TPC San Antonio Deflects Criticism to Deliver Exciting Finish

2010 Valero Texas Open Champion Adam ScottPrior to the start of the Valero Texas Open, San Antonio's own Cameron Beckman could see the storm clouds gathering above the city's shiny new 36-hole mega golf resort.

In a column for Golf.com that was published before the tournament kicked off Thursday, Beckman said that he'd played the AT&T Oaks course at TPC San Antonio about two dozens times and the degree of difficulty stood out.

"Everybody on Tour likes the old-school courses we play, such as Quail Hollow, but the Oaks is new school, no question about it," Beckman wrote. "A par-72 Greg Norman design (with an assist from Sergio Garcia), the Oaks is really hard."

Well it turns out Beckman was right. Thursday's stroke average (73.705) was the highest for any opening round on the PGA Tour in 2010. The second round of The Masters (74.484) was the only round to exceed the first round in San Antonio in scoring average. It was a full half-shot higher than the opening round of last year's waterlogged U.S. Open at Bethpage Black, and a full three shots more difficult than any opening round played at LaCantera, the previous host of the Texas Open.  

Defending champion Zach Johnson carded a first round 80, which included a six-putt on the par-3 13th hole. Johson's second round 68 wasn't enough for him to make the cutt.

Players, some silent and some outspoken, were critical of the course's crowned greens, crunched corridors, prevalent bunkering and demanding length, even though the set-up wasn't close to tipping out the 7,400-yard behemoth. The word "unfair" which is usually reserved for major championships was even uttered.

The 16th hole TPC San Antonio

"It's very mixed toward the course," said veteran Texas golf writer and president of the Texas Golf Writers Association Art Stricklin who has been covering this tournament since 1992. "Some don't like it at all; said it had goofy greens. (Bob) Estes played it a month ago and hated it, but yestrerday he said it was worse. So you've got negatives from those guys. Adam Scott said that (Sergio) Garcia came up and apologized and said the course turned out harder than he had expected. Ernie Els likes the course. He said the harder the course the better I like it, separates good from bad. You won't have a little known player shooting 26-under and winning this week. You're gonna have to play good golf."

On top of all of that, actual storms clouds now moved in, dropping a nealry five-inch deluge on the Hill Country that halted and finally suspended play on Friday. It was an ominous beginning to say the least for TPC San Antonio, which had only officially opened for business in April.

By the time Australian Adam Scott posed for pictures with tournament organizers early Sunday evening many of those early concerns had been washed away.  

Similar to last year when New York's Liberty National Golf Course, a private course in the shadow of the Statue of Libery constructed on top of a toxic waste dump that hosted the first leg of the FedEx Cup Playoffs, was heavily criticized by the Tour professionals, this rookie course produced an exciting finish. '

If you recall, Heath Slocum rolled in a biride putt at the last to defeat Tiger Woods at Liberty National. In San Antonio, Scott bogeyed the beautiful par-5 18th and had to sweat through the final two holes of Fredrik's Jacobson's round before he knew the victory was his.

A look at some of the gorgeous bunkering on the AT&T Oaks CourseTour officials acquiesced to player concerns by making adjustments to pins and tee placements, and the eventual champion shot 66-67 on the weekend. The leaderboard was full of handsome names by Sunday evening.

"It's really a lot of penalties around the greens so you got to be very accurate, but I think it's a great championship golf course," said Ernie Els who has two wins on the PGA Tour this year. "I think you're going to see some really good names coming through here in years to come."

An unusual comparison to courses found throughout Australia even emerged. JW Marriott might want to kick off a "Go Down Under in the Alamo City" marketing campaign.

"When I played Tuesday I was amazed how much it looked like some of the courses back at home; a lot like the Mornington Peninsula," said Scott. "I even saw some of the Brisbane courses. Felt like the landscape looks very similar to back home, kind of harsh, scrubb land off the fairways and I had a feeling. I knew the Aussies would do well here this week."

TPC San Antonio showed plenty of love to the contingent representing Australia. Including Scott, seven Australians finished in the top 30 at the Valero Texas Open. 

Els, who like Scott was making his first career appearance in San Antonio, was one player who praised the Norman design throughout the week. In particular, the Big Easy was impressed with the way the course rebounded from the torent of rain that fell Friday and well into early Saturday morning.

"The greens were still quite firm, believe it or not," said Els who tied for third at 12-under-par. "Obviously a little softer than my first round. I played the first round in the afternoon. Fairways were a lot softer. You don't get much run. But the course is just - the drainage is unbelievable. Anywhere else in the world we would not be playing this whole weekend."

Els also echoed Scott's sentiments about the Australian feeling at TPC San Antonio.

"You feel like you're off balance a lot of the time and I think it's just a wonderful design," Els said. "It just keeps you thinking all the time. And a lot of slopes around the green, you don't have the higher rough where it stops the ball. The ball runs away. You've got to be very accurate and very creative. I really like it. To be honest with you, this golf course could be somewhere in Australia where I played a lot and even in South Africa where I'm from. I feel very, very comfortable around here." 

Tournament organizers and city officials are hoping that tourists will also be feeling comfortable at the brand new JW Marriott San Antonio Hill Country Resort and Spa, which at just over 1,000 rooms is the largest JW Marriott in the world. In addition to the AT&T Oaks Course designed by Greg Norman, TPC San Antonio is home to the AT&T Canyons Course designed by Pete Dye.

The resort, which is situated on 2,800 acres at the base of the ruggedly beautiful Texas Hill Country, also features 140,000 square feet of meeting space, state-of-the-art technology, a water park and a sophisticated spa.

For more information on the resort, visit www.jwsanantonio.com. To learn more about the layouts and Tour Academy located at TPC San Antonio, head to www.tpcsanantonio.com.

 

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