A fast start and fast finish saw Patrick Rodgers follow up his opening-round 66 with a second-round 67 at the 2023 Texas Open before play was suspended Friday due to darkness. Making two birdies in his opening three holes, Rodgers fell in neutral when he found himself even par for the day through the 12th. With numerous players making runs at the lead, Rodgers was the one to win the sprint as five birdies in his closing six holes pushed him to 11 under for the tournament and three strokes clear of his closest competitor, Corey Conners.
Rodgers has set himself up beautifully to do something he has not done in his previous 234 on the PGA Tour: win. Three times a runner-up in his career, the former Stanford standout will have to deal with nerves, Masters aspirations and the Texas winds if he is to enter the winner's circle for the first time.
Conners, the 2019 Texas Open winner, will aim to upend Rodgers over the final 36 holes to claim his second career victory and head into Augusta National with all the confidence in the world. Already in the field for the Masters, Conners is playing with house money this week and could roll over his success in San Antonio into more of the same in Augusta, Georgia.
1. Patrick Rodgers (-11): It has been a clinical first 36 holes for Rodgers as he has signed for rounds of 66-67 without much stress. He leads the field in strokes gained tee to green and strokes gained approach, but this is worlds away from what he has been doing in 2023. He entered the week having missed six of eight cuts and without a top-10 finish since the RSM Classic in the fall. It will be interesting if he has staying power on this leaderboard over the weekend or if this is just another flash in the pan.
"[Approach play] been a huge area of focus for me. It's been what's keeping me from playing better golf, and yeah, I'm really proud that the work that I've been putting in week in and week out even when it wasn't paying off on the golf course," said Rodgers. "Now it's starting to and I'm happy with the patience that I've showed to get here."
T2. Corey Conners, Roberto Diaz (-8)
T4. Michael Thompson, Brendon Todd (-7)
T6. Eric Cole, Thomas Detry, Matt Kuchar (-6)
T9. Chris Kirk, Michael Kim, Peter Malnati, Michael Kim, Luke List, Ben Martin, Nico Echavarria, Augusto Nunez, Harry Higgs (-5)
This is giving serious Honda Classic vibes. Between Kirk and Cole, who battled down the stretch at PGA National last month, and former Honda Classic winners Thompson and Harrington, the parallels are apparent. However, instead of looking back, let's instead look forward to next week and Augusta National. Conners has been rather pedestrian to begin his 2023 as he is without a top-10 finish, but expect that to come to an end either this week or next. The Canadian has notched finishes of T10, T8 and T6 in his last three Masters and is trending towards a similar outcome in the year's first major championship.
"It's been a little bit inconsistent," said Conners. "I feel like I've been missing certain parts of my game each week, whether I'm not hitting it great or the short game's kind of let me down. I haven't really been able to put it all together. It's been a bit of a struggle, but I've worked hard and I have confidence in my game. It's just a matter of time before things kind of get into place."
No pictures on the scorecard.@CoreConn drains it from distance to save par @ValeroTXOpen 💪 pic.twitter.com/m32xRleR9u— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 31, 2023
Rickie Fowler's weekend outlook
Fowler's Masters aspirations were the story heading into the week but may be an afterthought entering the weekend as he stands at 1 under and 10 strokes off the lead. The five-time PGA Tour winner needs to add a sixth trophy to his mantle to earn an invitation to the Masters for the first time in two years.
Fowler entered the week 10th in strokes gained approach and putting; he was also ahead of the likes of Jordan Spieth, Justin Thomas and Sam Burns in total strokes gained per round. After struggling in his first round, he bounced back in Round 2 before some late issues off the tee. Through 36 holes, he sits inside the top 10 in strokes gained tee to green but outside the top 120 putting.
Smooth swinging from @RickieFowler 🏌️♂️— PGA TOUR (@PGATOUR) March 31, 2023
He moves to 2-under after this birdie @ValeroTXOpen. pic.twitter.com/W69q3MrRAj
2023 Texas Open updated odds, picks
Odds via Caesars Sportsbook
- Patrick Rodgers: 12/5
- Corey Conners: 4-1
- Brendon Todd: 17/2
- Matt Kuchar: 19/2
- Thomas Detry: 16-1
- Chris Kirk: 22-1
- Roberto Diaz: 25-1
- Michael Thompson: 25-1
- Eric Cole: 28-1
The hypothetical lead may be 8 under as Rodgers has struggled to close in this position before. With this in mind, Taylor (35-1) at 4 under and still needing to play the par-5 18th may be the play. The Canadian arrived to TPC San Antonio fifth in total strokes gained since the start of the calendar year which included a fantastic battle against world No. 1 Scottie Scheffler at the WM Phoenix Open. A proven winner on the PGA Tour, Taylor has a realistic opportunity to nab victory No. 3 and the final invitation into the Masters next week.