Perez shoots 68, shares early Valero lead


Fog delayed the start of the Valero Texas Open for more than two hours Thursday morning, and once play began at TPC San Antonio, many of the bigger names in the field began to struggle. Pat Perez had no such issues, though, as the 38-year-old was among three co-leaders when play was suspended because of darkness:

Leaderboard: Pat Perez (-4), Danny Lee (-4), Andrew Loupe (-4 through 11 holes), Chesson Hadley (-3), Will MacKenzie (-3), Seung-Yul Noh (-3), Cameron Beckman (-3)

What it means: Perez already has three top-10 finishes this season, including a runner-up at Torrey Pines, and jumped out to an early lead Thursday afternoon. He was joined late in the day by Lee, but the leaderboard remained crowded when play was suspended, with 29 players within two shots of the lead.

Round of the day: Perez was in the first group off No. 1 after the fog lifted, and he closed his round with a flurry to jump to the top of the leaderboard. The veteran birdied each of his final three holes, capping his round with a 17-footer on No. 18 to card a 4-under 68.

Best of the rest: Lee was a runner-up this month in Puerto Rico, and he’s factoring again this week after equaling Perez with a 68. The Kiwi made five birdies against one bogey, including four birdies in his final five holes. He’ll look to improve upon the last time he held an early lead, when he went from first to a missed cut at the Valspar Championship following a second-round 79.

Biggest disappointment: Tournament officials were excited to add Phil Mickelson to the field last week, but it appears the southpaw’s stay in San Antonio may be a short one. Mickelson made just two birdies en route to a 5-over 77, tied for the second-highest score among players who completed their opening rounds.

Main storyline heading into Friday; With half the field returning to the course early Friday morning to complete the first round, the leaderboard could look different by the time Round 2 gets underway. Perez and Lee are among the large group looking for a Masters berth with a win this week, and veterans such as Zach Johnson and Jim Furyk lurk just two shots off the pace.

Quote of the day: “I’m pretty used to waiting anyway, so it wasn’t that bad.” – Perez, one of the Tour’s fastest players, on handling the early-morning fog delay.