HUMBLE, Texas — Ben Curtis won the Texas Open last year to secure a spot in the Masters, but it wasn’t enough to get him into the Bridgestone Invitational, a 15-minute drive from where he lives in Ohio. The Texas Open had such a weak field that Curtis did not earn enough world ranking points for the winner to qualify for Firestone.
That won’t be the case this year, and not just because Rory McIlroy — the No. 2 player in the world — made a last-minute decision to play.
Because of how the calendar falls, there were two weeks between Bay Hill and the Masters. And because of a deal that the Texas Open cannot end on Easter Sunday, it now occupies the final week before Augusta National. That spot had belonged to the Houston Open.
With so many players wanting one last tournament before going to the Masters, the Texas Open has attracted the likes of Matt Kuchar, Jim Furyk, Charl Schwartzel, Ian Poulter and Peter Hanson, along with European Tour members Jamie Donaldson and Gonzalo Fernandez-Castano, all of them in the top 50.
Curtis earned 24 ranking points for winning last year, the same amount for winners of opposite-field events. The winner this year is likely to earn in the neighborhood of 44 points.
American streak: Jonas Blixt of Sweden is becoming a footnote in history — the last foreign-born player to win on the PGA Tour.
Blixt won the Frys.com Open at CordeValle on Oct. 14. Since then, Americans have won all 16 official PGA Tour events, including 14 in a row to start the 2013 season. That matches the longest American streak to start the season since 1984. That run ended a week after the Masters when Nick Faldo won at Hilton Head.
As for the 16 in a row?
It’s the longest streak of American winners since they won 17 straight in 2006. That streak began with Tiger Woods at the British Open (one week after John Senden won the John Deere Classic) and ended when K.J. Choi won at Innisbrook in the penultimate tournament on the official schedule.