By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE, Texas -- Steve Wheatcroft was lying in bed Thursday night, alone in the darkness of his hotel room.
He couldn’t sleep. Not because he was nervous after shooting a 67 in the opening round of the Shell Houston Open, but because Wheatcroft was mad after watching his alma mater Indiana lose in the NCAA men’s basketball tournament.
Eventually his thoughts did turn to golf and the frustration of hitting just eight of 14 fairways in the opening round. Even though Wheatcroft was 5 under, he knew the scoring would not continue unless his driving improved. He devised a different alignment before drifting off to sleep and used it during his second round warm up. It worked. Wheatcroft hit 11 of 14 fairways, which led to 16 greens and another 67.
A restless night of sleep, fueled by a basketball game, could be very profitable for Wheatcroft this weekend.
Patience: D.A. Points was treading water and getting tired of it. He had made par at the first 11 holes of the second round. Not a single birdie or bogey. Even par was a solid score on a windy Friday afternoon but after shooting 64 in the opening round, all those pars started to grind on Points. He remained patient. That’s so easy to say and so difficult to accomplish in golf. Points was finally rewarded with a birdie on the 12th hole. That would be his only one of the day combined with 17 pars. The patience Points showed on Friday was as impressive as the nine birdies he made on Thursday.
Management: Wheatcroft knows a “sucker pin” when he sees one. In the midst of a great round of golf, he had the discipline to shoot away from the hole at both the sixth and seventh when the cup was cut dangerously close to the edge. Wheatcroft has never won on the PGA TOUR but his thought process was that of a champion in the second round.
Eagles: Lee Westwood is in the midst of a curious run. He has yet to record an eagle this year and is ranked 139th in par-5 scoring with a stroke average of 4.69. For the week, Westwood has made two birdies and two bogeys on the par 5s and is still T16. It’s so early in the season it would be unfair to say Westwood has a problem. The sample size is too small to draw conclusions but his play on par 5s is strange.
Got it: For a man who had just barely made the cut, Phil Mickelson was upbeat following his round. He said he was very pleased with his second nine on Friday and made some “really good swings.” He also said he “knew” what the fix was for his game and was really looking forward to the weekend.
Schedule: Rory McIlroy looked so surprised he did not know how to answer. I asked if he would consider adding next week’s Valero Texas Open to his schedule. He fumbled for an answer saying he never even considered that option and wondered if he could still enter late on a Friday afternoon. Two hours later it was announced McIlroy had entered next week’s event. If he wins, I’m asking for a percentage for making the suggestion.
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.
Mark O'Meara carded an even-par 72 on Friday to finish at 150. (Little/Getty Images)
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE Texas -- Steve Timms had made the offer a number of times, but Mark O’Meara has always said no. He didn’t want to take a spot from a PGA TOUR player.
But this year, the Houston resident played so well earlier this year in Dubai, -- and it was an off-week on the Champions Tour – that he decided to reach out and Timms, the tournament director, said yes.
Eighteen holes and 150 strokes later, the 56-year-old former Masters champ was glad he played – even gave himself a 7.5 or an 8 – but he was still headed back to his home in West Houston. It was the 40 on his front nine and the quadruple-bogey 8 at the 18th on Thursday that got him. He carded an even-par 72 on Friday.
“This,’’ he said, “is a big course.” Not that he’s short off the tee, but he can, at times, give up 30 yards to his playing partners.
And to his 23-year-old son Shaun, who was once a budding TOUR player. But Shaun didn’t have the game and, instead, took his Cal-Irvine degree and expanded Duvin, a clothing company he started in high school.
Dad couldn’t be prouder.
“It’s kind a wake boarding, skater, surfer look like Billabong and Volcom,’’ O’Meara said. “He’s been traveling around to music festivals and events, pushing it. He’s doing well.’’
O’Meara didn’t invest, but Shaun’s partner’s dad did. They borrowed the rest of the money and they’re going to stores to get the product on the shelves.
O’Meara’s proud pop moments don’t stop there, either. Daughter Michelle is an attorney in Los Angeles and stepson Aiden, 12, is a lefthander, pitched 3 ½ perfect innings the other day in Little League play.
