Phil Mickelson put a driver back in his bag on Sunday and hit seven of 14 fairways. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE, Texas -- D.A. Points retained his touch through more than a 2-hour rain delay in winning the Shell Houston Open.
Redstone Golf Club received more than an inch of rain and it was a guessing game with how much the conditions changed. Points was immediately tested with a 43-yard chip on the 17th hole that he hit to within 2 feet and then made a 13-foot putt on the final green for the tournament-winning par.
Points reasoned the greens retained moisture following the rain so he switched from a gap wedge to a pitching wedge on the 17th hole and played a little less break on the final putt. He opened with a 64 and closed with a 66. D.A. was on point the entire week.
Putter: Points took just 23 putts in the opening round and then followed with 32 putts in each of the next two rounds. Points maintained he was still rolling the ball well, but it was just a matter of time until the putts fell. They started dropping on the second hole where he made a 6-footer but it was the 29-foot putt at the third hole that really gave him confidence. For the remainder of the round every putt had a chance to go in the cup.
Strong finish: Henrik Stenson finished strong with birdies on the last two holes. His play on the 18th hole was textbook. He drove it 279 yards and the approach from 133 yards landed within 12 feet of the cup and he made the putt. To birdie both the 17th and 18th holes was tremendous play under pressure, and he qualified for the Masters in the process.
Long ball: Dustin Johnson “over-performed” on Sunday. He made bogeys at both the 14th and 17th holes because he hit it too well. At the 14th, Johnson hit a 5- iron from 223 yards that flew the green and led to bogey. At the 17th hole, he hit a 177-yard 9-iron that covered the flag but also went too far. Johnson made two bogeys hitting what he thought were perfect shots.
Bad start: Steve Wheatcroft had so much riding on the final round and he began in miserable fashion with a double bogey at the first hole. He hit his approach into the wind and it stood straight up in the air, then dropped vertically into the bunker creating a terrible lie. Wheatcroft had no chance with the bunker shot, then sent a chip 6 feet by the cup and missed that for a 6. It was a disappointing start and Wheatcroft did not hide his emotions. As soon as he saw his lie in the bunker his body language was terrible for the remainder of the hole. He did birdie the second but never really rebounded from the bad start by shooting a 74. He went from a tie for third at the start of the final round to a 22nd-place finish.
Low one: Phil Mickelson predicted he had a “low one” in him for the final round and he was accurate. Unfortunately, it was not low enough. Mickelson birdied the first four holes to get to 10 under par but could not sustain the momentum. He ripped off eight straight pars before a birdie at the 13th but followed that with a double bogey on the 14th. He played 1 under on the remaining four holes to finish 10 under.
3-wood: Mickelson played the first three rounds of the tournament carrying a pair of 3-woods and no driver. He put driver in play on Sunday and hit seven of 14 fairways. Mickelson will experiment with a new deep face driver from Callaway before committing to what clubs he will carry at the Masters.
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here
Steve Wheatcroft's best PGA TOUR finish was a T3 at the 2010 Puerto Rico Open. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE, Texas – This time last week, Steve Wheatcroft was beating golf balls on the range with coach Matt Killen looking on. He hadn’t gotten in the Web.com Tour’s Chitimacha Louisiana Open, so why not just hang around and straighten out what’s not working?
This time Monday, he was on the range at Redstone contemplating a three-for-two-spots or four-for-three spot playoff in the Shell Houston Open qualifier. He had posted a morning 5 under and gone to watch Olympus Is Falling, where he spent more time hitting refresh on the PGA TOUR app on his phone than watching the movie. Then he wandered to the range with buddy Paul Haley and buddy Michael Putnam convinced them a playoff was in their collective future.
“Paul and I just both sunk,’’ Wheatcroft said. “We started hitting balls and getting ready to go. One of the officials came up and said, ‘All right, we got one group left and then you guys are ready, you guys are good.’
“I said, "What's the playoff? Is it 3 for 2? Is it 4 for 3? Like, what are we doing?" He just kind of looked at me funny. I turned and looked at Mike and he's laughing at me. So he's got one coming to him.’’
Fast forward to Friday afternoon where Wheatcroft, a self-deprecating, honest Pennsylvania native and Indiana fan, found himself leading the Shell Houston Open at 10 under. No bogeys. A pair of 67s. The same number he shot in the qualifier.
And it only gets better.
Wheatcroft hates qualifiers, but plans to tee it up in another on Monday at the Valero Texas Open. Unless, of course, something big happens for the man with just conditional Web.com status.
Keeping up? It’s not easy. In a little more than six months, he’ll be tying the knot with his finance’ and they’re already on their third florist. In fact, he’s playing this week to pay for them.
“Flowers are expensive,’’ he said. “If golf doesn’t work out, I ought to become a florist.’’
