March 29 2012
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM Correspondent
HUMBLE, Texas – Carl Pettersson was struggling. He had just missed two cuts in a row and needed to make a change. So on the practice range, he opened his stance. Pettersson pointed his shoulders and hips just a fraction to the left and things started clicking. In the opening round of the Shell Houston Open he hit 16 of 18 greens and 11 of 14 fairways to shoot 7-under 65. Every PGA TOUR player is one swing thought away from victory.
Long and strong: Recent history shows long-ball, high-ball hitters do well at the Redstone Golf Club. The Shell Houston Open has produced winners like Phil Mickelson, Paul Casey and Anthony Kim. So what's the trend this year? Pettersson and Angel Cabrera both shot 7-under 65. Their numbers? Pettersson is ranked 11th on TOUR in driving distance with an average of 300.5 yards. Cabrera is 12th, averaging 299.4 yards. Such hitters have an advantage on every course but it's very important at Redstone with fourth reachable par 5s.
Good numbers: Johnson Wagner called it one of his best ballstriking rounds of the year. That's impressive when you consider Wagner leads the FedExCup standings. He hit 17 of 18 greens in the opening round while shooting 4-under 68. When asked about his sparkling iron play, Wagner said “it was a combination of good numbers into greens and good touch on my part.”
Course management: I think Steve Stricker is the best on TOUR at managing his game. He knows his strengths and plays to those qualities. Stricker is a great putter, chipper and wedge player. When you watch him work his way through a round, he displays unusual patience taking chances only when it plays to his strength. He birdied three of the four par 5s by hitting his wedges well and making putts.
Luck of the draw: Throughout the course of an entire season, players get good and bad tee times. Those who did not finish their opening rounds before the rains came got the short end of the stick on Thursday. Things even out over the course of a year but at times it sure doesn't feel that way. Jim Herman is making his first PGA TOUR start of 2012 and was 6 under on the 16th green when the horn sounded and play suspended. Herman looked at the sky and asked rhetorically, “you couldn't have waited another two holes?”
Fred Albers is a course reporter for SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio and is inside the ropes this week at the Shell Houston Open. For more information on SiriusXM PGA TOUR Radio, click here.