Grace leads Texas Open by 1; Woods has surgery

Sun Sentinel Broward Edition - - OUTDOORS - Associated Press

SAN AN­TO­NIO— South African Branden Grace had a 6-un­der 66 and leads by a stroke af­ter the open­ing round of the Valero Texas Open on Thurs­day.

Grace had a sea­son-best 11th-place fin­ish last­week in de­fense of his RBC Her­itage ti­tle. He leads the 5-un­der 67s of Steven Alker, Ste­wart Cink, John Huh and Will MacKen­zie at TPC San An­to­nio. Alker, a jour­ney­man New Zealan­der who played in the fi­nal group of the day, birdied the fi­nal three holes.

There are 13 play­ers packed two shots back at 4 un­der. That in­cludes 2010 U.S. Open cham­pion Gra­ham McDow­ell and 2016 U.S. Ry­der Cup mem­ber Brooks Koepka.

Two weeks ago, Grace was over par but still sur­vived the cut at the Masters. He played the week­end in 3 un­der, and his best score­card last week at Hil­ton Head was 68. The 66 on Thurs­day was his best round since Hawaii in Jan­uary.

“That’s the one round I was wait­ing for,” Grace said. “I’ve been shoot­ing the 69s and 70s, but not get­ting that one lowround. This is nice.”

His day took off with three con­sec­u­tive birdies mid-round, in­clud­ing a 22-foot putt at the ninth af­ter miss­ing his only fair­way of the day.

It al­most wasn’t as nice for McDow­ell, who’s won twice on the PGA Tour since his U.S. Open ti­tle at Peb­ble Beach seven years ago.

“I made bo­gey at 11 from the mid­dle of the fair­way, (and) I ripped it down the mid­dle of the 12th fair­way right in the mid­dle of a divot and duffed it out short of the green and made bo­gey there,” he said.

Ian Poul­ter needs to at least make the cut to keep his PGA Tour card for the re­main­der of the sea­son. That’s in doubt now — no birdies un­til his 17th hole and a 75 has him well out­side the top 100. He’s play­ing on a ma­jor med­i­cal ex­emp­tion granted af­ter a foot in­jury caused him to miss most of last sea­son.

Wat­son fires 66 in China

SHEN­ZHEN, China — Bubba Wat­son fired a 6-un­der 66 in the first round to take a one-stroke lead at theweather-de­layed Shen­zhen In­ter­na­tional.

Start­ing on the 10th hole, Wat­son bo­geyed the 12th but bounced back with birdies on Nos. 13, 14 and 16 to turn in 34. A birdie at the first hole was then fol­lowed by an ap­proach shot to eight feet on the par-5 sec­ond, set­ting up an ea­gle that sent Wat­son to the top of the leader­board.

The South African duo of Dean Burmester and Haydn Por­te­ous was tied for sec­ond with Gregory Bourdy of France, Ger­man Max­i­m­il­ian Ki­ef­fer and Thai­land’s Thongchai Jaidee.

U.S.’s Knut­zon has 64 for lead

NODA, Ja­pan — Ja­son Knut­zon of the United States fired a 7-un­der 64 to take a two-stroke lead af­ter the first round of the Pana­sonic Open.

Knut­zon off­set a lone bo­gey on the par-4 17th with seven birdies at the Chiba Coun­try Club to fin­ish two strokes ahead of Thai­land’s Udorn Duangdecha and Satoshi Ko­daira of Ja­pan.

Kim Hyung-sung of South Korea shot 67 and was tied for fourth with com­pa­triot Hur In-hoi, Hiroshi Iwata of Ja­pan and Thai­land’s Panuphol Pit­ta­yarat.

More surgery for Woods

One day af­ter say­ing his back was pro­gress­ing, Tiger Woods had a fourth back surgery to al­le­vi­ate pain and will go through an­other year with­out play­ing a ma­jor.

The surgery was Wed­nes­day at the Texas Back In­sti­tute.

Woods was in Mis­souri on Tues­day to an­nounce plans to de­sign a pub­lic golf course at Big Cedar Lodge, and he even tried hit­ting a few shots to a par 3. The­first one rat­tled around in the rocks, and the sec­ond shot was about 10 feet from the flag.

Asked about his health dur­ing the cer­e­mony, Woods said he had good days and bad days. And then he flew to Dal­las for fu­sion surgery to cre­ate space in his lower back.

The an­nounce­ment on his web­site Thurs­day said typ­i­cal re­cov­ery from a sin­gle-fu­sion surgery is six months.

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