Valero Texas Open preview

The PGA Tour remains in the Lone Star State this week for the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio. Ben Curtis is the defending champion in the last tournament before the US Masters at Augusta.

Ben Curtis defends Valero Texas Open (Getty Images)

Lowdown: The PGA Tour remains in the Lone Star State this week for the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio. Ben Curtis is the defending champion in the last tournament before the US Masters at Augusta.

This tournament has moved in the schedule for this season, in recent years it's been contested after the Masters, but this season it's the final event prior to the year's first Major.

A number of players will be completing their final preparations for Augusta at this tournament, among them is Rory McIlroy. The young Northern Irishman has been struggling with his form and is a late entry to this event. He'll be joined in the field by 2011 Masters champion Charl Schwartzel and three-time Major winner Padraig Harrington, plus a host of other star names.

Dating back to 1922, the Texas Open is one of the oldest tournaments on the PGA Tour, past winners including: Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Arnold Palmer and Lee Trevino.

Last season, 2003 Open champion Ben Curtis held on over the weekend to claim a two stroke victory over Matt Every and John Huh.

The Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio was designed by Greg Norman and Pete Dye. Opened for play in 2010, it's a natural-looking layout with huge bunkers and sprawling greens, many of the fairways framed by stands of mature oaks giving the course its name.

Last season it was the most difficult course visited by the PGA Tour outside the Majors - the average score for the week in 2012 was 73.989.

But, the track has been softened for this season. A number of the greens have been flattened and treacherous run-off areas removed. A couple of the fairways have been widened and the rough will be cut slightly shorter than last season.

The weather forecast looks a little better than the last two weeks, so there shouldn't be any problem with delays. It is, however, looking like being hot and windy.

Venue: JW Marriott, TPC San Antonio, Texas Date: Apr 4-7 Course stats: par 72, 7,522 yards Purse: $6,200,000 Winner: $1,116,000 Defending Champion: Ben Curtis (-9)

TV Coverage: Thursday 4 - Sky Sports 3 from 8pm Friday 5 - Sky Sports 4 from 8pm Saturday 6 - Sky Sports 3 from 6pm Sunday 7 - Sky Sports 3 from 7pm

Player Watch: Brendon de Jonge - The Zimbabwean has made 9 cuts from 11 starts in 2013. He's made the cut in this event both times he's played it in the past. He finished last week with an excellent 66. Add all those factors together and a good performance this week looks highly likely.

Matt Kuchar - Another supremely consistent player whose game should be ideally suited to this track. He was tied 13th in this event last year. He'll be looking to go to Augusta on the back of a win.

Billy Horschel - Has made 20 straight cuts on the PGA Tour and was tied second last week. He's made the cut both times he's played at TPC San Antonio.

Key hole: The par 5s. The shortest on the course is the 14th at 567 yards so, depending on the wind, any of them could play as a three-shotter. The longer hitters will have a distinct advantage on these holes.

Skills required: Finding fairways. At 7,500 yards, you'd think length was the most important factor at TPC San Antonio. But, with bunkers and huge trees lining the fairways, driving the ball straight is also essential.

Fergus Bisset
Contributing Editor

Fergus is Golf Monthly's resident expert on the history of the game and has written extensively on that subject. He is a golf obsessive and 1-handicapper. Growing up in the North East of Scotland, golf runs through his veins and his passion for the sport was bolstered during his time at St Andrews university studying history. He went on to earn a post graduate diploma from the London School of Journalism. Fergus has worked for Golf Monthly since 2004 and has written two books on the game; "Great Golf Debates" together with Jezz Ellwood of Golf Monthly and the history section of "The Ultimate Golf Book" together with Neil Tappin , also of Golf Monthly. 

Fergus once shanked a ball from just over Granny Clark's Wynd on the 18th of the Old Course that struck the St Andrews Golf Club and rebounded into the Valley of Sin, from where he saved par. Who says there's no golfing god?