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PGA Tour

This birthday boy has the Valero Texas Open lead—and some tasty-sounding celebration plans

April 04, 2024
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Logan Riely

Justin Lower shot a birthday bogey-free round on Thursday morning. His Thursday evening, however, sounds like it might be even better.

On the day he turned 35, Lower turned in a sparkling 66 to take the Day 1 lead at the Valero Texas Open. And it seems like he has the perfect spot to celebrate both occassions after his round.

"So my cousin introduced me to a good barbecue spot called Blanco BBQ," Lower told reporters at TPC San Antonio after, "so that's where we're going tonight."

When in Texas, right?

"I feel like it's kind of weird playing on your birthday, but it's just kind of the way it is," Lower said. "Kind of the nature of our job, I guess."

Lower's job has been going well in his third full season on the PGA Tour, including a career-best T-3 at the Mexico Open in February. But he says he tried to play too much during a recent stretch that ended with a missed cut at the Players Championship followed by a WD at the Valspar after Golf Channel cameras caught him snapping one of his clubs at the end of his first round.

"That moment of frustration that probably a lot of people saw, I wasn't feeling great," Lower explained. "I had been not sick, but just battling kind of physical ailments, I had like a trap thing going on and I was just really frustrated. It was my I think fifth in a row. I know better than to play four in a row. And I'm human, we're all human out here. I just had a moment of frustration."

But that moment seems to have provided a positive reset.

"We went home after that round and it was just nice to be home and sleep in my own bed for a couple nights," Lower continued. "Then we went down to Houston and I played solid last week, it was nothing great. But yeah, I just needed a moment, I guess."

Lower rallied to make the cut in Houston before shooting 69-67 over the weekend. Now with an opening 66, he finds himself at the top of a strong leaderboard as he looks to become the latest first-time winner on the PGA Tour in what has been the Year of the Underdog so far.

"Yeah, I don't know if I'm the hunted at all. I'm still a, quote unquote, mule out here as compared to other guys, but I'm just trying to play as best as I can, I'm trying to learn as much as I can ever day," said Lower, an Akron native who has won the Ohio Open twice. "I find myself watching guys on the range just to see if I can pick anything up, stuff like that, and around the greens especially. I've learned a lot and I feel like I'm kind of coming into my own finally. Yeah, I'm happy to be here, for sure."

We're guessing Justin will be saying he's happy to be at that BBQ place later tonight as well. And with a second-round tee time that's not until 1:35 p.m., he's got plenty of time to enjoy himself.