6:50 Angel Cabrera gets in at 2-over with a par on 18. He's hoping the cut line moves, but I'm not loving his chances. I don't think he'll mind getting to Augusta a little early though, he's got a busy week ahead of him.
6:48 Harrington sinks a short birdie putt on the 8th to bring him to -6. He's in a great position to get his 3rd straight top-10.
6:46 Speaking of -7, Graham DeLaet sinks yet another birdie, bringing the Canuck even with Uresti and the others deadlocked at T4.
6:44 Omar Uresti sneaks in an birdie from a not-so-easy bunker lie, putting him in striking distance of the lead at -7.
6:42 Graham DeLaet lags an eagle try to set himself up for an easy birdie that will put him at -6. But of course he's used to the big stage, being a 2-time winner of the Saskatchewan Amateur.
6:39 Harrington goes for the green in 2 on the 8th and neatly deposits it in a bunker. He and Phil have had some serious highs and lows today…mostly lows for Phil.
6:37 Phil makes a good stroke from the fringe for birdie on 18, but just misses and has to settle for ending his day +1. He'll probably say that he did his job though, he'll get two more days of competition to warm up for the Masters.
6:34 Phil's ball flight today has been crazy high, not sure why, but he's either taking advantage of the relatively low winds this afternoon, or he's very fortunate it's not more like yesterday.
6:31 While some Nationwide kids are showing their stuff today, there's one player who we know we won't see in Augusta. Michael Sim just pulled out of the Masters with an injury, which is a huge bummer, because he had an absolutely monster year over there in '09, with 9 top-10s including 3 wins.
6:28 Matt Kuchar nabs a birdie and moves to -3. He's spent so much time at the top of the leaderboard this year, he should start paying rent.
6:25 Faxon ends up bogeying 9, putting him at +3 and ending his hopes of making the weekend.
6:24 They say this 18th is one of the hardest closing holes in golf, and they're not kidding. It's just ridiculous how much water there is on the left. For a natural draw that's just got to be terrifying.
6:21 Padraig sinks a tricky little par putt on the 6th to keep him at -5 for the tourney. He seems to be playing aggressively…and then conservatively once his aggressive plays go terribly wrong. It actually suits his personality and might not be a bad strategy.
6:20 Brad Faxon gives the tee markers a couple whacks after a bad drive into a tough greenside bunker…that's not going to endear him to the greenskeeper.
6:18 Mickelson saves par at 17 to stay on the cut line at +1. He gave a good-natured laugh at the hooting and hollering from the gallery, so he's clearly still got his sense of humor after a trying day.
6:15 If the Masters people are looking for a safe but still interesting pairing for Tiger on Thursday, Yang makes great sense. They bring out good things in each other and have pretty much nothing to talk about. Tiger's dream pairing (just make sure Sabbatini's not the third).
6:14 Y.E. Yang goes to -2 with a birdie on the 7th. He's got to be super-motivated to put another major in his pocket before people even have the chance to consider him a 1-hit wonder.
6:12 Mickelson follows another huge (and wide) drive with an approach into the face of a greenside bunker. His approaches are really letting him down today. Something tells me he might be hitting the range tonight to work on his irons.
6:10 Kevin, if the next wave of golfers has the same fashion sense as the golf teams in the NESCAC, I can assure you you're going to see a lot more popped collars over the next decade, even on the cloudiest of days.
6:09 If you're surprised to still see Stadler near the top of the leaderboard, you shouldn't be. He's got 2 top-10s and 4 top-25s this year, and he's leading the Tour with an obscene 75.2 GIR percentage (the Tour average is under 66%). Plus he's one of those Scottsdale guys that should only get better as the summer sun comes out. It's only a matter of time (I think very little time) before he goes from PGA Tour legacy to PGA Tour winner.
6:07 Stadler ends up stuffing the birdie home to finish his day with a 70 that brings him to 7-under so far, T3.
6:05 Sorry, some technical difficulties–To make a long story short, can't argue against Prugh for the ROY, although I think Fowler will have a better Summer than Fall/Spring. It's the luke-warm start of Blake Adams that has me surprised, expect him to turn it on after a strong finish at the AT&T–could mean good things for the US Open.
