By Tim Price, PGATOUR.COM Contributor
SAN ANTONIO -- If Rory McIlroy didn’t look out of place preparing for The Masters by coming to the Valero Texas Open while Tiger Woods stayed at his Florida home and Phil Mickelson settled for his trip to Houston, McIlroy sure looked like a bumbling tourist when he walked up the ninth fairway at TPC San Antonio to find an errant tee shot.
McIlroy tried to step over a cactus and got a lesson that South Texas cactus might be smaller than the ones that spike up through the Arizona desert, but they bite just as hard.
“I shouldn’t have been there anyways, so I guess it was deserved, getting a -- whatever it was -- off the cactus,” McIlroy said.
They call those things a needle. But McIlroy wasn’t at a loss for words to describe what he did over the final three holes at the AT&T Oaks Course to finish a round of 67 that has him at 5-under for the tournament, three shots back of Billy Horschel.
It was useful, certainly, after McIlroy took a swing thought from the range after his play yesterday to not bring the club back so much to the inside. He said it might be that one thing that clicks for the rest of the week and into next at Augusta.
McIlroy sank a 26-foot putt for birdie at No. 16, made a 12-footer for another one at 17 and reached the difficult 588-yard, par-5 18th in two after a 350-yard drive before watching a 25-foot eagle putt slide just by to put the cap on the 67 that puts him right back in the mix at the VTO.
“I definitely feel like I made the right decision to come here, and even if I hadn’t been in this position and have been a few shots back I’d still feel the same way,” McIlroy said. “I haven’t really been in contention this year. So it will be nice to get into the mix.”
Starting five shots back at even par, McIlroy was plodding along a front nine that is playing more than a half-stroke more difficult than the back when his driver at No. 9 sailed left. He advanced well enough to be close to the sharply elevated green so he could chip up, but the lack of green to work with left him with a long par putt he could not save.
It got quiet after a birdie at 11 sent him back to 2-under and gave him a safe cushion of making the cut (the number was projecting 1-over at the time), but the tee shot at the 16th (playing 166 yards today) was close to pin high and gave him a rather flat look that he converted.
He’s one of the few to hit 18 in two, and he was the first this week to hit the par-5, 592-yard eighth with a 325-yard tee shot and an approach of about 270 yards in that ended up 12 feet from the hole (he missed the eagle).
“I think that shows where my game is,” McIlroy said. “Those two par 5s are probably the toughest to hit in two with how small the greens are. It shows that my ball-striking is there. If I can keep hitting shots like that into par 5s, I’ll be doing OK.”
It would work at Augusta, for sure.
Daniel Summerhays has been superb with the driver this week at TPC San Antonio. (Cohen/Getty Images)
By: Fred Albers, PGA TOUR.COM Correspondent
SAN ANTONIO – “The good end of the draw …” You hear PGA TOUR players say that every week and the draw was again a factor in San Antonio. Without a doubt, the players who went late on Thursday and early on Friday got the better of the tee times. The weather had warmed for the afternoon starters in the first round and it was beautiful all day long on Friday. Just because a player got the better end of the draw did not guarantee success. He still had to hit good shots, but it was a distinct advantage this week.
Long Ball: Daniel Summerhays is not a large man. He stands 5-foot-8 and yet he showed another gear with his driver on Friday, averaging 301.5 yards per drive and finding 11 of 14 fairways. The ability to drive it long and straight has helped Summerhays hit an impressive 27 of 36 greens.
The BYU Graduate also had an impressive attitude when he putted his ball off the 5th green leading to bogey. Summerhays said, “You are going to hit some bad shots and get some bad breaks around here. It’s just part of the game.”
Grinding: You could understand if D.A. Points missed the cut this week. He was coming off a victory and looking ahead to Augusta. There were any number of excuses to be rationalized when Points was 4-over with six holes to play. The Shell Houston Open winner put his head down and played hard through the finish line picking up birdies at Nos. 4, 6 and 9 to finish 1-over for the first 36 holes.
