One thing the players in the field for the Valero Texas Open will not want to do this week is miss the fairway, as Kevin Na found out the hard way last year.
Hitting your ball into the long grass at TPC San Antonio, the host course of the Valero Texas Open, can have dreadful consequences. Na, up among the leaders at the time on 1-under, drove well right off the 9th tee and 15 minutes later he finished the par four in 16 shots, a record on the PGA Tour.
That one drive ruined any chance Na had at victory in Texas, in fact he went from being in the top 10 to destined to miss the cut because of one mistake, which is a lesson everyone in the field for the Valero Texas Open should heed this week.
Tournament favourite ready for the challenge
One of the favourites for this week Matt Kuchar, is well aware of the problems this course can cause and is looking forward to the challenge.
"It seems to be trouble everywhere," Kuchar said. "If you’re not driving the ball well, you’re really in trouble. But even in the iron game, the greens are so demanding as well, undulating with big falloffs that a shot that’s just off can end up in a place that is a really bad place.
"I’m anxious to be here, anxious to test my game, and hope to have a good shot come Sunday afternoon," Kuchar said.
"This is an event that I remember being at home last year watching on TV thinking, ‘I need to add that to my schedule,’" Kuchar said. "It looks like a difficult driving golf course, demanding golf course, one that would suit my game pretty well."
Defending champion out of form
Last year’s winner Brendan Steele was a rookie on the PGA Tour when he won this event in 2011, and despite having a good first season on tour, he has struggled this year.
Steele is currently ranked 127th in the world, and after finishing fifth in the Phoenix Open he has missed five cuts in his past nine appearances and finished outside the top 65 on three other occasions.
He will be hoping to recapture his form where he won his maiden PGA Tour title.
"You have to work on expectations and really understand what you're trying to do," Steele said.
"Winning in my rookie year was something that I never even dreamed that I would be able to do so it's a little bit hard almost to keep yourself, not motivated, but kind of a 'Where do we go from here?'-type thing.
"I've been trying to fight through that and haven't had a lot of success over the last few weeks but I've learned a lot over the last few weeks. I don't think there's a lot wrong with my game. My approach has been a little bit off. I'm just trying to make that transition, start moving in the right direction."
Rookies looking to make a name for themselves
This tournament will again represent a grand opportunity for a rookie to make a name for himself on the PGA Tour, as a lot of the bigger names are taking the week off while 24 of the 26 PGA Tour rookies are in the field, which is 100% of the fit first year players. Sang-Moon Bae withdrew with a shoulder injury, while Joe Affrunti has been injured since April.
Southern Africans in the Valero Texas Open field
It is also a great chance for one of the journeyman pros, like Brendan de Jonge, to earn a win and shed that dreadful adjective.
The other Southern African player in the field is Garth Mulroy.
Inside the TPC San Antonio
Original architect: Pete Dye and Greg Norman
Par value: 72
Number of PGA Tour events hosted: 3
Course ranking: 7 out of 51 courses for difficulty in 2011
Yardage: 6878 meters
Grass: Bermudagrass (tees, fairways, rough, greens)
Sand bunkers: 58
Water hazards: 3