2023 Valero Texas Open: Matt Kuchar noticing Matt Wallace’s newfound distance is among the top 5 things from first round

SAN ANTONIO — Players who came to the 2023 Valero Texas Open hoping to earn a berth into next week’s Masters were greeted by howling winds, a thick layer of fog, and a whole bunch of downtime on Thursday.

That didn’t seem to bother Matt Kuchar and Padraig Harrington, both of whom posted a 68 to take the lead after the first wave of players finished.

But there were plenty of storylines to keep golf fans chatting at TPC San Antonio’s Oaks Course, including a Monday qualifier, Rickie Fowler’s solid start and big drives from Matt Wallace, who came directly from capturing the Corales Puntacana Championship to Texas.

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Here’s a look at five things to know after the opening round of the Valero Texas Open:

Confidence equals added distance for Matt Wallace

2023 Valero Texas Open
2023 Valero Texas Open

Matt Wallace plays a shot on the 18th hole during the first round of the 2023 Valero Texas Open in San Antonio. (Photo: Raymond Carlin III-USA TODAY Sports)

With a recent PGA Tour victory under his belt, Matt Wallace rolled through a difficult Thursday, using larger-than-normal drives to finish the strenuous day with a 3-under 69.

He got the attention of playing partner Matt Kuchar, who stopped Wallace after the two finished.

“At the end there, (Kuchar) said ‘where have you found this length?’ So I said it was the combination of driver, the confidence, a little bit different in club dynamics for myself,” Wallace said. “It’s always nice when you get that from someone like Matt.

Weather fouled up everything, but it'll get better

2023 Valero Texas Open
2023 Valero Texas Open

The group of Ricky Barnes, Beau Hossler and Mark Hubbard wait on the 11th tee during a weather delay during the first round of the 2023 Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio. (Photo: Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)

First, it was a lengthy fog delay. Then rain had players reaching for towels. Then the wind picked up. Some players finally got to the first tee less than an hour before sunset.

So things were pretty fouled up on Thursday, but the good news is it should get better.

Temperatures are expected to get into the 80s through each of the last three rounds and there’s little chance of more rain.

“We’re kind of used to it as golfers when it happens like that, but when you’re on, off, on, off and not sure when you’re going to really start because of the fog,” Wallace said, “I had about four warmups today, so I was definitely ready to go, but mentally it was difficult to get yourself in the frame of mind.”

Returning champs play well here

Kevin Chappell putts on the 10th green during the first round of the 2023 Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio. (Photo: Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)

Kevin Chappell’s lone PGA Tour victory came at the Valero in 2017 when he beat Brooks Koepka for the title.

Chappell fired a 71 on Thursday and is in the thick of things after the first round. He’s not the only returning champ to play well, Jimmy Walker, who here in 2015, had a pair of bogeys in his final six holes, but still managed a 70 to finish the day just two shots off the pace.

“It’s always great to come back,” said Chappell, one of seven former winners in the field. “There’s so many great memories for me on the golf course here and to be able to pull from those and really use those to my advantage while playing, it’s great. Then you add in the family environment, it’s the best of the year for me.”

A Monday qualifier is in the hunt

There’s nothing as fun as a Monday qualifier who makes a charge through the first few days, and former BYU golfer Peter Kuest fit that bill during the opening round of play.

Although he finished with a pair of bogeys in his final four holes, the 2020 All-American posted a 71, good enough to keep him within a few shots of the leaders.

Kuest is making his sixth start on the PGA Tour and has previously made just a single cut. He has conditional Korn Ferry Tour status this season.

Rickie Fowler started strong, but has a long way to go

2023 Valero Texas Open
2023 Valero Texas Open

Rickie Fowler plays his shot from the fourth hole tee box prior to the 2023 Valero Texas Open at TPC San Antonio. (Photo: Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images)

Rickie Fowler needs to win to get into the field at Augusta National, but he didn’t hurt himself through the first few holes, posting a birdie on the second hole. Unfortunately, Fowler has a lot of golf ahead of him if he’s to get get back to the Masters as he didn’t even tee off until after 4 p.m. local time.

Fowler missed the cut here last season but grabbed top-20 finishes in 2019 and 2021 (there was no 2020 event due to COVID-19).

Before last week’s event at Austin Country Club, Fowler tied for 13th at the Players Championship, finished T-31 at the Arnold Palmer Invitational and was T-20 at the Genesis Invitational.

Story originally appeared on GolfWeek