This week we leave the AARP behind for the Lone Star State, Army Town USA (San Antonio – I swear that really is its nickname), and the Valero Texas Open, one of the PGA Tour’s oldest events, dating back to 1922. With so much history, we decided to look to the past to inform this week’s hot takes. Last year, Young Neil chatted with 2003 Texas Open winner conquering hero, Tommy Armour III, who was nice enough to share his thoughts on this tournament, which we’ve sprinkled throughout the preview. To preface TA3’s thoughts, it’s important to keep in mind it was at the Texas Open in 2003 that he set the current PGA record for lowest four round scoring total at 254 (-26). This event used to be a birdie bonanza before it abandoned La Cantera and set up shop at TPC San Antonio (more on that tragedy later), but TA3’s performance was obviously next level. We asked him what he attributed this record setting performance to, and he said,
“Well, I had a lot of good friends with me down there that week and we were eating dinner every night, just hanging out, and I had just started going out with this girl for about five, six months, that was some of it…and there was this masseuse giving me some great rubs that week and working my vibe well, and I had a great caddie that week in Stevie Duplantis, who’s no longer with us. It was just a nice little perfect storm.”
TA3 hunting for wild game.
Loose relaxed vibe off the course? Check. Loose body in and out of the bedroom? Check. Phenomenal caddie (one of the best ever) on the course? Check. Tommy Armour IV, who attended the Texas Open in 2003 and also caddied for his Dad later in his career, also shared with us that TA3 had recently started working with the “Putting Arc” and honing his version of the “Stack and Tilt” golf swing mechanics. Somebody call Clooney and Marky Mark, we’ve got the script for a sequel to The Perfect Storm! Per usual, we digress. Let’s get to the preview!
Course (past and present)
All aboard the birdie train
For years this event was played at the aforementioned La Cantera where players were treated to sweeping views of South Texas and a HUGE roller coaster named ‘The Rattler,’ the crown jewel of “Six Flags Fiesta Texas.” This picture over to the right kind of reminds of the gorgeous views of the Pacific at Pebble, and the scene feels a lot like what we’ll experience at Augusta in a few weeks, right? For 15 years it played host to this event until it was simply outgrown. At less than 6,900 yards, it would be one of the shortest courses on tour today, and unless they wanted to have that coaster running through one of the fairways and have a windmill up on the green, it was just too easy.
Naturally, organizers decided to pack up shop and head over to a club with nary an ounce of character or charm. The TPC San Antonio features two courses, the AT&T Canyons Course (home to a Champions Tour event) and this week’s AT&T Oaks Course. Seriously, AT&T bought the naming rights to both courses, so you know you’re going to be provided with shitty service before you even get to the first tee. And true to form, the Oaks course is widely regarded as an unfortunate choice of venue (third worst on tour in this player survey). The Greg Norman design (with an assist from Sergio, who actually collaborated on the design…presumably this coincided with El Nino dating the Shark’s daughter) is described as “a complete disaster”, and that “pride and ego got in the Shark’s way.” It’s too long, and it was suggested that the greens should be “blown up.” But hey, let’s get pumped for the 2015 Valero Texas Open everyone!
It’s South Texas, the land of black gold and Shiner Bock. There’s fierce hometown pride in San Antonio, and a plethora of local good ole boys. I’d expect a crowd of bountiful blondes and laid back bros with fat ‘lippers’ especially visible with a quality HDTV. Sprinkle in some Valero Oil BSD’s and savvy independent wildcatters enjoying the local cuisine of queso-smothered TexMex, and you’ve got the classic San Antonio social scene of young and old co-mingling outdoors. The only thing bigger than the guns may be the belt buckles: Don’t mess with Texas, y’all.
This event was demoted to a slot DEEP in the Silly Season in 2007 and 2008, opposite the Ryder and President’s Cups, before regaining a coveted spring slot back when the Tour euthanized the Bell South Classic in Atlanta (partially in response to Mickelson razing the place in 2006). The Texas events have some of the best history of any on tour (for instance, this one dates to 1922) and yet they get jacked around and disrespected. Ideally the four Texas events would be an actual “Texas Swing” – a monthlong foray into a celebration of golf in a state that loves the sport. There’s some work to be done, however, as three of the four tournaments held in the state are on godawful tracks, between this hot mess, Houston (Redstone/GC of Houston/Whatever They’re Calling it) and Dallas (TPC Four Seasons). Colonial’s carrying the torch for the entire state!
We ushered in the Steven Bowditch era last year, as he triumphantly marched to a final round 76 to win the title over two of our picks that week (Mackenzie and Summerhays both).
For a tournament that is lacking storylines, the field is actually sneaky good. However, with the Masters coming up in two weeks, and the expectation that you won’t be leaving your couch for the duration, we suggest you get out and play some golf if you can. If not, may not be a bad weekend to buy some goodwill with the family/slaypiece/wife, and cash that in when the azaleas are in full bloom in two weeks. You’ll thank us later.
Charley Hoffman (45/1) – A true horse for course. Since the event moved there in 2010, he’s finished, T13, T2, T13, T3, and T11.
Daniel Berger (55/1) – T13 last week at Bay Hill. T2 two starts ago at the Honda. The guy is close.
Justin Thomas (55/1) – It’s in the NLU bylaws that I must bet one of Koepka or Thomas every week.
John Peterson (130/1) – (half unit) Striking it really well. Final round 74 at Bay Hill dropped him way down the leaderboard, but I still believe in him.
Danny Lee (130/1) – (half unit) Quietly finished T7 and T17 the last two weeks.
Fantasy Corner: Spieth, DJ, Furyk, Walker, Kuchar, Kaymer, and Phil headline the field.
(Tracker: +13 units in 2015. Last week: -5. Funds are continuing to hemorrhage. At this pace, I’ll be right at even before Patrick Reed wins the Masters and wins me $2K.)
- Just to give you feel for how legendary TA3’s win was in ’03, let us share how he celebrates: He and his posse peeled out of the La Cantera parking lot right after the win, and drove the four and a half hours home to Dallas so they could party at Tei Tei, a Japanese Steakhouse (no word on how this is pronounced – I vote for “Titay”). At the end of the morning night, TA3 forgot the Texas Open Trophy. Had to go retrieve it the next morning after they opened up.
- I hope they show it during coverage this week–there’s a really nice reflection pool and memorial off the 9th tee at TPC San Antonio, scene of Kevin Na’s 16 in 2011. #NeverForget
- A couple of editorial notes on these previews: A lot of the stuff that applies to multiple years carries over (course, vibe, etc.) – obviously some of it is straight repeat, but for the most part we’re trying to build on the stuff that was well-received and keep the good vibes rolling, and then obviously build the picks section from scratch every week. As we always say, we’re not journalists. We’re just dudes bullshitting about golf, interspersing random observations with creative writing, and telling it to you reals – and if we ever get to the point where it’s not about that, please let us know. Seriously.