After a two-week hiatus from the Lone Star State for the Masters and the RBC Heritage, the PGA Tour returns to Texas this week for the Valero Texas Open.
Dating back to 1922, the Texas Open is one of the oldest events on the PGA Tour. While the tournament has been around for a whopping 90 years, the venue has bounced around. For the third straight year, TPC San Antonio will play host. That's where we caught up with PGA General Manager/Director of Golf Jimmy Terry.
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Terry talked about the sponsorship extension with Valero, the conditions of the course, the stellar list of past Texas Open champions and more.
PGA.com: As always, thanks for joining us, Jimmy. We appreciate it. There was a big announcement made earlier this year that Valero has extended its sponsorship agreement with the Texas Open through 2018. What's it like to have that stability with the tournament in these tough economic times?
Terry: It's obviously a great blessing and a tremendous asset to have a wonderful corporate citizen like Valero involved as title sponsor. Extending the agreement shows Valero's commitment to San Antonio and the many charities that benefit from the Valero Texas Open.
The generosity of Valero is remarkable. Last year's Valero Texas Open generated a Tour-record $9 million for charity, bringing the tournament's all-time contributions to $67 million, $62.5 million of which has come in since Valero became title sponsor in 2002. It has led PGA TOUR tournaments in charitable giving in five of the past six years.
The announcement is certainly a highlight of the 90th anniversary celebration of the Texas Open this year.
PGA.com: Can you take a minute to talk a little about your defending champion Brendan Steele? If it weren't for Keegan Bradley at the PGA Championship, Steele could have had an argument for Rookie of the Year.
Terry: It was an exciting finish last year as Brendan sank a testing par putt on the 18th hole to capture his first win. He seems to be a wonderful young man. We know he's a fantastic golfer, and I hear he's a Seinfeld fan too! His win in the Valero Texas Open helped propel him to a very good year in 2011. He was in the final twosome of the PGA Championship, finished 38th on the money list and won the Franklin Templeton Shootout with Keegan Bradley. We are very happy to have him coming back to defend his title.
PGA.com: This week will mark the third time that the Valero Texas Open is played at TPC San Antonio. When Steele won last year, his winning total was 8-under 280 -- six shots higher than when Adam Scott won in 2010. Was there an adjustment made from 2010 to 2011 that made the course more difficult? Can we expect a more difficult course this year too?
Terry: Conditions in 2011 were very different than 2010. In 2010, we had heavy rains on Friday which softened the course and allowed players to fire at the hole locations. In 2012, high winds came into play for three days of the competition. To make it more interesting, the winds came from a different direction all three days. Because conditions were different everyday, it was difficult for players to get a good feel on the course. The golf course is in exceptional shape this year thanks to our Director of Golf Course Maintenance, Tom Lively, and his team. I would expect the scores to be closer to the 2010 total than 2011.
PGA.com: The Texas Open has been around since 1922 and features a list of champions that includes some of the game's greats -- Sam Snead, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Ben Crenshaw, just to name a few. I'm sure any win on Tour is nice, but do you think a win at the Texas Open carries a little more weight with players given the past champions?
Terry: The Texas Open is the sixth-oldest golf tournament in the world and the longest running tournament hosted in the same city. Starting in 1922 at Brackenridge Park, the first municipal golf course in Texas, it became the springboard for the winter tour. Since that time, the Texas Open has been a coveted title. The names of past champions are a who's who of golf. I love looking at the artwork we have in our clubhouse dedicated to past Texas Open champions and seeing all of the great names who have won the title. To add to your list, how about champions like Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Hale Irwin, Lee Trevino, and Nick Price. Justin Leonard has won three times and Zach Johnson twice. I know I would like my name associated with those great champions.
PGA.com: Final question for you, Jimmy. People headed to the Valero Texas Open are looking for a good place to hang out. Where do you tell them to go? What's the can't-miss spot?
Terry: The AT&T Oaks course is a great place to watch golf. It is spectator friendly, very beautiful with Texas wildflowers blooming and easily walkable.
In many places on the course, you can see lots of golf on different holes without needing to travel long distances. A perfect day for me would be to start out with one the early groups off of No. 1 tee. I would follow them out to the second green, which just happens to be a double green with the par-3 seventh.
From this point, I can watch play on Nos. 2, 3, 7 and 8 and they have plenty of food and beverage options here.
I would camp out at this great spot for a while. Then I would follow a group from No. 8 through No. 10. Once again this is a great gathering spot with holes 10, 11, 15, 16 and 17 all converging in this area.
The Backyard is located behind No. 16 and has all the food and drink you will need and a big screen is also located here. I would grab some grub, grab a seat in the stands on No. 16 and watch the best players in the world try to stay out of the bunker in the middle of the green for the rest of the day. I hope all of the great golf fans in San Antonio come out and enjoy the competition this year!