5:59 Great note from Kevin Baron: Alex Prugh and his
caddy (a former teammate up in Washington U) really do a great job of
scouting the courses. This is his first year on tour and he's already
snagged a 5th @ Torrey, a 10th @ Riviera, and he put together 3 solid
rounds @ Pebble Beach. He certainly didn't play any of these tracks
during his collegiate or Nationwide days, so surely he is both playing
stellar and learning a ton in the practice rounds.
5:56 Stadler was completely unfazed by his putting woes on the last two holes, with a beautiful tee shot inside 5-feet on the 9th.
5:54 Woody Austin finishes his ace of a day with a very respectable 71, he'll be in contention at -3.
5:52 Stadler misses a great opportunity at the par-5 8. It looked like he took a little too much time on a long try on 7 and far too little time on this putt, which wasn't that tricky, but wasn't nearly as straight as he thought it was.
5:49 Molder makes a great lag on 18, that'll keep him at 9-under, which I predict will hold up as the low score going into tomorrow.
5:47 Speaking of WD's, Briny Baird dropped out this morning with neck pain. I'm no doctor, but this has to be a hat-related injury.
5:45 The tournament sponsors are probably most upset that Vijay Singh was forced to pull out yet again with his back issues, but the real loss this week was defending champion Paul Casey, who withdrew with left shoulder problems. Casey has made the cut at every event he's played this year, including a 2nd place at the WGC match play. His game reminds me of a polished Zach Johnson (he only drives 289 yards, but he leads the Tour in eagles per hole). Hopefully he'll be healthy next week, because he could be a real contender in Augusta, where he's got 2 top-10s (and a T11) in 5 tries.
5:43 Mickeson hits a branch on his approach, but it only barely slows him down. He's short of the green, but not so bad considering his second shot.
5:41 For those of you who are excited for Monday because of Opening Day and not Tiger's presser, check out our Golf and Baseball package. There are some solid stories and some great instruction from Top 100 teachers and MLB players, including Ken Griffey Jr. and (my sports hero) John Smoltz.
5:38 Phil hits a hybrid waaaay left, between the restrooms and a bunker. You could say he's quite literally in the sh…stuff right now.
5:36 Wow, Bryce Molder holes another ridiculous putt from what had to be over 30 feet, that'll give him the outright lead at -9. He's really got the putter working right now, exactly what you need for the next two weeks.
5:33 Phil muffs a veritable gimme for on 14. That bogey will bring him back to even. He's going to have to try to keep it together and stay under the cut line, which looks like it'll stay at +1
5:32 During yesterday's blog, my colleague Mike Walker referred to Houston as "underrated." He's clearly never been there in mid-August.
5:29 Speaking of Tiger and PTI, did anyone catch their April Fools joke yesterday? Very believable and reasonably funny. The gist was that Tiger now wants to be referred to as "Eldrick"–I bought it for about 15 seconds before I realized that the president of Nike would have a heart attack.
5:28 Saw Padraig on PTI the other day. I was really surprised at how well he took all the Tiger questions they threw at him. You've got to figure by now the Tour players are getting ridiculously sick of fielding them, but maybe they see a light at the end of the tunnel come Augusta. Either Tour players aren't as easily annoyed as you'd think, or Harrington's just a class act…okay, I think we know the answer to that one. 5:27 Harrington gets to 5-under at 2, but misses a medium putt on 3 to stay there. Still making his way back from the double on 18. 5:24 Mickelson misses the birdie putt on 13, squandering his great drive. You get the sense he's just a little bit off with his approach game, but he's close. 5:23 Omar Uresti makes a bid for relevancy with a long birdie on 18. He's still got another 9 to make even more of a dent in 2 strokes he's off the lead. 5:21 A little trivia for you. There had never been a hole-in-one at this course for the Shell Houston, but there have been two today–Austin's and a shot from Lucas Glover at 16 during the morning rounds…so much for that streak. 5:19 FYI, the 7th is playing at 144. Pretty awesome hole-in-one, never really seen one quite like it–hits the pin, goes past the hole, spins back in. 5:18 Looks like Phil's triple will have company on the recaps tonight. Woody Austin just took aim at the par-3 7th. His tee shot whacked the flag and spun back for a dramatic ace! 5:15 Not to sound like a wise-ass, but does anyone actually think they know what it's like to be John Daly? Not sure that commercial really works, because I can't even imagine. 