Graeme McDowell three shots off lead at Valero Texas Open as he targets Masters place

Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland hits his tee shot on the 14th hole during the first round of the 2019 Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio Oaks Courses)
Graeme McDowell of Northern Ireland hits his tee shot on the 14th hole during the first round of the 2019 Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio Oaks Courses)

Si Woo Kim claimed a narrow lead after the first round of the Valero Texas Open as former champion Jordan Spieth found some welcome form ahead of next week’s Masters.

Kim carded eight birdies and two bogeys in an opening 66 at TPC San Antonio to finish a shot ahead of Mexico Abraham Ancer, Venezuela’s Jhonattan Vegas and the American pair of Brian Stuard and JT Poston.

Spieth, who is without a top-10 finish since last year’s Open Championship, was part of a large group a shot further back after five birdies and a solitary bogey in his 68.

The former world number one, who has slipped to 32nd in the rankings, told Sky Sports: “We had ideal scoring conditions so I was trying to get four, five or six (under) out there and it was really nice to make five birdies.

“I didn’t hit as many fairways as I’d like and that’s where I’m looking to improve, but the game feels good, feels more consistent than it’s been in quite a while.”

Spieth’s course form at Augusta National reads an incredible 2-1-2-11-3 and he admits returning to the scene of his first major title could provide a timely boost.

“It’s not like there’s a spark and all of a sudden you just win every event, this is progress this is part of a career,” Spieth added. “I’m going in the right direction and I think Augusta will enhance that.

“All this feel that I’m trying to put back into the game, less thinking, more feel, Augusta requires that. I certainly think a past history helps but just having the confidence that I know how to play that golf course can go a long way.”

Graeme McDowell, who arrived in Texas on the back of a first win since 2015 in the Corales Puntacana Resort and Club Championship, lies three shots off the lead after an opening 69 matched by Ireland’s Seamus Power.