Playing out of the Nos. 126-150 category in his first Valero Texas Open start, Ben Curtis sank a 12-foot birdie putt on the 72nd hole to win by two strokes over Matt Every and John Huh.
The win, Curtis’ fourth on the PGA TOUR, ended a winless drought dating to the 2006 84 LUMBER Classic.
With weekend scores of 73-72, Curtis became the first player since Jim Furyk (2010 TOUR Championship by Coca-Cola) to not break par on the weekend en route to a win on the PGA TOUR. .
More on Ben Curtis
The 2003 British Open champion kept his solid play going after his win in San Antonio, finishing T13 at the Zurich Classic of New Orleans, T5 at the Wells Fargo Championship and T2 at THE PLAYERS Championship.
Curtis made it to through the first three FedExCup Playoffs events, resulting in a 41st-place finish in the final FedExCup standings.
In his last start before the Valero Texas Open, Curtis finished T21 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard.
With last year’s win in San Antonio aside, Curtis’ history in the state of Texas hasn’t been an ideal one. Of eight starts in the Shell Houston open, five starts in the Crowne Plaza Invitational at Colonial and one start at the HP Byron Nelson Championship, he hasn’t managed one single top-10 finish.
Should Curtis successfully defend his title in San Antonio, he would become the third to do so since 2000. Justin Leonard successfully defended his title in 2001, as did Zach Johnson in 2009. Arnold Palmer (1960-62) and Bill Mehlhorn (1928-1929) have been the only others to achieve the feat.
A look at the field
Seven major championship winners; Rory McIlroy (2011 U.S. Open, 2012 PGA Championship), Ben Curtis (2003 British Open), Jim Furyk (2003 U.S. Open), Retief Goosen (2001, 2004 U.S. Open), Padraig Harrington (2007, 2008 British Open, 2008 PGA Championship), Justin Leonard (1997 British Open) and Charl Schwartzel (2011 Masters Tournament).
World No. 2 Rory McIlroy, No. 9 Matt Kuchar, No. 12 Ian Poulter and No. 15 Charl Schwartzel lead a group of 10 players inside the top 50 in the Official World Golf Rankings.
Twelve of the top 30 in the FedExCup standings, including three in the top 10: Matt Kuchar (No.3), Charles Howell III (No. 8) and Brian Gay (No. 10).
The runner-ups to Ben Curtis last year at TPC San Antonio, Matt Every and John Huh.
Past winners of the Valero Texas Open (5): Ben Curtis (2012); Brendan Steele (2011), Justin Leonard (2007, 2001, 2000); Tim Herron (1997) and Bob Estes (1994).
Spotlights Rory McIlroy
Two-time major champion and world No. 2 Rory McIlroy made a late commitment last Friday afternoon to join the field at this year’s Valero Texas Open.
A first time participant, McIlroy brings with him a U.S. Open (2011) and PGA Chamionship (2012) title, won by a collective 16 strokes.
In addition to last year’s PGA Championship title, he won at The Honda Classic and in consecutive weeks during the FedExCup Playoffs at the Deutsche Bank Championship and BMW Championship.
As a result, McIlroy was voted 2012 PGA TOUR Player of the Year by his peers.
McIlroy finished T8 last month at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship, thanks to a final-round, 7-under 65.
Ranking No. 12 in the Official World Golf Ranking, Poulter will make first start in the Valero Texas Open.
Poulter was a key factor last year in Europe’s final-day rally to defeat the United States in the Ryder Cup.
So far this year, Poulter has made four starts, with a best showing being fourth at the WGC-Accenture Match Play Championship, an event he won in 2010.
Kuchar followed back-to-back top 10s in his first two events of the season (Hyundai Tournament of Champions/T9, Sony Open in Hawaii/T5), with a victory at the World Golf Championships-Accenture World Match Play Championship.
Kuchar defeated defending champion Hunter Mahan 2-and-1, and currently sits third in the FedExCup standings. Kuchar comes into San Antonio ranked No. 9 in the world rankings.
The 2010 FedExCup champion has made all six cuts in six starts this year, highlighted by a T7 at the Tampa Bay Championship.
Furyk will be making just his second start at the Valero Texas Open, having finished T15 in 1994 at Oak Hills CC.
Seeking his first win since the 2008 PGA Championship, Harrington will be making his first start at the Valero Texas Open this week.
Former Texas Longhorn Jordan Spieth, 19, returns to San Antonio this week as Sponsor Exemption.
Making his sixth start of the season on the PGA TOUR, Spieth recorded back-to-back top-10s last month at the Puerto Rico Open (T2) and the Tampa Bay Championship (T7).
Last year, he finished T41 as an amateur in San Antonio.
The San Antonio resident is off to the best start of his career, having garnered three top-10 finishes in his first eight finishes, including a T3 at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
Walker will be making his eighth start in San Antonio, with his best finish being a T3 in 2010.
Posted a career-best third at The Honda Classic in early March and sits 25th in FedExCup standings, second among the rookie class behind Russell Henley.
Posted a bogey-free, 10-under 62 in the final round of the Humana Challenge in January to force sudden death with Brian Gay and Charles Howell III.
Gay ultimately emerged victorious, but the T2 for Lingmerth finish came in just his second career PGA TOUR start.
He will be making his eighth this week at the Valero Texas Open.
With his T3 finish at the Arnold Palmer Invitational presented by MasterCard, Gonzalo Fernández-Castaño earned $297,600 for a total of $502,100 in three starts this season, surpassing the total earnings of the player who finished No. 150 on the 2012 money list ($474,295).
He now has the opportunity to join the PGA TOUR as a Special Temporary Member for the remainder of the 2013 season.
If he does so, he will be eligible for unlimited sponsor exemptions in his attempt to earn his 2013-14 TOUR card through the Non-member Money List or Non-member FedExCup Points List.
Fernández-Castaño also finished T9 at the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play Championship and T43 at the World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship.
Valero Texas Open notes
For the fourth consecutive season, the Valero Texas Open will be held at TPC San Antonio AT&T Oaks Course. The course was designed by Greg Norman with Sergio Garcia serving as a design consultant.
With a scoring average of 4.344 the 474-yard, par-4 ninth was ranked the 21st toughest hole on the PGA TOUR in 2012.
For the first time ever, the Valero Texas Open falls the week before the Masters. This week’s event is the final shot for players, not previously eligible, to receive an invitation to August.
Two players have won the week prior to the Masters Tournament and then gone on to win in Augusta – Sandy Lyle (Greater Greensboro Open) in 1988 and Phil Mickelson (BellSouth Classic) in 2006.
There are 18 players in this week’s field also competing at next week’s Masters Tournament; K.J. Choi, Ben Curtis, Jamie Donaldson, Gonzaol Fdez-Castano, Jim Furyk, Brian Gay, Peter Hanson, Padraig Harrington, John Huh, Freddie Jacobson, Matt Kuchar, David Lynn, Rory McIlroy, John Merrick, John Peterson, D.A. Points, Ian Poulter and Charl Schwartzel.
Among those in the field with Texas collegiate connections:
University of Texas: Jordan Spieth, Justin Leonard, Bob Estes and Wes Short, Jr.
Texas A&M: Bobby Gates, Jeff Maggert and Ryan Palmer