Veterans Padraig Harrington and Matt Kuchar each shot a 4-under 68 on Thursday to share the early lead with MJ Daffue and Roberto Diaz in the weather-delayed first round of the Valero Texas Open.
Daffue eagled the par-5 18th hole at TPC San Antonio and Diaz made birdie on 18 to join the 51-year-old Harrington — who has played on the PGA Tour, European tour and PGA Tour Champions this year — and the 44-year-old Kuchar atop the leaderboard.
“I’m an optimistic, pretty enthusiastic person,” Harrington said. “I wake up and the minute I hit a golf shot I’m dreaming I’m going to find the secret. Even though there isn’t one, you’re always hopeful, dreaming. Let’s see if I really am better out there with the kids.”
Play was delayed by fog in the morning, which prevented the afternoon half of the field from finishing their rounds on Thursday. Among the late starters, Justin Lower was 5 under through eight holes and Patrick Rodgers was 4 under through 13 when play was suspended because of darkness.
Matt Wallace — a winner last week in the Dominican Republic — shot 69 along with Garrick Higgo, Harry Higgs, Chez Reavie and Nick Taylor.
Daffue had the biggest finish. He holed a 27-foot putt for birdie on the par-4 17th hole. He hammered a 291-yard second shot to the back edge of the green on 18, and converted a 14-footer from the fringe for a 5-under 31 on the back nine.
It was a good day
“It was a jumper lie (on 18),” Daffue said, “and it was right at the max of my 7-wood and I said ‘I’m going to hit it. I’m feeling this one.’ It was a good day.”
The 34-year-old Daffue is seeking his first PGA Tour victory. Diaz, playing on a sponsor’s exemption, finished with a 14-foot birdie.
Harrington and Kuchar are both seeking their first win this decade. Kuchar won twice in 2019. Harrington, who won four times last year on the over-50 tour, hasn’t won on the PGA Tour since the Honda Classic in 2015. The three-time major champion’s most recent DP World Tour victory was the Portugal Masters in 2016.
This month, Harrington was announced as an inductee in the 2024 class to the World Golf Hall of Fame. The last time he was in the top three after his first round was at PGA National eight years ago, when he went on to win.
A victory this week would also get Harrington into the Masters for the second time since 2015; he missed the cut at Augusta National last year.
Harrington started on the back nine and ran off three straight birdies around the turn and two more on the fourth and fifth holes before closing with four straight pars.
Kuchar opened with a bogey on No. 10, then sat for more than two hours before the fog lifted. He made three birdies on the final five holes of his first nine, then converted 3-footers for birdie on Nos. 5 and 8.
“If you start playing some indifferent golf, this course can jump up and bite you,” Kuchar said. “I was lucky to get away with a couple of loose ones today. For the most part, my game is in some pretty good form and I enjoy this golf course a lot.”