March 31 2012
By Fred Albers, PGATOUR.COM correspondent
HUMBLE, Texas – There were several strange shots on Saturday. Graeme McDowell hit a wedge into the water. Steve Stricker pushed a 3-wood 20 yards right of the green. Ball flights were different and the reason was mud. PGA TOUR officials made the decision to play the ball down for the third round, though the fairways were still soft from Thursday's rain. The result was mud balls, as drives would land in the fairway and quickly come to a stop with a spot of mud on the cover. That added ounce of weight affects the ball flight, turning draws into cuts and slices into hooks.
Fortunately, a combination of sun and wind is drying the golf course, so mud balls will be less of a factor in the final round.
Equipment change: Phil Mickelson is third on TOUR in Strokes Gained-Putting. He took just 22 putts during the opening round, but that number increased to 32 putts in his second round. With that, Phil had seen enough. He was struggling with his line so he made a change to a putter with an aiming line to help with alignment.
Accents: Does any major champion have his named mispronounced as much as Louis Oosthuizen? Some of it is his own fault. After his British Open victory, I asked Oosthuizen to say his name into a recorder so we could listen to the correct pronunciation. It's “oost-hazen.” Last summer we asked him to do it again. This time he said, “woost-hizen.” I met his father this week and asked for the correct pronunciation, he said “oost-thayzen.” Why all the differences? His father said the Afrikaans accent contains some pronunciations that Americans find difficult to replicate and Louis was just trying to give us something that was close to correct.
Cracked up: Ryan Palmer did not intend to play the Shell Houston Open, but he cracked his driver last week and did not want to go to Augusta without having field-tested the new club. The driver has held up well, finding 24 of 42 fairways, but it's his iron play that has sparkled. Palmer has hit 46 of 54 greens and has a chance to win on Sunday.
Steamy: As Babe Ruth once said, “This town seems to hold the heat well.” With all the rain this week and temperatures in the 80s, Redstone Golf Club was very steamy on Saturday. The heat index: 98 degrees.
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.