SAN ANTONIO – Matt Jones eagled the par-5 14th hole and finished with a 6-under 66 to take a one-stroke lead Thursday after the first round of the Texas Open.
Jones, the 30-year-old Australian who played at Arizona State, also had four birdies in a back-nine 30 on the Greg Norman-designed Oaks Course at TPC San Antonio, the tournament’s new site after 15 years at La Cantera.
Paul Stankowski opened with a 67, and J.B. Holmes, Matt Weibring, Charley Hoffman and Steve Lowery had 68s.
Ernie Els, a two-time winner this year, had a 72. He was 3 under on the final five holes, making a tap-in eagle on 14 after a 293-yard second shot.
“Obviously, this golf course is a little bit different than we play week in and week out, and I think to some of the players it’s a little bit of a shock,” Els said. “Back to even par, but I feel like, you know, it could have been a low score out there. The wind dropped for us.”
Els’ playing partner, Vijay Singh, left several putts just short, but finished with a birdie for a 73. Zach Johnson, the two-time defending champion, made a 7 on the par-3 13th and ended up with an 8-over 80.
Jones rebounded after making a double bogey on the first hole.
“A double wasn’t the start we wanted, but the first hole is not an easy starting tee shot there at all,” Jones said. “It’s very narrow.
“After that, it was just a battle to get back to even par on the front nine, and then I made about a 30-footer for par on 11, which kind of kept me going. And from there on, we had six birdies and an eagle.”
Jones hit a 3-wood approach from 276 yards to 8 feet on No. 14.
He birdied three of the four par 3s.
“With these greens, if you miss a tee shot you’re working hard to par or birdie,” Jones said. “If you miss a second shot, it’s tough out of the bunkers and runoffs they have on the greens. These par 3s aren’t easy. To have three birdies on par-3s is quite good.”
Jones, whose best finish this season is a tie for seventh two weeks ago at Quail Hollow, teed off among the morning groups before the temperature on a humid, windy day climbed into the mid-80s.
Stankowski birdied five of his final 15 holes
“This would rival one of the most solid rounds I’ve played in years,” Stankowski said. “I know in the wind, you have one option – to go ahead and hit solid shots, and I did that today. This was a good day, and this is really how I would love to draw them every round.”