J.J. Spaun will always be remembered as the winner of the 100th edition of the Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio, but what will matter most for the journeyman touring pro is winning for the first time in five years on the PGA Tour and securing an invitation to play in the Masters for the first time in his career.

Spaun’s two-stroke victory came with a $1,548,000 first-place check, a big, shiny trophy and a pair of custom-made Lucchese cowboy boots. Spaun also racked up 500 FedExCup points, enough to vault him from 66th to 10th on the list.

Spaun, 31, is a Filipino American from Los Angeles who attended San Diego State University, turning pro in 2012. He won his PGA Tour card in 2017, lost it, regained it and now will enjoy full status on the tour through the end of 2024 and an invitation to play in the 2022 PGA Championship at Southern Hills in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in May.

“I technically lost my card the COVID year, but they gave everyone that didn’t keep their card another year,” Spaun said after his victory, describing his yearlong struggles after missing the cut at last year’s Texas Open. “Basically, we were in like a reshuffle category, kind of like the rookie category I’m in now, or I was. I was just playing bad, like I was lost. I didn’t know where my swing was, I didn’t know what to do. I was putting so much into my game and getting nothing in return and just playing worse.”

All that changed in San Antonio over the past four days.

For tournament sponsor Valero and the city of San Antonio, Spaun’s victory concludes six months of events leading up to the historic 100th edition of the Texas Open, first staged at Brackenridge Golf Course in 1922 as a way to lure East Coast and Midwest professional golfers down south during the winter. The Texas Open spawned other off-season tournaments from Los Angeles to Miami for what became the “winter tour” that now runs from January through March.

Valero, which has sponsored the tournament since 2002, announced Sunday a record $22 million in charitable funds raised this year, a big jump from last year’s $16 million. That brings the tournament’s all-time total to $209 million. All but $3 million has come since Valero assumed sponsorship of the Texas Open.

Spaun, one of four third-round leaders, began his Sunday round with a double bogey on the par 4, 455-yard first hole on the Oaks Course, then quickly regrouped to card five birdies and 12 pars to outlast a crowded field of 17 players who started the day within three shots of the lead. He is the first winner to overcome a double bogey on the first hole of a final round since Tiger Woods at the 2008 U.S. Open, according to tour officials.

He made birdies on Nos. 6, 8 and 9, and two more on the 11th and 14th holes to card a 3-under 69 to add to rounds of 67, 70, and 69 for a 13-under, 275 total.

On a warm day with winds freshening in the afternoon and greens hardening, the final round for the afternoon threesomes was more of a grind than birdie-fest. A number of players, including nine-time tour winner Matt Kuchar, shared early leads, but Kuchar’s 69 left him at 11-under and tied for second with Matt Jones, who shot 66 on Sunday. No one shot better.

Adam Hadwin, Troy Merritt, Charles Howell III and Beau Hossler all finished tied for fourth at 10-under. Five others finished one stroke back, tied for eighth, including Keegan Bradley, who also fired a 66, Matthias Schwab, Gary Woodland, Brendon Todd and Dylan Frittelli.

Spaun becomes the second player to qualify for the Masters with a last-chance win at the Texas Open since the tournament was moved to its current place on the PGA Tour calendar. Corey Conners did it in 2019. There was no Texas Open in 2020 due to the pandemic, while last year’s winner, Jordan Spieth, the 2015 Masters champion, was already exempt.

Four golfers — Spaun, Hossler, Brandt Snedeker and Frittelli — tied for the 54-hole lead, a first for the tournament since it moved to TPC San Antonio’s Oaks Course in 2010.

At the start of the final round, only three among the top 20 had secured a place in the year’s first major, leaving a scramble not only for the Texas Open title but a final spot in the Masters field.

Spieth finished strong, starting the day even and shooting a 67, sending him to Augusta with momentum. Conners also finished with a 67 as he heads to the Masters. The two tied for 35th.

The 2023 Ryder Cup captains played well at this year’s Texas Open. Zach Johnson, captain of the U.S. team, finished tied for 13th, while Stenson, captain of the European team that will host the event next year in Paris, tied for 18th. Johnson, winner of the 2007 Masters, also will tee it up in Augusta later this week.

World Golf Hall of Famers Tom Watson (L-R) and Ben Crenshaw, both past Texas Open winners, join tournament director Larson Segerdahl and golf historian Kevin Robbins at Saturday’s Texas Open historic plaque unveiling at TOC San Antonio.
(From left) World Golf Hall of Famers Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw, both past Texas Open winners, join tournament director Larson Segerdahl and golf historian Kevin Robbins at the unveiling of a Texas Open plaque Saturday at TPC San Antonio. Credit: Robert Rivard / San Antonio Report

The Texas Open is the PGA Tour’s longest-running tour event to be staged in the same city, but that included play at eight different courses over the 100 years. On Saturday, World Golf Hall of Famers Ben Crenshaw, who won at Woodlake Country Club in 1973 and at Oak Hills Country Club in 1986, and Tom Watson, who won at Oak Hills in 1987, were on hand for the unveiling of a commemorative plaque at TPC San Antonio that Valero has now placed at all Texas Open venues, beginning last November at Brackenridge Golf Club, home to the Texas Open in its early years.

Kevin Robbins, author of It’s Been a Journey: The True History of the Oldest Golf Tournament in Texas, which was released on Saturday at the tournament, was on hand with Valero officials to read aloud the passage that appears on the plaque.

Valero is a financial supporter of the San Antonio Report. For a full list of business members, click here.

Robert Rivard

Robert Rivard is co-founder and columnist at the San Antonio Report.