2014 Valero Texas Open | Five players to watch

Zach Johnson
USA Today Sports Images
The Valero Texas Open field is loaded with former major champions, including Zach Johnson.
By T.J. Auclair
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Wednesday, March 26, 2014 | 9:21 a.m.

This week's Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio is the first of two events left before the Masters. There had been a long-running trend of players taking weeks off before major championship play, but that seems to be fading.

Phil Mickelson, in fact, is in the field this week. It's the first time he's played in the Texas Open in over two decades.

RELATED: Photos from the Valero Texas Open & more | Valero Texas Open tee times

With a solid fan on hand in the Lone Star State, here are five players to watch out for.

5. Freddie Jacobson
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T9 at the Shriners Hospitals for Children Open
Reason to watch: In his last three starts, Jacobson has finished T12, T20 and T10. Something is clicking in his game at the moment and that bodes well for the Swede as he heads to TPC San Antonio, where he finished second in 2010 to go along with two other top 5s.

4. Phil Mickelson
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T14 in the WGC-HSBC Champions
Reason to watch: In seven starts this season, Mickelson has yet to record a top-10 finish. The last time Mickelson went that long a stretch to start a season without a top-10 was in 1992, when he finished runner-up in his ninth start at the New England Classic. It should be noted that was also his first season on the PGA Tour. For Mickelson -- we imagine -- all eyes are on Augusta National and the Masters. This is a tune up to shake off some rust and get things going. We expect him to get things going here.

3. Ben Curtis
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
T32 at The McGladrey Classic
Reason to watch: I wanted to pick a dark horse this week and Curtis fits the bill -- especially since he won the tournament in 2012. He hasn't done anything special so far this season and is need of some good vibes. What better place to find those good vibes than at a place where you've had past success?

2. Zach Johnson
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: He's cooled off a touch since winning at Kapalua, but that was bound to happen as he rode that momentum to a T8 and a T3 in his next two starts. Johnson is a former two-time winner of the Valero Texas Open (2008-09), but those wins came when the tournament was played at La Cantera Golf Club. Even still, Johnson's record in the state of Texas is remarkable. Along with those two Texas Open wins, he's also won the Colonial twice. For some reason, Texas brings out the best in Johnson.

1. Jimmy Walker
Best finish in 2013-14 season:
Won the Frys.com Open, Sony Open in Hawaii and the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am
Reason to watch: Walker has been -- hands down -- the best player on the PGA Tour this season. Along with his Tour-leading three victories, he's also racked up six other top-25 finishes. I like Walker this week for a couple of reasons. First, and most obvious, there's been no one better lately. But secondly, he's had some success at TPC San Antonio. He tied for third there in 2010. It would be incredible for Walker to have four wins before the Masters, but with the way he's been playing it's not out of the realm of possibility.

Follow T.J. Auclair on Twitter, @tjauclair.


T.J. Auclair is a Senior Interactive Producer for PGA.com and has covered professional golf since 1998, traveling to over 60 major championships. You can follow him on Twitter, @tjauclair.