HUMBLE, Texas — The putter D.A. Points once took from his mother paid off nicely for him Thursday in the Houston Open.
Points opened with five consecutive birdies and wound up with 8-under-par 64 on a pleasant morning with only moderate wind at Redstone Golf Club. He has a one-shot lead over Cameron Tringale and John Rollins. Also coming to life was Angel Cabrera, the Argentine with two majors and a house at Redstone. He had 66 along with Jason Kokrak.
Rory McIlroy, in his final start before the Masters Tournament, was 3-over par after a double bogey on the par-5 eighth, then rallied for 73.
“I think I’m still a little bit tentative on the golf course and not committing to my shots fully,” McIlroy said. “But I think that just takes time and, hopefully, another three rounds this week and some good scores will give me confidence going into the Masters.”
Points first borrowed the Ping Anser from his mother during his junior years, and like most golfers, he abandoned it once he stopped making putts. But he recently asked Ping to clean it up for him and add some weight. He also got a putting lesson – no, not from Steve Stricker – and he was on his way.
“Maybe I’m an idiot for not having used this putter the whole time,” Points said. “It worked well today.”
Points, whose only win came with actor Bill Murray at his side at the Pebble Beach National Pro-am, made all five of his opening birdies from inside 15 feet. He dropped only one shot along the way.
Phil Mickelson was at 4-under and right in the mix until he hit his tee shot into the water on the sixth hole and made double bogey, nearly hooked a 3-wood into the hazard on the next hole and three-putted for bogey, and then made bogey on the par-3 ninth from a bunker to wind up at 72.
“It was a disappointing finish,” Mickelson said. “I feel really good with the putter, and I believe that as the tournament goes on, I’ll get better.”
Mickelson played with defending champion Hunter Mahan, who didn’t hit the ball his best and it finally caught up with him at the end for 74. Also in the group was Geoff Ogilvy, who needs to finish in the top 50 in the world to get into the Masters. Ogilvy is currently at No. 50, though he will lose spots through the formula this week. He had three penalty shots in his round of 73.
Charles Howell had 69 in his bid to get into his hometown major at Augusta National. Howell needs to finish at least in fourth place alone to have any chance of moving into the top 50.
EUROPEAN TOUR: In Agadir, Morocco, Marcel Siem had two eagles to shoot 8-under-par 64 and lead by three strokes after the opening round of the Hassan II Trophy.
Siem also made five birdies on the Golf du Palais Royal course, with an eagle and birdie on the last two holes.
Former Augusta State golfers Jamie Elson and Scott Jamieson had 77s. Oliver Wilson, another former Jag, shot 85.