The field for the 2014 Masters will be set after this weekend’s Texas Valero Open in San Antonio and there are a few players who still have a chance to get into the field by cracking the top-50 in the world ranking. The cutoff for making the field is one week before the Masters, which begins April 10 at Augusta National.
Those players to watch at TPC San Antonio include Chesson Hadley and Ryan Palmer. Hadley is No. 56 and Palmer No. 62 in the world rankings, and they are the only two who can move into the top-50 without winning, which is an automatic qualifier anyway. They both are playing well enough to win this week. In the last four weeks Hadley has a win at the Puerto Rico Open, a 14th place finish at the Valspar and was in contention throughout last week at Bay Hill before shooting 79 on Sunday and tying for 26th. Palmer has two second-place finishes in four weeks, losing in a playoff at the Honda Classic. He had a top-ten finish in the Valero Texas Open in 2010.
The San Antonio tour event got a boost this week as Phil Mickelson was a late entry into the field. Mickelson has not played in the tournament since 1992. Lefty will play next week at the Shell Houston Open but that was no surprise. His routine is to play in a PGA Tour event a week before a major. Phil did not need to play the Texas Valero Open, as his spot is secure in the Masters, but he has not played a lot of competitive rounds lately (six in the last six weeks) and probably felt he needed the practice. He has an interesting pairing for the first two rounds, teeing off with defending champion Martin Laird and native Texan Jordan Spieth. A win this week would complete Mickelson’s “Texas Slam,” as he already has career wins at the HP Byron Nelson Classic, the Crowne Plaza Invitational and the Shell Houston Open.
Zach Johnson has won the Texas Valero Open twice in the last 3 years, but don’t pencil him in just yet as the champion. His two wins came when the event was played at La Cantera Golf Club. The last time he played this tournament at TPC San Antonio was in 2010 and he missed the cut. Johnson will be playing with John Senden, who won at the Valspar two weeks ago, and Jim Furyk.
There is no prohibitive favorite this week at the Texas Valero Open as players get set for the Masters in April. Mickelson and Johnson are the shortest odds, but are still listed at 18-1. Matt Kuchar is the third favorite at 20-1 with Jordan Spieth listed at 22-1 and Jimmy Walker at 22-1. Furyk, who shot under par in every round at last year’s Texas Valero Open, is 25-1 and Ryan Palmer, a native Texan looking to move into the top-50, is next at 28-1.
Commentary by Chuck Podhaisky
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