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April 20, 2017

First Round Wrap-Up: Grace Shoots 66, Leads By One

SAN ANTONIO -- South African Branden Grace had a 6-under 66 and leads by a stroke after the opening round of the Valero Texas Open on Thursday.

Grace had a season-best 11th-place finish last week in defense of his RBC Heritage title. He leads the 5-under 67s of Steven Alker, Stewart Cink, John Huh and Will MacKenzie at TPC San Antonio. Alker, a journeyman New Zealander who played in the final group of the day, birdied the final three holes.

There are 13 players packed two shots back at 4 under. That includes 2010 U.S. Open champion Graeme McDowell and 2016 U.S. Ryder Cup member Brooks Koepka.

Two weeks ago, Grace was over par but still survived the cut at the Masters. He played the weekend in 3 under, and his best scorecard last week at Hilton Head was 68. The 66 on Thursday was his best round since Hawaii in January.

"That's the one round I was waiting for," Grace said. "I've been shooting the 69s and 70s, but not getting that one low round. This is nice."

His day took off with three consecutive birdies mid-round, including a 22-foot putt at the ninth after missing his only fairway of the day.

It almost wasn't as nice for McDowell, who's won twice on the PGA TOUR since his U.S. Open title at Pebble Beach seven years ago.

"I made bogey at 11 from the middle of the fairway, (and) I ripped it down the middle of the 12th fairway right in the middle of a divot and duffed it out short of the green and made bogey there," he said.

"To recover after that with a great birdie at 13 and a nice up-and-down at 14 for birdie, it was nice to bounce back."

Ian Poulter needs to at least make the cut to keep his PGA TOUR card for the remainder of the season. That's in doubt now -- no birdies until his 17th hole and a 75 has him well outside the top 100. He's playing on a major medical exemption granted after a foot injury caused him to miss most of last season, and he needs to earn $30,624 before the exemption ends this week.

Patrick Reed, who was born in San Antonio and was runner-up here a year ago, is three shots out of the lead after a 69. Ryan Moore, Reed's Ryder Cup teammate and who tied for ninth at Augusta this month, is another shot back with a 70.

Defending champ Charley Hoffman, co-leader at the halfway point at the Masters, shot 71 and sits just outside the top 50.

U.S. Amateur champion Curtis Luck of Australia opened his first round as a pro with three bogeys, but he holed a bunker shot from 75 yards for eagle later in his round to help him to a 1-over 73.

ABOUT THE VALERO TEXAS OPEN

The Valero Texas Open is the 6th oldest professional tournament in golf world-wide, the 3rd oldest on the PGA TOUR and the longest held in the same city. In 2012, the tournament celebrated its 90th anniversary.

It’s list of champions includes some of the greatest names in golf history: Walter Hagen, Byron Nelson, Ben Hogan, Sam Snead, Arnold Palmer, Ben Crenshaw, Hale Irwin, Lee Trevino, Nick Price, Justin Leonard, Zach Johnson, Adam Scott, Jimmy Walker, and 2017 Champion Kevin Chappell, to name a few.

Since Valero became title sponsor in 2002, the tournament has become the annual leader in charitable fundraising among PGA TOUR events. In 2015, we were proud yet humbled to become only the fourth PGA TOUR event to eclipse the $100 Million milestone in funds raised for charity. The 2017 edition of the Valero Texas Open raised $11 million for charity, bringing the grand total to over $126 million in charitable giving.

ABOUT VALERO

Valero Energy Corporation, through its subsidiaries, is an international manufacturer and marketer of transportation fuels and other petrochemical products. Valero subsidiaries employ approximately 10,000 people, and its assets include 15 petroleum refineries with a combined throughput capacity of approximately 3 million barrels per day, 11 ethanol plants with a combined production capacity of 1.4 billion gallons per year and renewable diesel production from a joint venture. Through subsidiaries, Valero owns the general partner of Valero Energy Partners LP (NYSE: VLP), a midstream master limited partnership. Approximately 7,500 outlets carry the Valero, Diamond Shamrock, Shamrock, and Beacon brands in the United States; Ultramar in Canada; and Texaco in the United Kingdom and Ireland. Valero is a Fortune 500 company based in San Antonio. Please visit www.valero.com for more information.

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Branden Grace

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