By Dan Reardon
In the span of two weeks on the PGA TOUR, nearly 150 years of golf history will have been travelled. Coming on the heels of the Golden Jubilee at Harbour Town, the Valero Texas Open makes its calendar mate seem almost youthful. For 96 years, men’s professional golf has made a stop in San Antonio, Texas for the Texas Open. Eight different courses, starting with Brackenridge Park to the current venue at the TPC San Antonio, have greeted the touring pros, and they have been warmly treated. Since 1934, every winner in the Alamo City has posted red numbers for the trophy.
For a tournament with that much history, one would expect prominent names on its tournament plaque. And from its earliest days, names like Ben Hogan, Byron Nelson and Arnold Palmer (three consecutive years) have finished on top. Since entering its second century, the roster of champions has continued to stand out. Major winners Justin Leonard, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Ben Curtis and Jimmy Walker all posted wins since 2000.
Amanda Balionis has been on the golf beat for several years, working most recently as a reporter with CBS Sports. She talked about course conditions and players to watch at the Valero Texas Open.
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The TPC of San Antonio is a reasonably young entry on the list of courses that have hosted the Texas stop. What catches your eye about this course?
This week what has really been catching everyone’s attention is how windy it has been. You tend to think that those PGA TOUR players who are from Texas and used to playing in those kinds of conditions are really going to come out on top. The winds have been gusting up to 35 mph so far, so that is something we are definitely keeping our eye on.
At RBC Heritage you talked to a player who finished an hour before the leaders and was placed prominently on the leaderboard. When you talked to Satoshi Kodaira did you have a sense whether he was thinking “I will finish high this week” or one who was thinking “I have a chance to win.”
It’s interesting, because right as he was coming in, that was when Si Woo Kim was starting to struggle with his putter. Usually you think, well, he may finish in second place or be in the top 10, but you never really know what’s going to happen. And then, all of sudden, you see these players start to struggle with their putters, and then you think, “Wait a second, this could really happen.”
But for Satoshi, after I interviewed him, he did go back into the clubhouse for a little bit, but then he pretty quickly headed out onto the range. He asked “Well, where is he (Kim) on 18?” And we told him he has a six-footer for birdie, and he looked so disappointed. He kind of looked around like he thought “Man, I really had a chance.” He thought it was over. And then he missed, and all of a sudden, everything went into hyper-speed for him. It was a really interesting roller coaster to observe.
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Give us some names that you think might be in the mix this week and why you like them.
The first player you can never count out here is Charley Hoffman. For whatever reason, he just absolutely loves TPC San Antonio. He’s the tournament all-time earnings leader. He’s eight for eight, has never missed the cut here. He has a win in 2016. So he is somebody you always want to put on your list of possible winners.
You have a Texas guy like Ryan Palmer. This is another guy who loves it here. He lives in Dallas. He’s been playing really well. He’s coming in here feeling really good about his game, and he has so much experience playing in these Texas conditions. So if these winds really do pick up, you are going to see him play really well here.
Another guy I am kind of keeping an eye on is Luke List. He has put himself in contention it seems like every week this season. He lost in a playoff at Honda. He put himself in that final grouping at Hilton Head. If he can figure out a way to have really strong Sunday performances, once he gets into the winner’s circle, the floodgates are just going to absolutely open for him.
Give us a player that maybe is not as obvious this week.
I don’t know if he would be an off-the-radar guy, but I would go for somebody like Xander Schauffele. He’s had a really solid season, and I can see this course fitting his game and his patience coming into play here this week, with the possible conditions we could be seeing.
Dan Reardon has covered golf for radio station KMOX in St. Louis for 33 years. In that time, he has covered more than 100 events, including majors and other PGA, LPGA and Champions Tour tournaments. During his broadcast career, Reardon conducted one-on-one interviews with three dozen members of the World Golf of Fame. He has contributed to many publications over the years and co-authored the book Golf’s Greatest Eighteen from Random House. Reardon served as Director of Media relations for LPGA events in both St. Louis and Chicago for 10 years.