By Dave Shedloski
For the eighth consecutive year, the Valero Texas Open, one of the oldest events on the PGA TOUR, is being contested at TPC San Antonio’s AT&T Oaks Course, a sturdy test of golf designed by Greg Norman and Sergio Garcia, the newly minted Masters champion.
Begun in 1922, the Valero Texas Open features a distinguished list of past champions, including Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Lee Trevino, Tom Watson, Ben Crenshaw and Arnold Palmer, who is the only player to win three in a row, from 1960-62.
Of more immediate interest are past champions who are in this week’s field. The list includes multiple winners Zach Johnson and Justin Leonard. Also returning are Steven Bowditch, Ben Curtis, Martin Laird, Brendan Steele, San Antonio’s Jimmy Walker and defending champion Charley Hoffman.
The AT&T Oaks Course is a par-72 layout measuring 7,435 yards. Given the list of winners, including Adam Scott in 2010, the course favors no particular style of play, though short-game proficiency tends to be important on and around the challenging greens.
>>MORE: Golf Expert Interviews
CBS Sports on-course reporter Dottie Pepper looks at this week’s possible stories and what to expect from an excellent field.
What makes the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio such a tough layout?
The green complexes are really complicated. You have plenty of room to drive the golf ball, at least when the wind isn’t blowing 35 mph. But the greens are tough, and the bunkering is very challenging. You have a lot of bunker shots where you can’t see the bottom of the flagstick — if you see the flagstick at all.
This is a home game for U.S. Ryder Cup star Patrick Reed, who hasn’t won since August and was second at TPC San Antonio last year. Is it easier or harder to win at home?
It takes more organization to win at home. I did it a few times … and it’s all about mixing your job with your daily life, which we aren’t used to doing too often.
What’s your take on Curtis Luck, the U.S. Amateur champion, who makes his pro debut this week?
I covered him at the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championship. I am really impressed with him. He’s more of an artist than a technician, with a great feel for the game. He’s going to have a really good career. He has a lot of tools.
Ten of the 16 winners in the 2017 calendar year have been inside the top 25 in the Official World Golf Ranking entering that week’s event. Is that surprising or just top players in form?
I think it’s the latter rather than the former. A lot of people might have seen Wesley Bryan as a surprise, but he had been in contention a few times already. So many players have the capability of winning, but right now it looks like the best players are playing their best.
Having said that, only five of the top 25 are in the field, though there is still a great list of players coming to San Antonio.
The rankings don’t show the potential of this field and all of the good stories that we have this week. Matt Kuchar is coming off two lightning finishes on Sunday the last two weeks. You have Sam Saunders playing pretty darn well. Ollie Schniederjans and Luke Donald were right there with a chance to win last week. Just waiting for Kevin Chappell to put it all together. Keegan Bradley is playing better. So much to talk about.
Favorites and dark horses?
I would say on form, probably Matt Kuchar and Charley Hoffman, who did so well at the Masters, would be the favorites. You can’t forget about Luke Donald, who has such a great short game. Ollie Schniederjans has been playing well, and he’ll figure it out. I also think Harold Varner III might challenge again.
Journalist and author David Shedloski of Columbus, Ohio, has been covering golf since 1986, first as a daily newspaper reporter and later as a freelance writer for various magazines and Internet outlets. A winner of 23 national writing awards, including 20 for golf coverage, Shedloski is currently a contributing writer for Golf World and GolfDigest.com and serves as editorial director for The Memorial, the official magazine of the Memorial Tournament in Dublin, Ohio. He is the author of three books and has contributed to three others, including the second edition of “Golf For Dummies,” with Gary McCord. He’s a fan of all Cleveland professional sports teams, the poor fellow.