Prickly: Retief Goosen had both pleasure and pain during the second round. He chipped in twice for birdies to put a smile on his face but limped to the finish line after driving wide left of the sixth fairway. Goosen had to venture into a patch of cacti to retrieve his ball. He made bogey on the hole and picked up several cactus needles in his trousers. The South African managed to par the final three holes despite the discomfort.
Divot: Rory McIlroy and Matt Kuchar hit their drives within two yards of each other on the 11th hole. As they approached the golf balls they could see one had a perfect lie, while the other was in a sand filled divot. The two never broke their conversation, neither had any facial expression. It was Kuchar’s ball that was in the sand divot, he missed the green but made a 10 foot par putt. It’s an experienced player that remains emotionally level while enduring good and bad breaks.
Despite a day of sub-par ballstriking by his standards, Steven Bowditch finished his round tied for the lead at the Valero Texas Open. He reflected on his play with Fred Albers from SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio.
By PGATOUR.COM Staff
The second round of the Valero Texas Open is winding down and there are currently 81 players at 1-over or better at TPC San Antonio.
Among them is Rory McIlroy, who added this event to his schedule to get more practice in before next week’s Masters. McIlroy is 2 under through 14 and is in pursuit of his first sub-70 round in his last six.
In the clubhouse and sitting a little closer to the projected cut line are Charl Schwartzel (+1), Ian Poulter (+1) and Shell Houston Open champion D.A. Points (+1). Defending Valero champ Ben Curtis is on the course at 1-over with four holes to play.
Among those currently on the course with ground to gain are Gary Woodland (+2/14), Scott Brown (+2/15), Cameron Tringale (+3/16) and Robert Karlsson (+3/10).
A number of notables have already completed their rounds and will not be around for the weekend at TPC San Antonio. That group includes David Toms (+8), Vaughn Taylor (+6) and Jonathan Byrd (+3).
John Daly, Chez Reavie, Nick O’Hern and 1997 champion Tim Herron are all in the clubhouse at 2-over and will have to hope a number of player fall back and allow them to move inside the top 70 and ties.
By Tim Price, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
SAN ANTONIO -- There are horses for courses. And then there is Charley Hoffman at TPC San Antonio.
Even though the AT&T Oaks Course easily ranks above the PGA TOUR stroke average, Hoffman’s play at the site of the Valero Texas Open runs in the other direction. His stroke average here is less than it is, on average, in the rest of the tournaments he plays.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I played good over at La Cantera when it was played over there (prior to 2010) and ever since it’s moved here to TPC I’ve played well also.”
Then, Hoffman got really scientific: “Maybe it’s something in San Antonio. I like the Mexican food.”
In the first three years of the VTO being played at TPC San Antonio, Hoffman has a stroke average of 70.58. His TOUR scoring average in those three years is 70.82.
This year, Hoffman’s rounds of 71-67 are better than his season average of 71.3. He was tied for the lead with Daniel Summerhays and Steven Bowditch as play continued in the afternoon of the second round.
He’s never finished out of the top 15 at TPC San Antonio and was tied for second, a shot behind Brendan Steele two years ago.
Hoffman is hitting it long and hitting it on the green – always a good combination to get a player into contention. His measured drives average 301 yards, good for sixth this week. He’s hitting two of every three greens, and that’s in the top 25 this week.
The longest putt he made Friday was nine feet.
“I hit a bunch of fairways and gave myself an opportunity to make a lot of birdies,” Hoffman said. “Hopefully I can keep this going this weekend.”
If it’s San Antonio, Hoffman probably can.
Driven to succeed: Jim Furyk is testing out a double-driver strategy this week in San Antonio. (Cohen/Getty Images)
By Tim Price, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
SAN ANTONIO -- People can talk about the last-minute preparation Rory McIlroy is making for the Masters by coming this week to the Valero Texas Open, but McIlroy has nothing on Jim Furyk.
At least McIlroy got to play a full practice round and saw his pro-am tour go deep into the back nine before rained washed it out as he is making his first trip to San Antonio. Furyk is here for the first time, too, but he arrived the night before the pro-am and he got in four holes before lightning halted play.
