Valero Texas Open Preview, Picks & Analysis
Post by Sports Writer Derek Clements
RYAN MOORE will look to continue his excellent form by winning the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio. The American chased Rory McIlroy all the way in the Tour Championship last year and has continued to play well ever since, with a terrific performance in The Masters at Augusta.
The wind often blows in Texas and Moore will be hoping that it does its worst for four days. He may have an idiosyncratic golf swing but it works, and he enjoys hitting knockdown shots and cheating the breeze. He also plays well on tough courses, and TPC San Antonio is certainly that.
There will be disappointment among the local fans that Jordan Spieth has decided to give the tournament a miss. Spieth fought his way into contention after 54 holes at Augusta and was the pick of many to land his second Green Jacket. It wasn't to be, however, and he produced an error-strewn final round that saw him tumble down the leaderboard.
If Spieth thought that he had Augusta's number after two runners-up finishes and a spectacular victory then he knows very different now. He has played well in Texas in the past and it seems that he is passing up a perfect opportunity to get a disappointing week out of his system.
The tournament was won last year by Charley Hoffman, by Jimmy Walker in 2015, Steven Bowditch in 2014, Martin Laird in 2013, Ben Curtis in 2012 and by Brendan Steele in 2011.
The course is a par 72 that measures a formidable 7,522 yards and was designed by Greg Norman, with help from Masters champion Sergio Garcia. It is a beautiful course that features plenty of indigenous flora, lots of oak trees and many bunkers.
Steele is definitely worth an each-way flutter. Apart from his 2011 victory, he has had several good finishes in Texas and would have won again 12 months ago had it not been for a final round of 75. The 34-year-old is having a stellar year. He has played in 12 tournaments and made the cut in all of them. He won the Safeway Open, has three top-10 finishes and six top-25 finishes and has already banked in excess of $2m. The wind tends to blow in Texas and despite standing 6ft 2in, Steele loves it when the breeze gets up because he can manipulate the ball at will - high, low, draw, fade, it's all the same to Steele.
One man who will feel that he has a point to prove is Patrick Reed, who was second 2016. As his career graph continued to rise, he finished a single shot behind Hoffman 12 months ago. Reed declared himself ready to win his first major and many pundits believed the 26-year-old was not speaking out of turn but he has a solitary top-10 finish this season and languishes in 89th place in the FedEx Cup standings. It is not what Reed had in mind for himself at all.
The Texans will adore Andrew "Beef"Johnston. The bearded Englishman finished 10th in the recent Puerto Rico Open, and could easily have won the tournament. Beef is happy to live up an image as a burger-loving, beer-guzzling figure of fun. Make no mistake, however, about his ability to play golf. He has a fine line to tread on the PGA Tour. The American galleries want to see him making a fool of himself, and he is happy to play along. As long as he doesn't lose sight of the fact that he is America to play tournament golf he will be fine. Fortunately, Johnston has some good people around him who will ensure that his feet remain firmly on the ground. In the grand scheme of things, he has achieved very little on the PGA Tour. His priority has to be ensuring he earns enough to keep his Tour card. And he is easily good enough to do that.
Hard though it may be to believe, time is fast running out for Ian Poulter, who is playing on a medical exemption, which ends in Texas. He needs a big week to earn enough money to keep his playing privileges. Failure to do so will mean that the Englishman will spend the rest of the year banking on sponsors' invitations. It seemed that he had turned the corner at the RBC Heritage at Harbour Town. Needing a top-12 finish to secure his card, he came up one shot short.
Poulter would not be first to find there is no way back, and he will not be last. He has a legion of supporters who will be crossing their fingers for the man who has achieved so much for Europe in the Ryder Cup. With a luxury home and a Ferrari collection to look after, Poulter needs to rediscover the magic. He must earn at least $40,000 in Texas, so the first task is to make the cut.
Adam Hadwin is in the form of his life. The Canadian joined the 59 Club earlier this season and now has a victory tucked under his belt. He is brimming with confidence and will be hoping that the wind blows hard in Texas. And then there is former Open and Masters champion Zach Johnson, a golfer who thrives in tricky conditions and has a great record in the Lone Star state. Johnson is due a big week, and this could be it.
Look out, too, for another big week from Ollie Schniederjans. He finished third at the RBC Heritage after leading the tournament with nine holes to play. A couple of dropped shots on the back nine cost him his chance to win but he took it all in his stride and it is surely only a matter of time before he tastes victory on the PGA Tour for the first time.
Brendan Steele. Tough as teak
Charley Hoffman. In excellent form
Zach Johnson. Loves playing in the wind
Brendan Steele. Hugely underrated
Charley Hoffman. Looking to maintain Masters form
Zach Johnson. Due another victory
Andrew Johnston. A serious contender
Patrick Reed. In need of a return to form
Ryan Moore. Excellent ball striker
Ryan Palmer. Adores playing in Texas
Kevin Na. A money-making machine
Adam Hadwin. In the form of his life
Ian Poulter. Make-or-break week for the Englishman
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