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April 4 2013

7:45 PM

Bettencourt breathing easy

By Tim Price, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent

SAN ANTONIO -- When he walks onto the golf course these days, Matt Bettencourt worries about health. It’s not always his own.

Bettencourt appears to have asthma under control, yet he made it through a Valero Texas Open-leading opening round of 5-under 67 on Thursday afternoon after damaging a wedge on one of the numerous rocks at TPC San Antonio’s AT&T Oaks Course.

He pulled his tee shot on No. 8 and still made par when he roughed up his club from out of the gritty native area.

“I didn’t realize there was a rock underneath,” Bettencourt said. “It pretty much destroyed the face of the club.”

The health of his 52-degree wedge will be solved tonight. He’s planning on getting a replacement head for the shaft in time for his morning tee time on Friday. The club, despite a good “chunking” out of the face -- as Bettencourt put it -- wasn’t bad enough to keep him from using it on a full shot later in the round.

“It actually flew OK,” he said.

As his score would indicate, Bettencourt was strong across the board in his game.

It was a six-birdie round, which included a 21-footer on the 405-yard, into-the-wind 12th hole. The only time he missed an up-and-down came on the fourth when he missed from 8 feet.

Bettencourt, who turns 38 this month, finished 10th in the U.S. Open in 2009 at Bethpage Black. His game is healthy, and so is he. He fought for several years a case of asthma that has had him switching medication and inhalers after some doses have left him with a case of the jitters. The last time he won, the 2010 Reno-Tahoe Open, he was bothered by condition.

So, Thursday was only his 16th round of the season. His best finish is a tie for 24th at the Puerto Rico Open.

“I’ve gone back and forth from three to four different inhalers,” Bettencourt said. “It’s helped my health, but I haven’t been able to play golf with it.

“But I think we found (the right combination) last week. I haven’t noticed any jitters, so it’s a bonus for me to play good golf.”

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