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Augusta looms as PGA Tour hits Texas

(Photo: Bruce Young)
With now just two events remaining before the opening major championship of 2015, the Masters, the Valero Texas Open and the Shell Houston Open take on a greater level of significance as those needing to have their game's peaking for Augusta National consider how they will bets achieve such.

Last year two players earned debut starts at the Masters through the two events. Steve Bowditch will defend the title that got him to the Masters where on debut he performed with a lot of credit when finishing 26th.

A week later Matt Jones produced a dramatic win in Houston and teed it up just a few days later. It was all a bit much for the Sydneysider who was unable to regroup in time and missed the cut.

Both players are currently without a Masters start so will need to either win in the case of Bowditch or in the case of Jones perhaps finish inside the top three in either event to improve from his current 62nd position in the world ranking to inside the top fifty to assure himself a start.

Bowditch held on to win after a final round of 76 as while he was struggling so too were those around him and even a three putt bogey at the last could not stop him claiming his first PGA Tour title. He blown a great opportunity the previous year with a poor finish to the event in 2013 but this year he was able to hold on and gain the benefits of victory.

Bowditch's form of late has been very ordinary although it needs to be said it is not a lot worse than was the case when he arrived in San Antonio twelve months ago.

Jordan Spieth might come from another part of Texas (Dallas) but he did finish 10th in this event last year and is in stunning form at present with his recent victory at the Valspar Championship a good example. In six starts this year he has recorded a win and three other top tens and so the world number 6 is a real chance of adding a third PGA Tour title to his name.

Jim Furyk has played this event only twice for a 6th placing last year and a 3rd place finish in 2013. Furyk has not missed a cut since the US Open in 2013 and is regularly contending for titles. It would seem this week will be yet another example of just that.

Zach Johnson has produced mixed results this year but amongst those there have been several good finishes including a 9th place finish last week at Bay Hill. Johnson won this event on two occasions when held at its initial venue but a 6th place finish last year suggests he can handle the TPC San Antonio.

Jimmy Walker has been playing a little below the level he was earlier in the year but has had the past two weeks off and might just return to tournament golf better for the break. He is after all still leading the FedEx Cup point table. Walker does own a 3rd place finish in this event in 2010 a and he is clearly a much better player now.

Charley Hoffman enjoys a very good record in this event having recorded eight top twenty finishes in nine starts. His form of late has not been great but there is enough to suggest he could continue his good record in Texas.

Matt Kuchar has played this venue well in each of the last three years and while not contending often in recent weeks he is playing well enough. His chances appear very good.

Australians in the event include the defending champion Steve Bowditch, last week's third place finisher Matt Jones, Geoff Ogilvy, John Senden, Robert Allenby, Aaron Baddeley and Jarrod Lyle.

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