP World Tour and has 14 total wins as a pro. The son of former All Blacks rugby player, Grant Fox, likely should have been on last year’s International team for the Presidents Cup.
He’ll be a debutant at next week’s Masters and has been in the U.S. the last month getting ready.
After five straight made cuts on the DP World Tour prior, the 36-year-old’s finished T-14th at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by Mastercard, T-27th at the Players Championship, and went 2-1-0 in group play at last week’s WGC-Dell Technologies Match Play.
Fox opened with a 2 & 1 win over Harris English, lost 2 & 1 to eventual group winner, Andrew Putnam, and won a conceded match against Will Zalatoris, who pulled out with an injury.
“Yeah, I’ve played really solid the last almost 18 months, to be honest,” Fox was transcribed by ASAP Sports in Austin last week.
"“I feel a bit more comfortable playing in these events, playing against the top guys. For me, coming over here has always been a bit tough because I’ve kind of only done one week at a time, and I’m in my fourth week over here, played obviously Bay Hill and The Players and played some solid golf, and starting to find some comfort out here, which has been nice. Hopefully I can keep going. I’ve got a few weeks left and been enjoying it so far.”"
Fox is making his Valero Texas Open debut this week.
He doesn’t have enough rounds on the PGA Tour this season to count toward statistical ranks. If he did, Fox would sit 12th in total strokes gained per round (1.462) and 38th in SG off-the-tee (.695).
Fox can pummel the ball and should have the ability to penetrate the wind expected once again in Texas this week.