He may not be kidding. The kid who spent a summer living in and working at Oakmont Country Club doesn’t have a resume filled with confidence. His lone win was a 12-shot romp at the 2011 Web.com Mid-Atlantic Championship. He shot 66-60-64-64 and, yes, he had a putt at a 59.
“I had to putt through about a foot of fringe and it kicked it just enough to the right where I knew it was going to miss,’’ he said. “I tapped in for a 60, and (at that point) had an eight-shot lead.’’
Winning there is the highlight to his career, thus far, but hang on. He didn’t hit the ball well on Thursday, but putted well enough for his opening 67 and there’s no reason to think he can’t win this week.
“Who knows?’’ he said. “I could shoot 61 tomorrow, I could shoot 71 tomorrow. I really don’t know. I’m not going to sit around here and think about it too much.
“I’m going to think about the first tee ball on the first tee and we’ll go from there.’’
Friday, he had Runaways by The Killers dancing through his head.
“Can't get it out of my head,’’ he said. “I've been singing it all day. Yeah, it's good. Kept me loose.”
Wheatcroft has played just two Web.com events this year, finishing T7 at the Colombia Championship earlier this month and T21 at the Panama Claro Championship. But this? It was a dream.
Ironically, the most memorable shot was the fairway bunker shot at the 12th which hit the Shot Link tower. Awful shot, he said.
He bounced back with two straight birdies and finished at 10 under.
“I knew I was swinging a little better today,’’ he said. “I just needed to play smart out there.”
Now, if he can just do it for two more days.
Steve Wheatcroft set all kinds of Nationwide Tour records on Sunday by winning the Melwood Prince George’s County Open by shooting a 29-under 255 for a 12-stroke victory. The 255 total and the 12-stroke winning margin are the best in the Nationwide Tour’s 21-year history.
The one Nationwide Tour record he didn’t set, however, was lowest score relative to par. Daniel Chopra was 30 under when he won the Henrico County Open in 2008.
Wheatcroft’s romp got us to wondering – how do the Nationwide Tour totals stack up against the PGA TOUR’s 72-hole records?
Here’s the list of lowest 72s (incidentally, Don January has the lowest 72-hole score on the Champions Tour with a 260 at the 1983 Citizens Union Senior Golf Classic):
|254 (26 under)||Tommy Armour III||PGA TOUR||2003||Valero Texas Open|
|255 (33 under)||Steve Stricker||PGA TOUR||2009||Bob Hope Classic*|
|255 (29 under)||Steve Wheatcroft||Nationwide Tour||2011||Melwood Prince George’s County Open|
|256 (28 under)||Mark Calcavecchia||PGA TOUR||2001||Phoenix Open|
Here’s the list of lowest 72s relative to par (incidentally, Jack Nicklaus has the lowest 72-hole score relative to par on the Champions Tour; the Golden Bear was 27 under when he won the 1990 Mazda Senior Tournament Players Championship):
LOWEST TOTALS RELATIVE TO PAR
|33 under (255)||Steve Stricker||PGA TOUR||2009||Bob Hope Classic*|
|31 under (261)||Ernie Els||PGA TOUR||2003||Mercedes Championship|
|30 under (258)||Pat Perez||PGA TOUR||2009||Bob Hope Classic*|
|30 under (258)||Daniel Chopra||Nationwide Tour||2008||Henrico County Open|
|29 under (255)||Steve Wheatcroft||Nationwide Tour||2011||Melwood Prince George’s County Open|
|29 under (259||Joe Durant||PGA TOUR||2001||Bob Hope Classic*|
|29 under (259)||Tim Herron||PGA TOUR||2003||Bob Hope Classic*|
* through four rounds of 90-hole tournament
This year has been mostly forgettable for Steve Wheatcroft.
Having regained his TOUR card after making "The 25" last year on the Nationwide Tour, Wheatcroft came to Canada having missed the cut in 12 of his 18 starts this season. He did manage a tie for third in Puerto Rico, but that's been the lone highlight ...
... until perhaps this week.
Wheatcroft has surged up the leaderboard Friday, thanks to a hot start that included two birdies and an eagle in his first five holes that temporarily moved him into a tie for the lead at 9 under.
Although he's just dropped a stroke to fall back to 8 under, Wheatcroft is obviously finding St. George's to his liking.
To follow the rest of Wheatcroft's round, click here.
There have already been a couple of holes-in-one here at the St. Jude Classic presented by Smith & Nephew, but Steve Wheatcroft hit the shot of the week so far earlier this morning when he made a double eagle on the par-5 third hole.
Wheatcroft hit the shot using a hybrid club from 243 yards. At the time, it moved him from 2 over to 1 under for the week. He’s since give one of those strokes back with a bogey on the par-3 eighth, but the double eagle may help get to the weekend. Wheatcroft, who has missed six of his last seven cuts, is just inside the current cut line. -- Brian Wacker