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 older events dating back to 1922. With so much history, we decided to look to the past to inform this week’s hot takes: 2003 Texas Open winner conquering hero, Tommy Armour III, was nice enough to share his thoughts on this tournament, which we’ve sprinkled throughout the preview (expect a much deeper dive from us on TA3 in the near future – the man embodies virtually everything that NLU stands for, both on and off the course.). 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!
All aboard the birdie train
Course – Past & Present
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 shortest course 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 they suck 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 2014 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.
Marty Laird charged down the home stretch birdieing his final three holes to get his damn trophy! The final round 63 bested Rory, Horschel, 5-hour Furyk and a host of others. It was Laird’s 3rd career victory on Tour and I’m literally out of anything else interesting to say about him, which fittingly encapsulates his career to date I think.
(all lines courtesy Ladbrokes.com, the Official Bookmaker of NoLayingUp.com)
Horses for Courses
Jordan Spieth (16/1) – one of his few missed cuts last year occurred here which you know has to be in the forefront of the young Texan’s mind. He’s an almost automatic top-25 these days, which is a bit surreal considering he can’t legally enjoy a Shiner after his rounds yet. Call this one a hunch. Guy’s competitiveness and intensity week in and week out is impressive and stands out against the field, a quality we love in these relatively ‘lesser’ events.
Jim Furyk (25/1) – only start at the TPC San Antonio was last year when he finished T3. This just feels like an event 5-Hour Furyk should thrive in. Nondescript, overlooked, etc.
Charley Hoffman (25/1) – this guy is tailor made for the TPC San Antonio. Since the event moved there in 2010, Chucky has gone T13, T2, T13, and T3 last year. Having a really solid 2014 with 9/10 made cuts, 6 top-25’s and 3 top-10’s.
Will MacKenzie (40/1) – guy is playing as good of golf as just about anybody this year. 8 top-25’s and 4 top-10’s in 12 events this year. Has played the Valero at TPC San Antonio twice–WMD’d in 2010 after a first round 85, then went T41 in 2012. Would love to see this guy cash in his great play with a win.
Pat Perez (50/1) – I’m personally insulted by this line. 50/1? He’s made 10 cuts in a row and was in the mix last week until some struggles (and by struggles, I mean a final round 83. We’re willing to look the other way on this one.) Finished T5 last time he played here.
Ryo Ishikawa (66/1) – has never played this event. In great form coming off last three weeks (T8, T25, and T19) after a rough stretch of MC’s in February. Knocking on the door for his first Tour win.
Brian Harman (80/1) – top 25 finishes here last two years (his first two on tour). Saturday 75 held him back last year. MC last week, but he’s been in form for much of the season. Nice value.
Daniel Summerhays (100/1) – emceed proceedings in 2011, then came back with solid results in ’12 (T29) and ’13 (T7). Has made a boatload of cuts this year (10/13) though did not last week at Bay Hill.
Brian Gay (100/1) – T61, T4, and T23 in last three years here. Made 9/13 cuts this year but has MC’d 2 of last 3 events. Bet this one at your own risk – he’s in dire need of some good juju but this could jog some good vibes.
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.
- 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.
- 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 Las Colinas – though it sounds like they’re moving to greener pastures). Colonial’s carrying the torch for the entire state!
- Mickelson’s appearance this week is special. Either there’s a fat, under the table appearance fee exchanging hands, or Lefty knows he needs reps. Between appearances at the Shell and Valero tournaments, and his ExxonMobil deal, dude is doing WORK for big oil. BP needs to get this guy in the fold!
The apple of Phil’s eye.
- The ladies are out in Carlsbad this week for the Kia Classic, being held at Aviara Golf Club. The name suggests bird sanctuary.
- Koepka and Uihlein are in the field this week – both presumably using sponsor’s exemptions. Just saying.
- Web.com tour is back stateside after a month off the grid in the Southern Hemisphere. Chances are most of the locales they visited down under are more worldly than this week’s host, Broussard, Louisiana.
- For the uninitiated, here’s a classic Sports Illustrated bit on TA3 from ’02.
- 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