5:14 Phil must have heard me talk about his tee game, his drive on 13 went a solid 355, by far the longest drive of the tournament so far. Unfortunately, the little 5-iron he had left managed to plop into a greenside bunker. Another chance that almost was. 5:10 The leader right now is the Nationwide Tour, which has 8 recent grads poised to make the cut, including two tied for the lead. 5:08 What do you think about the Shell Houston Open becoming the Masters Jr.? I'm pretty torn. Obviously I love that they're able to put together a ridiculously good field for the week before a major (14 HOFers and just about all the young bucks this year), but I'm not crazy about it being pitched as a warmup for another tournament–it takes away from the event itself. 5:06 Prugh, Percy and Molder now sit atop the leaderboard…something tells me Tim Finchem and Dick Ebersol are happy that it's not the Masters just yet. 5:05 Molder has moved up the leaderboard quickly today, with 5 birdies for the 4-time college All-American. 5:04 Bryce Molder boldly goes pin-out for a chip on 15 and sinks it for birdie, tying him for the lead at -8. 5:02 Phil misses that birdie putt on another good bid…that would have been a huge pickup. 5:01 It's starting to drizzle out there, but I don't think the players will mind much. The way the greens were playing yesterday afternoon, softening them up might be worth a little chafing. 4:59 Nobody plays the long bunker shot like Phil, and he has no problem giving himself a makeable birdie chance out of the sand on 12…didn't even look like it made him sweat. 4:57 If there's one constant from the players this week, it's that they're raving about the course conditions, especially the Masters-speed greens. Harrington summed it up: "I would say the greens are the best I've seen anywhere. They're fast and putting beautifully. I think that gives you the best chance out there. The course is actually quite difficult. Guys are holing putts. It gives you an opportunity to score." 4:55 Phil is letting the big dog eat today, he looks VERY confident with the driver…maybe a little too confident, as he finds the far greenside bunker on 12. 4:54 I hate to rub salt on a wound, but after having to play a safety out of a hazard, Vaughn Taylor hit a beauty of an approach (about 225) to about 6 feet…only to miss the par putt. Just not his day with the flatstick. 4:52 Stadler lips out a birdie putt with way too much speed, maybe because he's using a garden rake instead of a putter. 4:50 Don't look now, but our old friend Jeff Maggert is sticking around at -3 for T19. I must be his good luck charm. 4:49 Mickelson juuuust misses a birdie putt on 11. He'll settle for par, but the good news is he seems to have recovered from the triple. 4:47 Ernie Els dropped back to Earth with a morning +2, bringing him to even on the tourney and T43. For some reason lately Els has been reminding me of Miguel Angel Jimenez, the way he seems to be puffing out his chest, especially over his putts. Think he's feeling confident? 4:45 In better score news, Joe Ogilvie came in with a 67 this morning, increasing the likelihood of his being confused with Geoff Ogilvy (he's going to need a few more good rounds to make the comparison more becoming). 4:42 Harrington's recovery on 18 goes only slightly better than Phil's and he ends up with a double-bogey. BTW, I didn't explain correctly how Phil ended up with that 7 (the Rules have changed in the last couple years), but the important part is that he booked the 7 and hopefully we'll come back to it later. 4:38 Mickelson gets the "big number" he hates with a triple-bogey 7 on the 10th, taking him from T12 to T27. Ouch. If it makes him feel better, I don't think Dave Pelz would have played it any differently, just terrible luck. 4:37 Vaughn Taylor misses another very makeable birdie putt. If he's sitting at home watching the Masters next week, he'll know which club to blame. 4:35 Naturally Mickelson almost sticks his next shot, but he'll be in with at best a double-bogey 6. And that's no gimme. 4:33 Mickelson's swing dislodges a ball hidden in the bush. Both balls come flying out and one hits his leg. Unfortunately for Phil, a quick look at the review looks like it was his ball, meaning he'd be lying five (2-strokes for stopping a ball in motion) already…some bad luck for Lefty and a highlight you're definitely going to see on Sports Center tonight and likely get more info on in a Rules Guy report on Golf.com tomorrow. 4:31 Mickelson has himself an absolutely ridiculous lie up against a plant and some cables on the 10th. After yucking it up with the gallery a bit, Mickelson takes a right-handed swing that would make Jim Furyk jealous with a wedge, but something insane happens–more to come! 4:30 If you're surprised to still see Stadler (he's in second with a -7) near the top of the leaderboard, you shouldn't be. He's got 2 top-10s and 4 top-25s this year, and he's leading the Tour with an obscene 75.2 GIR percentage (the Tour average is under 66%). Plus he's one of those Scottsdale guys that should only get better as the summer sun comes out. It's only a matter of time before he goes from PGA Tour legacy to PGA Tour winner. 