Steele is 2 shots up at soggy Texas Open

Brendan Steele made birdies on eight of his first 13 holes and held a two-stroke lead over Charley Hoffman before darkness halted play in the first round of the rain-delayed Valero Texas Open on the AT&T Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio in Santa Antonio, Texas.

Steele, from Idyllwild and UC Riverside, birdied his first three holes after starting at No. 10, and after another birdie at No. 14, made four in a row through the third hole in his bogey-free start.

“I’m just comfortable on this course and it’s playing a little easier than I ever seen it, but the shots are still the same,” said Steele, whose only PGA Tour victory came in this tournament in 2011.

“I was lucky enough to get out there feeling really good. I was really dialed in on my numbers. I mean, I even had a lot of other good looks at birdie on most of the other holes.”

Hoffman, from Poway and UNLV, carded seven birdies and a lone bogey at No. 17 in an opening 66. He has three top-10 finishes at TPC San Antonio, including a tie for second behind Steele five three ago.

“This golf course is very visual and it’s nicely framed by the oak trees,” said Hoffman, who has won three times on the PGA Tour. “It sets up perfectly for me.

“It was playing differently today because it’s so soft. Usually, you want to roll the ball up there, but today I tried to hit it a little past the hole and bring it back. And there’s no rough this year. I was able to hit some good shots and make some putts.”

Stuart Appleby of Australia birdied the last five holes for a 67 and was tied for third with Peter Malnati, who holed his second shot from 94 yards for an eagle on the 17th hole.

Steve Flesch, the 48-year-old left-hander, collected five birdies in a 68 and was tied for fifth with Brandt Snedeker (14 holes), Patrick Reed (13) and Freddie Jacobson (11) of Sweden, who all were still on the course when darkness came.

Zach Johnson, who won the Texas Open in 2008 and 2009, shot 69 and was tied for ninth with Harold Varner III, Mark Wilson, Matt Jones of Australia, Spencer Levin of Elk Grove and Jerry Kelly.

Also at 3-under and still on the course were Luke Donald (14 holes) of England, J.J. Henry (13), Francesco Molinari (13) of Italy and Scott Langley (10).

Hometown favorite Jimmy Walker, the defending champion, struggled to a 75 and was tied for 126th.

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