The new home of the Valero Texas Open may get the wrong kind of attention

May 16, 2010

I don’t want to criticize a course — that’s not my style, especially not one in my hometown that’s hosting a PGA Tour event I would like to see succeed. I’m a little concerned, though, about how people will react to the new AT&T Oaks course, which will host its first Texas Open this week at the TPC San Antonio.

Everybody on Tour likes the old-school courses we play, such as Quail Hollow, but the Oaks course is new school, no question about it. A par-72 Greg Norman design (with an assist from Sergio García), the Oaks is really hard. Since I live in San Antonio, I’ve probably played the new course about two dozen times, more than any other Tour pro, I believe.

One day my three friends and I, all low-handicap players, decided to play it from the back tees, about 7,500 yards. I shot a 38 on the front nine and played pretty darn well. They shot 43, 45 and 46. We stopped right there.
The 1st hole is 450 yards straight into the wind. The 2nd hole is 600 yards into the wind. That’s a pretty tough way to start. The greens are difficult and tricky to read. The greens we played at Sawgrass last week are pretty mellow by comparison. The Oaks’s greens have a lot of movement, and they’re crowned. I think it’s likely you’ll see players chip out of one bunker and into another, especially if the greens are rolling at 10 on the stimpmeter. The pros will get out and work around the greens before the tournament, looking for spots to land the ball, but there are a ton of spots from which you simply cannot get up and down.

I’m afraid some guys will get in trouble on the course, and one or two will tear it apart. That was all you heard every year at La Cantera, the former site of the Texas Open. It got so that the only guys who played in the Open were locals or those who were happy to get in the field. I was always pretty miffed about the complaining.

The truth is, there is no way we can play the Oaks course from all the way back. The Tour’s going to have to give us some options when they set it up. Even then, I’d say that anyone who shoots four rounds of 68 will win by a lot. In fact, I’ll take 10 under par right now, go sit in the clubhouse and wait for the trophy while listening to the critiques.

Cameron Beckman, 40, has won two times in 12 years on the PGA Tour.