While the tour showcases one of its two premiere events this week in the Presidents Cup (the other being The Players Championship), it will also contest a full-field tournament in San Antonio, Texas.
Either way, the Texas Open once again falls on the same week as a significant international team competition. Its the fourth time in the last seven years that this event has been played simultaneously with either the Ryder Cup or Presidents Cup ' and the third time in the last four years.
Last year, Chad Campbell and Chris Riley represented the United States in the Ryder Cup. Now theyre each playing as individuals, while many of their former teammates take on the Internationals in Lake Manassas, Va.
Its been a long and frustrating season for both men.
Campbell nearly claimed an unofficial title at the rain-reduced Nissan Open, when he lost to Adam Scott in a sudden-death playoff after the tournament was called after 36 holes.
But thats as close as hes come to earning a title.
Campbell has only four top-10s on the year ' and only one since March. His world ranking has dropped 20 places from this time a year ago. Those are disappointing numbers for a man considered one of the top young American talents.
But not as disappointing as the numbers put up by Riley.
Rileys future looked as positive as his attitude when he earned his way onto the U.S. Ryder Cup team based on his performance at the 2004 PGA Championship.
Those smiles, however, havent been as plentiful in 05. Things seemed to take a turn for the worse when Riley asked out of the afternoon foursomes on Day 2 of the Ryder Cup, citing fatigue.
Critics fired plenty of bullets and, judging by his results this season, some seem to have found their mark.
Riley has only one top-25 finish, resides well outside the top 150 in earnings, and has fallen outside the top 125 in the world rankings.
One of these two players will turnaround their season this week. Unfortunately for Riley, it wont be him.
Five for the Title:
This is as good a place as any for the native Texan to earn his first win of the season. The Resort Course at LaCantera is a par-70, measuring 6,881 yards. Length is not a huge factor, but accuracy is ' and Campbell is accurate with his irons. A year ago, six players who finished inside the top 10 in greens hit in regulation also finished in the top 10 in the tournament, including winner Bart Bryant, who led the field in G.I.R. Campbell ranks inside the top 20 on tour in G.I.R.
When theres no overwhelming favorite in an event, then its best to ride the hot hand. After a minor letdown following his second career tour victory at the U.S. Bank Championship in July, Crane has returned to form over the last two weeks. He tied for second at the Bell Canadian Open and then finished third in last weeks 84 Lumber Classic. Crane has played this event three times before, with his best finish coming in a tie for 17th in 2003.
Bryant played his first full season on tour in 1991. Thirteen years later he earned his first tour win. Bryant, who was born in Gatesville, Texas, took command of the tournament with a course record 10-under 60 in the third round. That gave him a three-stroke lead, which proved to be his margin of victory following a final-round 67. Proving that victory wasnt a fluke, Bryant added to his trophy collection this year with an impressive win at the Memorial Tournament. He will be trying to become the first repeat winner in this event since Arnold Palmer won three-in-a-row from 1960-62.
Henry hasnt fared as well as Crane over the last few weeks, but he does have a solid track record in this event. The Texas Christian alum was runner-up in 2001 and then tied for fifth last year. He placed well a year ago because he was second in the field in G.I.R. In his fifth full season on tour, Henry is still in search of his first career victory.
Each of the last three Texas Open champions has been in his 40s. Thats good news for Pavin. More good news: power, as stated before, is not an issue this week. None of the players in the field who ranked in the top 10 in driving distance a year ago finished in the top 10 in the tournament. Pavin, who ranks outside the top 200 in driving distance, finished eighth in his most recent start at the Buick Championship. He won this event in 1988 and has five top-10s in 16 career starts.
Playing Out the Front Nine
Four more to keep an eye on
*Tim Herron, who won this event in 1997. Herron earned his first top-10 since March in last weeks 84 Lumber Classic, finishing fourth.
*Ryan Moore, who is trying to earn his card for 2006. Moore, thanks to his tie for second in Canada, has already earned unlimited sponsors exemptions for the remainder of the year. He now needs just over $110,000 more to secure full exempt status for next season.
*Bob Estes, who won this event in 1994. The former Texas Longhorn has five career top-10s here and tied for 17th a year ago.
*Ted Purdy, who tied for fifth last year. Purdy picked up his maiden tour title at this years Byron Nelson Championship. Hes looking for his first top-10 since then.