The second half of the 2017-18 PGA TOUR season opens with one of the toughest tests on the schedule. The AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio hosts the Valero Texas Open. Hard-track specialist Kevin Chappell returns to defend his breakthrough title. His 12-under 276 on the stock par 72 is tied for the third-lowest aggregate among the eight champions since the course debuted in 2010. Scroll past the ranking for much more on TPC San Antonio and how Chappell solved, er, survived it. POWER RANKINGS: VALERO TEXAS OPEN RANK PLAYER COMMENT The tournament’s all-time earnings leader is 8-for-8 with a win (2016), a T2 (2011), a T3 (2013) and four more top 15s at TPC San Antonio. Logged top 25s in four of last six starts. The 2011 winner has added three top 15s since that breakthrough. Ranks eighth in GIR, 11th in birdies-or-better and T19 in par-5 scoring. Four top 20s in last seven starts. Look out now. He tends to ride a heater. Found some magic with the flat stick at Harbour Town and finished T5. Recorded top fives at TPC San Antonio in 2013, 2015 and 2016. Cooled in last three months, but only relatively speaking. A force at TPC San Antonio where he’s 4-for-4 with no worse than T22 (2010) and a scoring average of 71.25. First visit since 2015. Converted on converging trends here last year. Experiencing duties as a first-time defending champ this week and enters a bit cold, but his tee-to-green game is too good to ignore. Continues to sizzle. T3 at Harbour Town was fifth top 20 in last nine starts. Making fourth trip to TPC San Antonio. Sixth on TOUR in strokes gained: tee-to-green and T19 in par-5 scoring. The course horse hasn’t missed an edition. He has four top 10s (and a T15), including in each of the last three. The course design rewards the native Texan’s confident tee ball. Top 20s in both prior visits to TPC San Antonio (2012, 2017). Ranked second in both fairways hit and greens in regulation at Harbour Town (T16). Finished T5 at Bay Hill a month ago. Sustaining form that yielded a career-best five top 10s in the first half, including a T7 at Harbour Town. Currently 11th on TOUR in the all-around. Placed T4 here in 2015. Perfect in six appearances with three top 15s and a scoring average of 71.58. Two top 10s and two top 30s in his last four starts. Inside top 30 in proximity and strokes gained: putting. First appearance since the inaugural edition in 2010. Served as player consultant on the design. Prior to his unusual experience in defending the Masters, connected three top 10s. Showcased strong tee-to-green work en route to P2 at Harbour Town. Preceded that with a T9 at Match Play and T24 at Masters. Placed T22 here last year; ranking T3 in par-5 scoring. Elevating. Shook off playoff loss at the Houston Open with a T16 at the RBC Heritage where he led the field in strokes gained: putting. Currently 10th on the PGA TOUR in the stat. Front-loaded at Harbour Town but still finished T23. Inconsistent tee-to-green game hasn’t been an issue at TPC San Antonio where he placed fourth in 2011 and T25 in 2016. In the wind (at times) and on tough tracks, he’s gone T16-T13-T8 from Copperhead to Corales to Houston. It makes sense given his roots in Texas and Oklahoma. T42 here in 2016. Zach Johnson, Xander Schauffele and former champions Adam Scott (2010) and Jimmy Walker (2015) will be among the notables reviewed in Tuesday’s Fantasy Insider. The annual irony of the Valero Texas Open is that the incredible charity for which the tournament is known â€“ $11 million was raised last year alone â€“ doesn’t extend inside the ropes. Thanks in part to the ubiquitous winds of south Texas, par is a good score at TPC San Antonio, which tips at 7,435 yards. Last year’s field averaged 72.853 and it still didn’t score high enough to rank inside the top half of any of its first eight editions. The tournament’s co-leaders in bogey avoidance (Carl Pettersson and Kevin Tway) squared eight bogeys or worse, most for any pacesetters in the stat in any non-major since the 2016 Farmers Insurance Open (that included one round on an easier Torrey Pines North). The course relents â€“ with due respect â€“ off the tee. The challenge increases multi-fold on approach into greens that average 6,400 square feet. That’s a typical area for putting surfaces on the PGA TOUR, but designer Greg Norman infused undulations that shrink the overseeded bermudagrass landing areas into some of the most difficult targets of the season. Those hills and curves also defend against Stimpmeter readings of approximately 11 feet, which is lower than most other courses due to the winds. The 2017 field averaged 10.43 greens in regulation per round, third-lowest of any host course, so it’s not surprising that seven of the 12 golfers who finished inside the top 10 on the leaderboard ranked inside the top 10 in GIR for the week. The par 5s aren’t pushovers, either. They’re always among the most challenging groupings of any course. This is one of the areas that explains how Chappell prevailed. He went bogey-free 8 under to slot T3 in par-5 scoring average for the week. He also ranked third in greens hit and T10 in proximity, and he capitalized on his chances in finishing fourth in birdie-or-better percentages after hitting GIR. As usual, Mother Nature will play a role this week. Varied threats of rain and boomers are forecast for Friday and Saturday. Sustained winds of 15-20 mph will precede the front and reenter the picture on Sunday, which projects to be beautiful otherwise. Seasonable daytime highs in the upper 70s will assist cutting through humidity. Touring professionals who embrace this kind of experience can look forward to many more years of it. Last October, it was announced an extension of the existing sponsorship through 2028. It includes a shift to a permanent spot in advance of the Masters. ROB BOLTONâ€™S SCHEDULE PGATOUR.COMâ€™s Fantasy Insider Rob Bolton covers numerous angles in between tournaments. Look for his following contributions this week. MONDAY: Rookie Ranking, Qualifiers, Reshuffle, Medical Extensions, Power Rankings TUESDAY*: Sleepers, Facebook Live, Fantasy Insider WEDNESDAY: One & Done, Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Champions One & Done * – Rob is a member of the panel for PGATOUR.COMâ€™s Expert Picks for PGA TOUR Fantasy Golf presented by SERVPRO, which also publishes on Tuesdays.
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