Murray leads Valero Texas Open in tough conditions

SAN ANTONIO – For the third time in five weeks, the PGA TOUR is in Texas. That generally means lots of wind. Tricky winds – the kind that tested the field Thursday at the Valero Texas Open.

Grayson Murray handled it the best, shooting a 5-under 67 to take the first-round lead at TPC San Antonio. It’s a bit of a surprise, considering three days ago he contemplated walking off the range because it was so windy.

“Just going to make me frustrated,” he told himself.

But he worked through it, stayed on the range — and something started to click. His payoff was seven birdies, a terrific result in tough conditions.

“That’s probably why I played well today, just because that gave me confidence that I’m now compressing the ball,” Murray said of his Monday practice. “If you don’t compress the ball, if you start coming out of it, start hitting these short weak right shots, the ball’s going to do whatever it wants to do in the air.”

So just how was the wind Thursday? Let Keith Mitchell, making his first career start at TPC San Antonio, explain:

“The wind blows 5 mph. Then it blows 20. Then it was from the northeast. Then it blows from the east-northeast. It’s not consistent out there. It’s so hard to pick a club from the fairway,” Mitchell said. He did just fine, though – a 2-under 70 that has him tied for 12th.

Chesson Hadley shot a 68 that puts him in a five-way tie for ninth. One of his five birdies was at the par-4 ninth, the second toughest hole on the course, yielding just 12 birdies to the field. The 68 isn’t his lowest round of the season, but it might’ve been his most impressive.

“Yeah, that could have been maybe the best round I played this year just from how hard it was and how difficult the course is,” Hadley said.

Billy Horschel knows a thing or two about winning in Texas – he won last year in Dallas at the AT&T Byron Nelson. He also has three top-5 finishes in his last five starts in San Antonio. He may be headed for another good finish after his 68.

“People ask me how you do it,” Horschel said about playing in the wind. “You keep the ball down … but if you don’t hit it solid, the wind’s going to take over. So always been a good wind player. I think it’s because I’ve always been a good ball-striker and hit it solid.”

The wind will remain a factor the rest of the week, particularly in Sunday’s final round when gusts are expected to reach 30 mph. Patience will be tested.

“I’m a lot more comfortable in the wind,” said Murray, who broke through last year with a win at the Barbasol Championship. “I’m starting to stripe it a lot better, which my ball doesn’t really get affected in this type of wind.”

That was certainly the case Thursday.

MISSED CUT STREAK IN JEOPARDY

Jon Curran is tied for seventh after a 3-under 69. That’s significant on several levels.

Curran has missed the cut in each of his first 10 starts this season. He’s had a couple of close calls. At the Houston Open three weeks ago, 90 players made the cut at 3 under. Curran was on that cutline with four holes to play in his second round – until a triple bogey. At the Sony Open in Hawaii, he was 6 under in his final 11 holes on Friday but missed the cut by a stroke.

“Just been a really weird year,” he said. “… I may look like I’m not playing well but I’m doing all right.”

Curran’s playing this year on a Major Medical Exemption, with 18 starts to make approximately 305-1/2 FedExCup points to retain membership. Ten starts in, he’s hasn’t made a dent – but he’s got a chance with another good round Friday.

“It can be frustrating at times but I feel like I’ve gotten over it,” said Curran, who battled a rib injury last year. “I’ve definitely matured as a player. That’s just part of the game. … You can play well and miss the cut. That’s just how it goes.”

NOTABLES

Josh Creel is making his PGA TOUR debut this week. He won the Monday qualifier at Briggs Ranch, and then immediately made the 45-minute trip to TPC San Antonio. “I was so excited,” he said. “I put on two different tennis shoes – one white high top and one black low top. It wasn’t even close.” On Thursday, it got better – he shot a 3-under 69 to finish his first competitive round on TOUR tied for seventh. “It’s awesome,” he said. “Been a dream come true. Just soaking it all in.”

Andrew Landry went through a stretch of four consecutive missed cuts earlier this season. He had a good excuse – his wife Elizabeth was about to give birth to their first child. Brooks Ryan Landry was born on March 20, and in Andrew’s return to the TOUR at last week’s RBC Heritage, he not only made the cut but was T-12 after three rounds before fading on Sunday. Now he’s in contention after opening with a 3-under 69 while playing with new shafts. “It wasn’t like I’ve been playing bad golf,” Landry said. “I think I had a lot on my mind. Now that the baby’s here and everybody’s healthy and everybody’s good, I think I can just go out and pin my ears back and play some golf.”

Zach Johnson was 3 over without a birdie after saving par with an 8-1/2 foot putt at the par-4 13th. That lit the fire … and he proceeded to eagle the 14th, then birdie his last three holes to move to 2 under. “Just a matter of staying patient and waiting for it,” Johnson said. “I felt like I was hitting good shots and not being rewarded.”

Defending champion Kevin Chappell suffered a double bogey on his second hole of the day, but fought back to shoot an even-par 72. … Sergio Garcia, making his first start since 2010, shot a 2-over 74 with just one birdie … Adam Scott, the 2010 champ who’s playing here for the first time since his title defense in 2011, did not record a birdie in shooting 3-over 75. He needed 19 putts on his first nine holes and 3-putted the 16th from 35 feet. … Another past champion, Jimmy Walker (2015), was going well until finding trouble off the tee on his ninth hole (the 18th), leading to a double bogey. He finished with a 71. … Besides Jon Curran, Kyle Thompson is the only other player who’s made 10 or more starts without making a cut this year. Thompson shot 73 on Thursday and is also inside the cutline (T-64).

QUOTABLES

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