(Reuters) – Grayson Murray has blown hot and cold recently and on Thursday he was hot at the Texas Open, shooting a five-under 67 for a one-stroke lead after the first round in windy San Antonio.
On a day when Sergio Garcia battled to a 74, Murray tamed the Greg Norman-designed TPC San Antonio to head a group of fellow Americans including Ryan Moore and Billy Horschel on 68.
“This is the first time I’ve seen this course, other than yesterday,” said Murray, a 24-year-old North Carolinian.
“You can hit a lot of drivers out there, which is my strength when I’m swinging it well.”
Murray certainly swung well right from the first tee. He hardly could have asked for a better start, with birdies at the first two holes.
He also finished with a brace of birdies, capping off his morning by sinking a 10-footer at the par-five 18th.
The only blemish on his card was a double-bogey at the par-three seventh, where he hit a poor shot from a greenside bunker.
The TPC San Antonio rewards straight driving, and it is no coincidence that the past three winners have been Kevin Chappell, Charley Hoffman and Jimmy Walker, all renowned as excellent ball-strikers.
Even more impressive is the list of runner-up finishers over the past three years — Brooks Koepka, Patrick Reed and Jordan Spieth, major winners all.
Murray has already won on the PGA Tour, albeit in the absence of the big boys last year at the Barbasol Championship, played on the same dates as the British Open.
His form this season has been strong enough to keep his accountant happy — nearly $850,000 from 13 starts — but inconsistency has been his bane.
In his past six starts he has three top-15 finishes and three missed cuts.
While Murray thrived on Thursday, the tournament’s leading drawcard struggled. Garcia notched only one birdie.
Last year’s Masters champion is seeking to bounce back after missing the cut two weeks ago in Augusta, where he ran up a 13 at the par-five 15th hole in the opening round.
He will need a decent round on Friday to avoid another weekend off.
(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Ian Ransom)