Valero Texas Open — Everyone likes cheap gas!

Out of the swamps, the PGA Tour moves west to the oil fields of Texas for a couple weeks before the Masters. With oil prices plunging, who knows how much longer Valero can be a PGA Tour sponsor? Best to enjoy the tournament while we can before it becomes the “Texas Clean Energy™ Open powered by Sun and Wind” or something like that. Oh wait, we’re in Texas, it’ll always be sponsored by oil companies!

About the Sponsor

Valero Energy Corporation makes gas.Unlike industry mammoths BP and Shell who are energy companies, Valero sticks to oil by operating 16 refineries in the US. Really there isn’t much interesting about them at all except their tiny foray into wind energy. Valero has a 50 megawatt wind farm that, get this, is used to power one of their refineries. Who can call them environmentally insensitive after that?

Last year…

Let’s play a game I’m calling “Guess the Australian who won the VTO last year!” The first thing to do is to name all the Australians on the PGA Tour, and then pick one who could still win on Tour. First tier — Jason Day, Adam Scott obviously. Then we’ll move to second tier of Geoff Ogilvy (who somehow managed to win a US Open), John Senden, Stuart Appleby (little past his prime) and Robert Allenby (who I’ll try to mention as often as possible from now on because of his recent run in with being “kidnapped” in Hawaii. See below for pictures). After that… Greg Norman? Safe to say, last year’s winner really didn’t show up on anyone’s list of top Australian golfers before the tournament, and frankly, even after.

Aussie pride

Nevertheless, Aussie Stephen Bowditch half choked it into the clubhouse with a final round +4 76 to win by one. The fact that he could shoot a 76 and still win by one goes to show how well he played in the first three rounds.

The Course

TPC San Antonio is  7,435 yards, par 72 layout designed by Greg Norman. I’ll be honest, when I started writing this, I had no idea that I’d have two references to Greg Norman in here. Props to him for still being relevant. The TPC San Antonio resort actually has 2 courses on site. In a triumph of American capitalism, both courses are sponsored by AT&T. The tournament course is named the AT&T Oaks Course, and the other course is named the AT&T Canyons Course. Yup, AT&T actually managed to get their name on both the courses at the resort. With names like those, I’ll assume you’ll get good cell reception there. If Sprint paid to put their name on a golf course, the entire thing would be a 3g dead zone.

The VTO’s been played at the Oaks course since 2010 after moving from La Cantera Golf Club. The only reason I bring up La Cantera is because there’s a freaking roller coaster off one of the holes, and I wanted to put a picture in here of a roller coaster.


Depending on the weather, expect winning scores to be around -10. But since we’re going to be in Texas, high winds can pop up and raise the scores like they did in last year’s final round.

What to watch for

Overseeded Grass — It’s still early in the golf season, and the bermuda grass that Texas courses uses is still dormant and tan colored. Since ugly grass isn’t going to fly on TV, the course is overseeded with bent grass that’s green year-round. Being from the north, I’m a fan of it because bermuda is annoying to play on, and the ryegrass is more what I’m used to. Overseeding is really kind of interesting if you’re at all interested in grass (I mean, how can you not be? /s). So if you’re wondering why the grass is green even though it’s wintertime, it’s from the overseeding.

Another amateur in the field — Sam Burns, freshman at LSU and 2014 AJGA Rolex Boys Junior Player of the Year, will play on a sponsor exemption. After Ollie Schniederjans missed the cut a few weeks ago at the Valspar, and both amateurs at the API missed the cut, maybe Burns can break that streak of amateurs failing on the pro circuit.

Final Thought

No matter who wins the tournament, the big winner this week is Greg Norman. He better take this time to be happy because in June, Norman, Joe Buck and Fox Sports are going to ruin the US Open with their golf broadcasting inexperience. Johnny Miller gets a lot of hate, but I’m a fan. And losing his voice during the US Open (since NBC isn’t going to be doing the broadcast anymore) is going to be more than a little sad. In honor of the big winner of the week, here’s a picture of Greg Norman not winning the Masters.


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