4:28 Kevin Stadler hits an absolutely gorgeous bunker shot to save himself on the par-4 3rd. He makes some mistakes with his approaches (he overclubbed to get in that bunker), but he's got the skills to get himself out of trouble. 4:26 Harrington had a really tough lie in a bunker on 18 with one foot in and one out. He ends up whacking it waaaay short and left, which puts him in the water. not the way he wanted to finish off a stellar front 9. 4:24 Lest I take Appleby to task without commending him on his play, he's at -2 so far today, which is good for -4 total and 11th place. 4:22 Speaking of Kim, he's intimated lately that his partying days are behind him after being outed by a not-so-happy Rober Allenby (don't worry Anthony, I can assure you he's just as snippy with the media) for supposedly being hung over at last year's Presidents Cup. While that's great to hear in theory, I hope it doesn't sap him of his personality. Pro golfers are inherently older than their age, and there's a thin (but palpable) line between being responsible and being boring. 4:20 Some more notable rounds from the morning, Anthony Kim came in at 69 to get to -7 (2nd place at the moment). Kim's had 3 top-25s in his 5 starts this year and he's averaging a score of 69.67 per round (5th on Tour). He hasn't won on Tour since 2008–that's not going to last long. 4:18 The GC does a nice little course-side interview with George HW Bush. He looks pretty great for 86. Not a shock to see him here in Houston (he comes every year), but I was impressed to see him a couple weeks ago at an Astros spring training game in Florida…isn't he a little old to be hitting the road with the big club? 4:15 It's becoming clear that the morning tee times have been having an easy go of it so far (though not as much today as in Round 1). It'll be up to the guys on the course right now to prove their scores from yesterday weren't inflated by missing out on the wind that went on and off later in the day. 4:14 Fred Couples shot a 1-over this morning to drop back to even par. I feel like Freddy's not getting the love he used to. When you think about how excited people have been to see guys like Duval playing well, Freddy's absolute tearing up of the Champions Tour and his good play here seems to be met with a distinct "meh" from the fans. Let me know below if that's just my imagination. 4:12 Phil misses a 25-footer for birdie on 9, which should give him his 9th consecutive par on the day. Not too bad for a guy who's known for getting it done on the back 9. 4:10 Augusta native Vaughn Taylor misses out on a good chance to move into a tie for the lead. He's got extra incentive to try and grab that last Masters exemption. 4:09 DJ Trahan saved his tournament with a -6 66 today, pulling him to even par after a 78 on day 1. That seems to pretty much sum Trahan up, brilliant and inconsistent. He was 117th in the FedEx standings in 2007, 24th in '08, 96th in '09 and is back to 32nd so far this year. Not bad, but not what we wanted after his great amateur career. Still, he's not even 30 and has 2 Tour wins, not exactly a bust.
4:08 Padraig Harrington is off to a great start on the day, with 3 birdies in the first 4 holes. I imagine we'll be hearing a lot from him today.
4:06 His co-leader is rookie Cameron Percy, who I'd never heard of until yesterday, coming in at. The Golf Channel insists that Percy has played very well on the Nationwide Tour (which he did last year), but they don't seem to want mention that he hasn't won in 84 starts there and on the big Tour. Perhaps a little mercy for Percy. 4:04 Prugh's had a great year so far with 3 top-10 finishes, including a 5th at the Bob Hope where he led going into the rain-drenched final round. It's his first full year on Tour after finishing 16th on the Nationwide money list last year. Prugh shot -6 today to play his way into a tie for the lead. Expect me to mispell his name at least 5 or 6 times if he stays in contention today.
4:02 Here's how the top of the leaderboard stands:
Nationwide grads Cameron Percy and Alex Prugh are tied in the lead, both in the clubhouse at -8
Behind them it's a cluster of more established players at -7 including Joe Ogilvie, Lee Westwood, Anthony Kim, Vaughn Taylor and Kevin Stadler.
Padraig Harrington lurks at 6-under.
4:00 Welcome back to Round 2 of the Shell Houston Open. Contrary to what every reporter on the planet would have you believe, this tournament isn't spring training for the Masters–it actually counts!