Golf: South African Grace leads Texas Open

Branden Grace of South Africa hits from a bunker on the second green during the 2017 Masters in Augusta

(Reuters) – Branden Grace built on recent good form to earn the first-round lead with a six-under-par 66 at the Valero Texas Open in San Antonio on Thursday.

The South African, whose low ball flight is ideally suited for windy conditions typically found in Texas, notched seven birdies to head Americans Stewart Cink, Will MacKenzie and John Huh by one stroke at TPC San Antonio.

Grace found some form over the final two rounds at the Masters two weeks ago, before putting up a creditable defense of his title last week at the Heritage, where he tied for 11th.

“Making the cut (at the Masters) was big for me and then I progressed nicely over the weekend,” he told Golf Channel.

“I’ve played well here in the past. It’s one of those courses you have to be precise, work out a plan attacking the greens, (because) there are some severe slopes.

“The wind blows (and) I like playing in the wind. I like hitting it a lot lower than the normal guys out there.”

The world number 21 was pleased with all facets of his game, even if a couple of putts refused to drop.

“Around this place to miss only one fairway is pretty special,” he said. “I hit it pretty good to the greens as well, gave myself some short birdie chances, which is always nice. I left a few out there but I made a couple of nice ones, so they canceled each other out.”

Cink, the 2009 British Open champion, made his move by rattling off four birdies in five holes on his back nine.

(Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; Editing by Peter Rutherford;; +822 3704 5698 Reuters; Messaging: