Last year’s event saw a sea change in the chequered history of the Texas Open which had previously (since 1995) been played at La Cantera Resort Course. The tournament historically has always been a secondary event on the PGA Tour with La Cantera being renowned as an easy Bermuda Par 70 track. Fields were weak and the tournament limped along as a secondary Fall Series event. However 2010 saw a move to the new Greg Norman designed AT&T Oaks and a far more challenging course + additional purse saw a higher profile event with a better field the week after The Players Championship. It has to be said that the field this year is a little weaker, but has a little quality within it all the same.
2011 sees TPC San Antonio replace Hilton Head as the “Masters exhale,” where players traditionally relax after the glitzy pageantry and associated pressure of Augusta National. However the tough Bermuda-grassed Norman course is no easy challenge as it ranked the 17th toughest course on Tour in 2010, where fairways and greens are hard to hit. Indeed AT&T Oaks was described as 'not your normal US course' by many pros last season. With gusting wind forecast on Friday, this could be a real test of resolve and all-around golfing skill this week.
With that in-mind the bookmakers have Augusta heroes Adam Scott 8/1 and Geoff Ogilvy 12/1 at the top of the market, with Top 10 finishers Bo “VP” and Texan Ryan Palmer as short as 25/1 and 28/1 respectively. However you can always rely on me for a truthful view and the bookmakers aren’t being overly generous when you realise that in the last 4 post Master’s PGA Tour tournaments (Hilton Head 2007 through 2010) of 23 Each Way paying players (Top 5 finishers) only 1 had finished in the Top 10 at Augusta the previous week. Are we still keen on Scott and Ogilvy?
Instead my 10 point stake Texas Open team has focussed on Bermuda+ players who are in decent nick at present. I’m looking for quality players who can play positively in wind and who have a record on linked tracks such as Colonial, TPC Four Seasons, Redstone, TPC Boston and Riviera.
So how the hell does Anders Hansen fit into the team Mr Bamford! I like to keep followers on their toes! I can’t resist the Danish European Tour regular who quite rightly on current form sits in the World Top 50 and believe me I’ve tried. Let’s firstly tackle the question of why he’s playing the event. Hansen is no stranger to the states as he went to the University of Houston and therefore has local links. Add to that he actually played 17 PGA Tour qualifying tournaments in 2007. So just why is he playing AT&T Oaks the week after Augusta when he could be at home in Zurich? Fact is the Bermuda greens fit Hansen’s game perfectly. There is no-doubt that Hansen is one of the most inform Bermuda specialists on the planet as this form-line shows 3rd (Doral)-2nd (Dubai) – MC (Qatar)-13(Volvo Champions)-18(Abu Dhabi). That’s impressive stuff, especially when you tie-in his liking for the Singapore Open where he finished 5th in 2009 and 2nd in 2010 behind…….Adam Scott. The 80/1 price makes a speculative Each Way punt more than viable. Let’s hope Hansen is motivated and sees this as a big opportunity to drive his WGR rather than a week’s additional vacation. RESULT: M/C
Okay, okay we tipped Cink at 100/1 last week at Augusta and he disappointingly missed the cut. He was in red numbers after 18 holes, but then 8 bogies in his first 12 holes on Friday put paid to his hopes. Mental ‘Major’ fragility! However I’m confident about Cink in early 2011. He actually hit 11 birdies on his way to missing the cut by a single shot in Augusta which is very un-Cink like. Another reason why I’m sticking with Cink this week is his late decision to actually play in San Antonio as he only made the decision after the initial entry list was published last Friday. Cink has never played the Texas Open before and knows that his game is close to contending order, so he wants to play this week which is very positive. On a tough course where scoring won’t be as low as the standard PGA Tour event the 2 time Bermuda green winner should go well in Texas this week where interestingly his last 6 tournament visits (TPC Four Seasons and Colonial) have generated no finish worse than 23rd. RESULT: T59
The perennially over-priced Barnes was described by a fellow tipster last week as having a swing like “a bull in a china shop.” Well yet again the talented Arizona resident navigated his way to a solid 20th position on the back of 10th place last year. Like Cink, Barnes historically plays well on tougher tracks and he also has a liking for playing in Texas where he finished 7th at Colonial in 2010. 9th at Riviera in 2010 also jumps out of the page. His current form-line of 20-MC-4(Honda) highlights that his game is decent nick and should suit AT&T Four Oaks where hitting greens in regulation is key. Finished 5th at Hilton Head the week after the Masters last year and Barnes who is a real momentum player and whom can play both Bermuda and wind positively will see this week as a great opportunity to get his first PGA Tour win. RESULT: T36
Adam Scott observed last year that AT&T Four Oaks had an Aussie feel to it. “When I played Tuesday I was amazed how much it looked like some of the courses back at home. A lot like the Mornington Peninsula (close to Melbourne in Victoria).” I can’t back the leading Australians of Scott and Ogilvy for obvious reasons. John Senden was on the short-list but he never converts and Matt Jones is hideously out of form. Therefore I’m on the superbly talented Marc Leishman who has all the right attributes to play well here. Leishman grew up in Warrambool, Victoria and he showed his liking for this course when he finished 30th here last year. Leishman appeared on radars 2 weeks ago when he finished 3rd (on Bermuda) at Bay Hill. The Virginia Beach resident also has a liking for Texas golf. In 2008 he won on the Nationwide Tour at the WNB Golf Classic at Midland CC by a trivial 11 shots! He also finished 5th at the La Cantera in 2009 in windy conditions and also finished 8th (09) and 12th (10) at nearby TPC Four Seasons. He has the talent and lack of mental baggage to win on Tour soon and an event like this should be just about perfect. RESULT: M/C
Marino, Leishman, Barnes, Molder, Jacobson, Simpson, Overton, Levin, Fowler. Players who are due a win sooner rather than later! It’s easy to add Kevin Na to that list and I’m a believer in the talented Las Vegas man. His 3rd place behind Baddeley (3rd here in 2010) at the Northern Trust grabbed the attention for all the right reasons. Despite the Sky summarisers constantly predicting a collapse of Marino like proportions it never arrived and although he never grabbed the win (Baddeley was unbeatable that week) he bagged another Top 5 finish on a tough classical course. AT&T Oaks should suit as Na is extremely Bermuda positive. Kevin has kept his Texas visits low-key infact solely dedicated to Colonial in recent years and they have generated finishes of 7th (07) and 9th (09) on his much less favoured Bent. You get the feeling that he knows that this Norman designed track should suit and his 5th place finish at Mayakoba back in 2009 doesn’t dispel those thoughts. RESULT: M/C
Way too big a price on the Georgia educated Arkansas boy. Has a cracking Texas tournament history and his recent ‘slump’ is purely a result of yet another close call at Pebble Beach in February where he finished 6th. A talent who could well perform in his favourite state that generated 5th (Colonial) and 8th (Houston) place finishes last year. Interestingly he performs better on Bermuda carpet so AT&T Oaks should suit him better. RESULT: T36
Odds and bookmaker offers correct at 21:45BST 12.4.11 but subject to fluctuation.