(Reuters) - American Brendan Steele raced to eight-under-par through 13 holes in the weather-hit first round at the Texas Open in San Antonio on Thursday, two strokes ahead of clubhouse leader Charley Hoffman.
Steele, the 2011 champion, fired eight birdies but had his round cut short by darkness after heavy rain wiped out three-and-a-half hours of play at TPC San Antonio.
Hoffman shot a six-under-par 66 with Australian veteran Stuart Appleby and American Peter Malnati a shot back on five-under 67 while American left-hander Steve Flesch carded a 68.
About half of the field were still out on the course when play was suspended due to fading light. They will return early on Friday to complete the opening round.
Hoffman, who led the Texas Open after the first round last year before finishing joint 11th, took advantage of rain-softened conditions and barely any wind as he piled up seven birdies and a lone bogey at the TPC San Antonio.
“Usually you are bouncing balls in there and landing them three or four (yards) short (of the green) but today you’re trying to land them three or four past the hole and sort of suck them back,” Hoffman told Golf Channel.
“With no rough this year and with no over-seed, the premium on driving isn’t quite as much. You can hit it in the rough and have a shot at the green ... but you’ve still got to make some putts and hit it in the right spots.”
Hoffman, who is bidding for his fourth career victory on the PGA Tour, has always enjoyed the TPC San Antonio layout.
“Tee to green, it is visually a very nice golf course shaped between the oak trees,” he said.
”It’s a tough driving golf course but I usually drive it pretty good. Then you’ve got to be pretty accurate into the greens.
“The greens are big but they are segmented into small little quarters. For some reason, it sets up well for me and I’ve been able to roll in a few putts also.”
Appleby, who won the most recent of his nine PGA Tour titles at the 2010 Greenbrier Classic, finished with birdies in his last five holes for a 67.
“I got something going, hit some great shots and then made some putts,” the 44-year-old. “And it happened to be right at the end of my round, so you move quickly.”
additional reporting by Jahmal Corner; Writing by Mark Lamport-Stokes; Editing by Greg Stutchbury