Hurricane Rita Could Alter Texas Open Outcome

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2005 Valero Texas OpenSAN ANTONIO, Texas -- The greens at the Resort Course at La Cantera should be smooth and the sky clear for the first two rounds of the Valero Texas Open.
 
But if the remnants of Hurricane Rita hit San Antonio over the weekend, the weather will only add to the uncertainty at a tournament that many golfers say already has a wide-open field.
 
``Our job is to not think about (weather) too much and just play,'' said defending champion Bart Bryant, who shot a course-record, 60 in the third round last year. ``But the Texas wind can make a fairly easy course more difficult.''
 
The approaching storm prompted Steve Elkington to pull out of the tournament Wednesday afternoon. Elkington, who finished tied for second at the PGA Championship, lives with his family in Houston.
 
The field also will be bracing for the Texas heat.
 
The forecast calls for near-100 degree heat Thursday and Friday, and the layout includes arduous, hilly walks between greens and tees at the course in northern San Antonio.
 
But the potential impact of Rita makes it difficult to pick a favorite for the first-place prize of $630,000, part of a $3.5 million purse.
 
Considered a shorter course at about 6,900 yards and a par 70, the players who hit the fairways will have medium to short irons into the greens. La Cantera provided an average score of 69 last year, the lowest on the PGA tour.
 
The tourney, which began in 1922, has a history of as a springboard for veterans and newcomers on tour.
 
Nick Price, who won the Texas Open and the PGA Championship in the same year in 1992, said a good finish in this tournament could help him overcome a slump that began midway through last season.
 
``The past couple of years I've felt like I'm treading water,'' said Price, whose best finish this year was a tie for sixth at the Byron Nelson Championship. ``But this is the kind of course I've won on. It's just a matter of getting everything into shape.''
 
Ryan Moore, the 2004 U.S. Amateur champion, is making his first appearance at the Texas Open. He said he has great respect for veterans like Price, but vows to avoid thinking of his age or rookie status while competing. He also said he has the same approach for dealing with the weather.
 
``I'm not trying to worry about all that other stuff, other players, weather, course,'' said Moore, who is coming off a tie for second at the Bell Canadian Open and a tie for 17th at the 84 Lumber Classic. ``I'm just trying to go out there and do what I can do. That's the way I've found that I play my best golf.''
 
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