So his preparation for the event almost turned into a video game.
“I tried to go online (to) get an idea where guys were hitting balls off the tee,” Furyk said.
Furyk should keep his laptop handy. He followed Thursday’s score of 69 with a 2-under 70 Friday, and is currently a shot out of the lead with his 5-under total at TPC San Antonio’s AT&T Oaks Course.
To add to the complications of playing well enough to make the cut (this will be his eighth-straight cut made), Furyk has two drivers in his bag this week and is hopeful it works out well enough that he can take the long sticks to Augusta. He’s finding out his less-lofted driver (at 9.5 degrees) appears to be set up with a tendency to work left.
“I wanted to give it a practice run,” he said. “I’m having a hard time. I may have to switch shafts out.”
Furyk said it may take until Wednesday at Augusta before he gets it ironed out, so it sounds like he’s committed to the two-driver approach even if it means visiting the equipment truck on Monday.
“(I’ll) make a couple of adjustments and try to play through it,” he said.
Furyk remains his green-hitting self this week (almost 70 percent, right at the top 10 through two rounds) and looks to be in the top 50 in fairways hit despite alternating between drivers with one degree of difference between them.
And his two official drives have him at a 287-yard average. He sounds like that’s the component that will go a long way to determining his success at Augusta next week after a week where he may not make many birdies in San Antonio.
“There aren’t many birdies at Augusta anymore either,” Furyk said. “(If) they lengthen it out another 400 yards, there would be no birdies at Augusta.”
Whether it's the current course at TPC San Antonio or the former venue at LaCantera, Charley Hoffman almost always seems to play well at the Valero Texas Open.
He's certainly playing well through the first two rounds this week. His 5-under 67 in Friday's second round leaves him at 6 under and a share of the clubhouse lead midway through the day.
In seven previous starts in this event, Hoffman has finished T-13 or better six times. That includes a tie for second two years ago when he finished one stroke behind champion Brendan Steele.
In 30 career rounds in this event, Hoffman has shot par or better 25 times, including his 71-67 start this week.
Friday's 67 was his lowest score in 14 rounds at TPC San Antonio but not his lowest in this event. He shot a 63 in the third round at LaCantera in 2009, the last year the event was held at that course.
"I played good at LaCantera when it was there, and ever since it's moved here to TPC, I've played well also," Hoffman said after Friday's round. "Maybe it's something in San Antonio. I enjoy coming here. I like the Mexican food and I enjoy the area."
SAN ANTONIO, Texas -- Daniel Summerhays shot his second consecutive 3-under 69 in Friday's second round of the Valero Texas Open. That left Summerhays at 6 under and the clubhouse leader when he walked off the TPC San Antonio course Friday.
Here are some comments from Summerhays after his round:
ON MAKING A 7-FOOTER FOR BOGEY ON HIS FINAL HOLE: "That's exactly what you dream of having, a little seven‑foot, down‑the‑hill, slider for bogey. Just what dreams are made of (laughing). But, no, I hit a good putt. You're going to make mistakes. It just happened to be on the 9th (his last) hole."
ON HIS PLAY OFF THE TEE: "I drove it really well. There was only once where I was even in remote trouble on 18, and I got a good break there. So I think I hit almost every other fairway all day long. I'm not sure exactly; I'd have to go back and think through it. But, yeah, this course is very intimidating -- especially when the wind blows, it can get pretty scary out there. But I'm driving it well, and I'm looking forward to the weekend."
ON HIS PUTT THAT WENT OFF THE GREEN AT THE FIFTH HOLE: "Yeah, it was up and over, down the tier, and then it flattened and probably two paces after the hole it goes off the green. I just hit it barely too hard. It looked like it was only going to stop 3 feet past, and it just rolled right off the fringe. Again, you kind of chuckle at that kind of stuff. You chuckle at the thing on 9, and you don't have to play perfect to be right in contention. So I'm kind of taking that attitude. You just laugh at those and know you're going to make some birdies coming in."