SAN ANTONIO – Confidence is key in golf, a fact that was affirmed Thursday at the Valero Texas Open. Danny Lee, buoyed by the best finish of his PGA TOUR career, is tied for the lead with Andrew Loupe and Pat Perez, who’s off to a solid start this season thanks to swing changes.
Lee and Perez shot 68 on Thursday at TPC San Antonio, while Loupe was 4 under through 11 holes before the round was suspended due to darkness.
Lee, 23, had missed six consecutive cuts when he arrived earlier this month at the Puerto Rico Open presented by seepuertorico.com. He finished second there and is in contention again this week.
“I was kind of doubting myself,” Lee, the 2008 U.S. Amateur champion, said of his attitude entering Puerto Rico. “I wasn’t really committed to every shot I hit.
“Ever since I finished second at Puerto Rico, everything changed a little bit for me. I was starting to act more positive. I was believing in every shot I hit and was believing in my game. ... I'm really believing in myself and I know I can do this.”
Lee is No. 79 in the FedExCup.
Perez has credited his good play this season to his work with instructor Joe Mayo. Perez is No. 32 in the FedExCup after posting three top-10s, including a runner-up finish at the Farmers Insurance Open, in 12 starts. He has missed just one cut.
“I’ve got a pretty good understanding of what my swing is doing and what the ball is doing,” Perez said. “I feel as confident as I ever have with my ball striking and where the ball is going to go and if I can make a couple putts, I feel like I can shoot a pretty good score.”
WAITING GAME: Heavy fog delayed the start of the first round by 2 1/2 hours. Perez was wearing four layers of clothes while warming up for the first round. “Now I’m sweating,” he said after finishing his round under sunny skies. The delay meant that 45 players did not complete their first round Thursday. Play will resume at 8 a.m. Friday.
STARS STRUGGLE: It was a difficult day for some of the biggest names in the field. Phil Mickelson shot 77. FedExCup leader Jimmy Walker, who lives in nearby Boerne, shot 76. Texas native Jordan Spieth had to shoot 3-under 33 on his final nine holes to salvage a 75.
Mickelson shot 40 on his second nine holes after making two bogeys and a double-bogey at No. 9. Spieth made bogey on six of his first seven holes, but made four birdies on his final nine.
“I just didn’t have anything going for me,” Spieth said. “I was finding the fairway, … but I was off on distance and accuracy (with approach shots). I set expectations and I wanted to play well in my home state, no doubt about it.”
Walker made the turn in 1-under 35 but was 5 over par on his back nine, including two double-bogeys.
Walker finished third at TPC San Antonio in 2010, the first year the course was used for this event, but is 23 over par in his past nine rounds here.
CALL OF THE DAY: Mark Immelman calls Will MacKenzie's near ace at the par-3 16th in Round 1 of the Valero Texas Open. Live play-by-play coverage of the second round streams from 12-6 p.m. ET Friday on PGATOUR.COM.
ROLLING ALONG: Will MacKenzie’s impressive play continued Thursday. MacKenzie, who regained his PGA TOUR card at the 2013 Web.com Tour Finals, is 22nd in the FedExCup standings. He has posted eight top-25s in 12 starts, including four top-10s; he has missed just two cuts.
“Just happy with the game, happy with playing golf again, happy with my personal life,” MacKenzie said. “Also, I’m working with a great coach, Jeff Leishman. He’s simplified everything for me. … I can go to the range right now, go through a couple little things that get my engine going, which is my lower half, and start striking the ball without using so much hands. I have a good putting drill and chipping drill, as well. That’s what I do every day.”
ROAD TO AUGUSTA: There’s two ways Chesson Hadley can qualify for the Masters.
Win either this week or next, or crack the top 50 in the Official World Golf Ranking at week’s end. Hadley is No. 56 in the OWGR; the top 50 after the Valero Texas Open will earn Masters invitations. Hadley shot 3-under 69 on Thursday thanks to four birdies in his final five holes. He’s one shot off the lead.
Hadley and Ryan Palmer are the only players in the Valero field who are between Nos. 51-70 in the OWGR and not yet exempt for the Masters. Palmer, No. 62 in the OWGR, shot 72.
LOCAL HERO: Cameron Beckman has a two-minute commute to TPC San Antonio this week. He’s competing this week on a sponsor exemption, and shot 69 on Thursday. He capped his round with a 42-foot birdie putt on his final hole.
PHOTO GALLERY: Click the photo below to see the best photos from TPC San Antonio.