Brand new challenge for Texas Open champion Johnson

HOUSTON (Reuters) - Former Masters champion Zach Johnson is viewing this week's Texas Open in San Antonio as a fresh challenge, though he will be bidding to emulate Arnold Palmer by winning the event for a third year in a row.

"No one has seen it so no one has an advantage, except for maybe some local guys," Johnson told reporters in the build-up to Thursday's opening round. "Focusing on last year's win isn't going to help me make the cut or win this golf tournament.

"I certainly like looking at shots and the way I executed shots during those wins, but all in all it's a new week on a new golf course at a new facility."

Asked if he enjoyed a comfort level with the event returning to the familiar surrounds of San Antonio, the 2007 Masters champion said it does not really cross his mind.

"It may if we were playing the same golf course, but I don't dwell on it. I've had a lot of instances where I've had good finishes or even a win, and I've missed the cut (at the same venue) the next year."

FIRST APPEARANCE

"I felt like I needed to play soon, especially feeling that my game came around Friday afternoon at TPC," Els said, referring to his missed cut at last week's Players Championship in Florida.

"I heard it was a different golf course ... I'm glad we have a fairly tough challenge here this week," added the three-times major champion, who has won twice on the 2010 PGA Tour.

Among other big names competing this week are former world number one Vijay Singh of Fiji and Spaniard Sergio Garcia, who was player consultant to the course designer, Greg Norman.

The par-72 Oaks Course layout, which opened for play earlier this year, measures 7,522 yards off the back tees.

(Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes in Los Angeles; Editing by Frank Pingue)