July 15, 2020
By Preston Smith, PGATOUR.COM
- Tyrone Van Aswegen fired a 66 on Wednesday to grab a share of the lead in San Antonio. (Stan Badz/PGA TOUR)
SAN ANTONIO, Texas – Tyrone Van Aswegen and Austin Smotherman each carded seven birdies and a bogey for matching 6-under 66s to share the first-round lead at the TPC San Antonio Championship at the Oaks. The duo leads five players by one stroke entering Thursday’s second round at the Oaks Course, annual host of the PGA TOUR’s Valero Texas Open.
Roughly a month ago, Van Aswegen was going under the knife. Doctors had discovered an “aggressive growth” on his thyroid during an MRI for back pain and, after monitoring it for a couple of months, it doubled in size. While the growth was benign, it was large enough that it had to be removed.
“I went on an anesthetic and the first week I felt terrible,” reflected Van Aswegen, a 38-year-old originally from South Africa. “It was my first surgery ever. But after that I felt good mentally, but I couldn’t do anything for two weeks because of the cut and the stitches.”
He returned to the golf course last week on TPC San Antonio’s Canyons Course but missed the cut after having to “knock off a bit of the cobwebs.” Van Aswegen birdied the par-5 second and the par-3 seventh on the front nine to turn at 2-under. He responded to a bogey at the 10th with back-to-back birdies at 11th and 12th before capping his round with birdies on his final three holes.
“That was a nice finish; I think last week I bogeyed my last three holes,” said Van Aswegen. “It was nice to finish strong as opposed to the opposite.”
Van Aswegen competed full time on the PGA TOUR from 2014-2019 but lost his card after finishing outside the top-125 in the FedExCup standings last fall. In four previous starts on the Oaks Course for the PGA TOUR’s Valero Texas Open, he had never broken 71.
Coming off a week off back home in Dallas, Smotherman was 1-over through four holes, but carded seven birdies over his final 14 to reach 6-under on the day.
“This is a legit TOUR course,” said Smotherman. “The best of the best play here and it tests your stuff. It wasn’t playing easy, but I stayed patient out there…It’s always great playing in Texas. I’m used to the Texas heat and the Texas wind. You just have to execute.”
The 26-year-old switched back to a claw grip while putting this week and tallied just 28 putts on the day, crediting a successful two-putt from 75 feet as jumpstarting his day. Smotherman has made six of 10 cuts thus far, including three top-25.
“I’ve had a few top-20s this year and those are all weeks that I can look back and see five or six shots that I can clean up,” noted Smotherman. “It’s nice to see that not playing my best golf I can still finish 15th. So definitely excited to play four days like I did today. It starts with resting this evening.”
Smotherman was teammates with current PGA TOUR pros Bryson DeChambeau and Harry Higgs at Southern Methodist University and enjoyed a chance to revel in DeChambeau’s most recent win last week.
“I actually did have dinner with him, we were back home last week celebrating his win,” said Smotherman of his long-hitting teammate. “It was generous, he treated us to dinner and had the trophy on the table and everything. It was motivation for me…It’s hard not to bring him up. He’s literally changing the game as we speak.”
Van Aswegen and Smotherman lead four players by a stroke: Ollie Schniederjans, Martin Piller, Paul Barjon, Max McGreevy and Max Greyserman. Six of the top-seven players on the leaderboard all have ties to the Dallas-Fort Worth area. Smotherman, Piller and McGreevy all live in Dallas now, while Schniederjans was born there. Barjon lives in Fort Worth, while Van Aswegen is in McKinney, a suburb north of Dallas.
Second-round tee times will run from 7:15 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. on Thursday.