Next up for O’Meara is the Masters, another course that’s gotten big for, not just him, but a lot of Champions players such as Tom Watson and Ben Crenshaw. But, like Watson and Crenshaw, he’ll keep on playing until its no longer fun.
Scott Stallings, with new baby in tow, will be spending the weekend at Shell Houston. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By Melanie Hauser, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE, Texas – Finn Stallings.
At six weeks old, he’s the apple of mom and dad’s eye. A sweetheart who pretty much sleeps through the night and figures any hotel room is fine as long as those folks who take care of him are right there next to him.
He’s also a game-changer.
Jennifer and Scott Stallings decided their first-born needed to get adjusted to PGA TOUR life fast, so he’s making the rounds. This week’s Shell Houston Open is his third TOUR stop and dad is starting to wonder if this could be the charm.
“We just decided he was going to be out here, so ... ” Stallings said. There was no time like the present.
Dear old dad missed the cut in Finn’s first two outings, but this week, Scott is 5 under after two rounds and in the thick of things heading into the weekend at the Shell Houston Open.
“For a while it was just Jennifer and me,’’ Stallings said. “And now we’re traveling with an infant.’’
Fatherhood might not have done much for his game the last two weeks, but this week everything’s falling into place. He opened with a 70 and followed it with a 69 that could have been one better if the wind had gusted a second later.
Instead, Stalling had 185 yards to the pin on the 18th and flushed it -- just as the wind came up. Didn’t come close to touching the green.
Stallings shrugged. It could be better, but no complaints. he’s heading into the third round with a chance, something he hasn’t had since he tied for fourth at the Humana Challenge in partnership with the Clinton Foundation.
He knows there is a delicate balance out here, whether its as a husband, father or golfer and he’s committed to doing just that.
“I’ve got to learn how to make this work,’’ he said. “I don’t want to be a crappy husband, I don’t want to be a crappy father and I don’t want to be a crappy golfer.’’
And Finn? He just wants to sleep and eat.
Finn got his name because Jennifer, then 7.5 months pregnant, liked it. Scott wasn’t arguing. And Stallings’ caddie Frank Williams – for one – like the nickname. Thinks it sounds like a heck of a name for shortstop.
Or a golfer.
For right now, though, Finn is just trying to get acclimated to TOUR life.
So what is the little guy’s favorite TOUR stop?
“This one,’’ Scott said, “cause his dad is finally playing well.’’
By PGA TOUR staff
The new term was coined after a photo of Dufner began circulating online (above) of him visiting the Salesmanship Youth and Family Centers as the defending champion of the HP Byron Nelson Championship. Shortly after Dufner’s peers came off the golf course at the Shell Houston Open on Thursday, the photo quickly spread across Twitter.
This post from Keegan Bradley had over 1,500 retweets.
If imitation is flattery, Dufner should be feeling quite good about himself. Rory McIlroy was the first to share his imitation, which he termed #Dufnering in a Twitter hashtag. twitter.com/McIlroyRory/st…
— Rory Mcilroy (@McIlroyRory) March 29, 2013
This was quickly followed by more #Dufnering tweets from players and fans alike, with nearly 5,000 mentions on Twitter through 9:30 a.m. ET Friday morning and a place on the USA Trending Topics list.
For his part, Dufner has taken the whole thing in stride, retweeting several #Dufnering tweets from fans last night, and giving his explanation earlier today.
What can I say, I was tired, my back hurt from sitting on the floor, and we were talking about relaxation and focusing. #dufnering— Jason Dufner (@JasonDufner) March 29, 2013
Submit your own to #Dufnering photo to the PGA TOUR’s Twitter photoboard through the weekend, or see the collection at twt.pl/1zj
Rory McIlroy shot a 2-under 70 in the second round of the Shell Houston Open. (Halleran/Getty Images)
By PGATOUR.COM staff
Rory McIlroy played the waiting game, but made the cut on the number.
McIlroy carded a 2-under 70 in the second round of the Shell Houston Open, to finish at 1 under for the tournament.
McIlroy got up-and-down for a birdie 4 from 85 feet on his 17th hole (No. 8) and then two-putted for par on the difficult 236-yard ninth hole.
"As I said, no one likes missing cuts and especially it's my last one before the Masters," McIlroy said. "Nice to have another couple of rounds, do some work on the range this afternoon and hopefully improve on the course that I've already done."