5 players to watch at the Texas Open

Jordan Spieth
USA Today Sports Images
Can Jordan Spieth make it two wins in two starts this week?
By T.J. Auclair
PGA.com
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Series: Golf Buzz

Published: Wednesday, March 25, 2015 | 10:06 a.m.

The next two weeks on the PGA Tour provide us with a tournament within a tournament.

First, this week, the Valero Texas Open takes place at TPC San Antonio. The top 50 players in the Official World Golf Ranking come Sunday night -- if not already exempt -- will lock up their respective invitation to the Masters in two weeks. The winner -- also if not already exempt -- will head to Augusta National as well.

Then, next week, the Shell Houston Open is the final chance for players not otherwise exempt for the Masters to punch a last-minute ticket. That will require a win.

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For now, we'll focus on the Valero Texas Open, where Steven Bowditch is the defending champion. The field features 13 major champions, including Phil Mickelson, Jason Dufner and 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup Captain Davis Love III.

Here are five players to watch.

5. Ben Curtis
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T29 at Sanderson Farms Championship
Reason to watch: Curtis will be the first to admit that it hasn't exactly been a season to remember to this point. He's missed the cut four times in six starts, including the last three in a row. The last time he made a cut resulted in a T44 at the OHL Classic back in the middle of November. I'm just taking a chance on Curtis this week. Something's got to give. He won the event in 2012, so he has familiarity and past success to draw on. Things need to turn around for the former British Open champ, so why not this week? He's one of those guys who will need a win to make the Masters.

4. Ryan Palmer
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
T2 at the Waste Management Phoenix Open
Reason to watch: It's hard to believe that this three-time Tour winner hasn't won more. He seems to be in contention an awful lot, but just has a problem closing out. It would mean everything to this native Texan to win in the Lone Star State. Palmer tied for ninth in the Texas Open in 2010. Palmer is already in the Masters, so I want to see him firing at pins this week and letting it all hang out.

3. Zach Johnson
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
7th at Hyundai Tournament of Champions
Reason to watch: Johnson is a former two-time champion of this event. However, those wins came in 2008 and 2009 when the event was still played at La Cantera. Since the move to TPC San Antonio in 2010, Johnson has played just twice. He missed the cut in 2010 and tied for sixth in 2014. I like Johnson mainly because I always like him in the state of Texas, where he's captured four of his 11 PGA Tour wins. His T9 last week at Bay Hill might have been a little momentum builder for the former Masters champ.

2. Jimmy Walker
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
Won the Sony Open in Hawaii
Reason to watch: Yet again, Walker is enjoying another outstanding season -- four top 10s (including a win) in nine starts and no missed cuts. He's established himself as a favorite whenever and wherever he tees it up. A win this week would be his fifth on the PGA Tour and few would be as sweet as this one would come in his home state.

1. Jordan Spieth
Best finish in 2014-15 season:
Won the Valspar Championship
Reason to watch: This is Spieth's first start since winning his second Tour event two weeks ago in Tampa. The 21-year-old is establishing himself as a star and it would be sweet to shine again this week in his home state. Notice the theme here? Lots of Texans in the field. Also, Spieth has his sights set on the Masters, where he was a runner up in his first start a year ago. His game -- always consistent -- seems to be peaking at just the right time.

Here's how my five to watch fared at last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational:

5. Henrik Stenson -- 2nd
4. Keegan Bradley -- T49
3. Rickie Fowler -- T29
2. Adam Scott -- T35
1. Jason Day -- T17 

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.