SAN ANTONIO — Curtis Luck is making his pro debut in the Valero Texas Open, and at least he knows what to expect.
His last nine tournaments over the past six months have all been on professional tours.
“I’ve definitely got a lot of experience under my belt I can use this week to put a good couple of rounds in and have a good result,” Luck said.
Luck, a 20-year-old Australian, made his final year as an amateur one to remember. He won the U.S. Amateur in August by defeating Brad Dalke of Oklahoma, 6 and 4. He decided to stay an amateur to take advantage of his invitation to the Masters, then won the Asia Pacific Amateur last fall by one shot over Brett Coletta of Australia.
With the Masters behind him – Luck made the cut and tied for 46th – he’s ready to get paid.
For the second straight week, the top stars on the PGA Tour are staying home. Patrick Reed at No. 15 in the world is the highest-ranked player.
The field also includes Matt Kuchar, who is playing his fifth straight tournament, PGA winner Jimmy Walker and defending champion Charley Hoffman.
Kuchar’s long stretch began at the Dell Technologies Match Play, where he went 1-1-1 but failed to advance from his group. He missed the cut at the Houston Open, then has shown flashes that he could be on the verge of winning for the first time in three years on the PGA Tour.
He made a hole-in-one on Sunday at the Masters and tied for fourth, then he closed with a 64 at Hilton Head last week.
Hoffman also has had his share of chances. He was tied for the lead with three holes to play at the Arnold Palmer Invitational until a three-putt par on the 16th and a bogey from the bunker on the 17th. And then at the Masters, Hoffman opened with a 65 in 40 mph gusts – it was nearly 10 shots better than the average score in the opening round – and was two shots out of the lead going into the final round before closing with a 78.
Luck, meanwhile, made the cut in five of the nine pro tourneys he’s played since last fall, his best a tie for 11th in the Australian Open, five shots behind Jordan Spieth’s winning score.
He already has three more sponsor exemptions lined up as he tries to get a PGA Tour card. Luck said he has invitations to the Colonial, the Memorial and the Quicken Loans National.
The last two prominent amateurs to turn pro had big starts.
Bryson DeChambeau, who won the U.S. Amateur the year before Luck, began his pro career after the 2016 Masters and tied for fourth at the RBC Heritage. That remains his best result in PGA Tour events that offer full FedEx Cup points (he was runner-up in Puerto Rico opposite the Match Play).
Jon Rahm made his pro debut last year after the U.S. Open and tied for third at the Quicken Loans National on his way to securing his PGA Tour card in a month. Rahm has since won at Torrey Pines and lost to Dustin Johnson in the Match Play final.
“I guess there’s a little bit more pressure to perform,” Luck said. “As an amateur, you’re kind of paying money to go play and nothing comes out of it, where here, I’m starting to try to make a living,” he said. “But yeah, with my last six months of golf, I almost kind of in a way turned professional because I haven’t played an amateur event, like an actual amateur, since October.”
TIGER WOODS is promoting his book on the 1997 Masters. And he’s designing golf courses, the latest project a public course at Big Cedar Lodge in Missouri. He’s just not playing much golf.
In video from PGA Tour Entertainment, Woods said his back was progressing.
“I have good days and bad days,” Woods said. “I’ve had three back operations and that’s the nature of the business, unfortunately. That’s all I can say.”
IAN POULTER makes his final start on a major medical extension from a foot injury last year at the Valero Texas Open. Poulter needs $30,624 – alone in 36th place or better – to secure his full card for the rest of the season.