This week marks the 20th event of the 2013-14 PGA Tour season, as the Tour begins its Texas two-step with the Valero Texas Open. A field of 144 players will tackle TPC San Antonio, where the winner could grab one of the final spots available in this year's Masters field.
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Martin Laird returns to defend the title he won last year on the heels of a Sunday 63. Here are 10 players to watch this week in San Antonio:
1. Freddie Jacobson: The Swede thrived during the Florida swing and his consistency in this event is nearly unrivaled. Jacobson has finished no worse than T-18 each of the last four years at TPC San Antonio, including a runner-up finish in 2010 and a tie for 15th a year ago. Jacobson comes in off three straight top-20s, capped by a T-10 last week at Bay Hill.
2. Matt Kuchar: Kuchar has been rock-solid for months, with only one missed cut and four top-10s among seven starts this season. He’s cracked the top 25 each of the past two years in San Antonio, including a T-13 in 2012, and should be well-rested after skipping last week’s event in Orlando.
3. Jordan Spieth: The 20-year-old missed the cut here last year during his meteoric rise through the rankings, but should fare a bit better this time around. Spieth has six top-20 finishes among his eight starts in 2014, a stretch that also includes a trio of top-fives. He currently ranks seventh on Tour in strokes gained putting and the former Longhorn will have some crowd support in San Antonio.
4. Charley Hoffman: The haircut has paid dividends this year for Hoffman, who has four top-25 finishes in six starts this year. Hoffman is 19th on Tour in total ball-striking and 21st in birdie average. The veteran has finished no worse than T-13 each of the past four years in San Antonio, including a runner-up in 2011 and a tie for third last year.
5. Zach Johnson: Johnson has only played this event once since it moved to TPC San Antonio in 2010, but he won in both 2008 and 2009 at La Cantera. He’s currently inside the top 10 on Tour in driving accuracy (third), birdie average (sixth) and scoring average (ninth), and has yet to finish outside the top 50 in nine starts this season.
6. Jim Furyk: Furyk tied for third here a year ago, holing out a wedge approach on the 72nd hole, and the veteran tied for 20th in Tampa in his most recent start. Like Johnson, he’s an accurate driver of the golf ball, which should pay dividends this week at TPC San Antonio.
7. Jimmy Walker: This is essentially a home game for Walker, who lives in nearby Boerne and went to school at Baylor. With three wins already under his belt this season, he now enters as one of the event’s more notable players, with three straight top-25s since his most recent win at Pebble Beach. Tied for third here in 2010.
8. Ryan Palmer: The Texan has a pair of top-15 finishes at TPC San Antonio, including a T-15 result last year, and is making his first start since a playoff loss at the Honda Classic, his second runner-up of 2013-14. Palmer is currently No. 62 in the world rankings and will need a good result this week to crack the top 50 and earn an invite to the Masters.
9. Phil Mickelson: The southpaw was a surprise addition to this week’s field, and will make his first appearance in San Antonio since 1992. Mickelson is in search of some consistency heading into the season’s first major, as he has yet to crack the top 10 on Tour this season. Still, he’s known to ramp up his game for the majors and may just start that process this week in Texas.
10. J.B. Holmes: Holmes notched a top-10 finish last week at Bay Hill, his first such result in nearly two years. He’s been consistent since his return from injury, making the cut in six of seven starts this season, and had back-to-back top-15 finishes in San Antonio in 2010-11. His length off the tee is often an asset, and should be a strong one this week.