No country for mid ams

The PGA Tour heads back to Texas this week for the Valero Texas Open. Charley Hoffman is back to defend his title but will face some stiff competition with Ryder Cuppers Jimmy Walker, Patrick Reed, Matt Kuchar, Zach Johnson and Brooks Koepka in the field. Full field and tee times

The Hoff does it

Last year, the Valero had a thrilling finish with Hoffman holding off Reed for the win. Hoffman had to seal his fourth career PGA Tour victory by getting up and down from a short-sided bunker on the 72nd hole. 2016 results

The Shark’s bite

Designed by former World No. 1 Greg Norman, TPC San Antonio’s Oaks course typifies the former pro’s belief in penal design. The course features tight fairways lined with native vegetation, making most stray drives unplayable, placing a premium on avoiding penalty shots. When the wind blows, the Oaks course plays particularly difficult and annually stands as one of the Tour’s toughest stops. It’s a great course for championship golf but as a resort course the other 51 weeks of the year, it hardly offers the casual golfer a fun and relaxing round of golf.

Storylines to watch

Curtis Luck & the Sponsor Invites

Ballyhooed amateur Curtis Luck will make his professional debut this week, fresh off a made cut at The Masters. Luck is hardly a stranger to the professional game, making eleven starts in professional events in the past calendar year. The 2016 U.S. Amateur champ has a tough task ahead of him for the rest of 2017. He’ll need to earn 454 FedExCup points over his allotted eight sponsor’s exemptions to earn his Tour card.

While Luck is about to embark on his pro career, former amateur standouts Beau Hossler, Jordan Niebrugge and Robby Shelton are already deep in the process. Hossler has made four of his allotted eight starts, making cut in two events. He’ll have to notch a couple of high finishes to earn his PGA Tour card. Shelton and Niebrugge come in hot after finishing first and third in last week’s PGA Tour Canada Q-School and will look to build momentum heading into the upcoming season north of the border.

Everybody’s in

It’s been a banner year for PGA Tour rookies with the success of Wes Bryan, Cody Gribble, J.J. Spaun, Ollie Schniederjans and Mackenzie Hughes. But for most rookies, the early part of the season means more sitting on the sidelines than playing because of low-priority rankings. With many established players skipping the Valero, it serves as a place to play for many of these rookies, giving them a crucial chance to improve their priority ranking and earn more starts. A few names to watch this week that fit this bill: Max Homa, Bobby Wyatt, Kevin Tway, Xander Schauffele, Seamus Power and Brad Fritsch.

Paulie’s Picks

Those who listened to Paulie’s advice last week on Wesley Bryan stumbled upon an 80-to-1 payday. On the year it marks Paulie’s fourth winner in just 15 events. Not too bad. If you want to ride the hot hand, here’s who Paulie likes for Draftkings, One & Done and long shot in Texas.

Coverage

Bubba’s annual pilgrimage

The European Tour tees it up in China this week for the third playing of the Shenzhen International. The field is headlined by Bubba Watson – who, for a large fee every year, packs up his pink balls and Teddy. He’s joined by last year’s champion Soomin Lee, Tommy Fleetwood and the Big Unit: Kiradech Aphibarnrat.

They’re back

After a few weeks of downtime, the Web.com Tour is back at Victoria National for the United Leasing Championship. Year-in and year-out, Victoria National is one of the Web’s best stops because of it’s stout championship golf course that demands precise shot making. Last year, now-PGA Tour player Seamus Power lifted the trophy by way of Cody Gribble’s brutal bounce on the 72nd hole.

Golf Course Architecture chat

Rising architect Riley Johns joined the podcast this week to talk about a broad range of subjects, including his mentors, his dream project and what he learned from the Winter Park restoration project. Listen on our website or on iTunes.

Sad day for Mid Ams

Jim Nugent of Global Golf Post reported on Monday that the USGA would be lowering the Mid Am requirement of the Walker Cup from one to two players. This news comes on the heels of the USGA’s announcement of the termination of the USGA State Team event, an event that was dominated by mid ams. With the addition of the USGA’s Women’s Senior Open to their rota, it’s clear that the USGA has chosen a direction of catering to professional and future professional golf rather than the amateur spirit that the organization was founded on.

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