Qualifier Steve Wheatcroft leads Houston Open

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Steve Wheatcroft, who made it through a Monday qualifer, leads the Houston Open.  JON EILTS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
JON EILTS/ASSOCIATED PRESS
Steve Wheatcroft, who made it through a Monday qualifer, leads the Houston Open.

HUMBLE, Texas — Steve Wheatcroft hates going to Monday qualifiers. He was reminded Friday why they can be worth it.

Wheatcroft, who narrowly qualified for the Houston Open at the start of the week, ran off three consecutive birdies early in his round and kept bogeys off his card for a second 5-under-par 67 in a row.

That gave him a one-shot lead over D.A. Points (71 on Friday) and Jason Kokrak (69) going into the weekend at Redstone Golf Club.

Rory McIlroy also will be around for two more days, but just barely.

In only his 10th full round of the year, McIlroy walked onto the seventh green – his 16th hole of the day – and saw that he was tied for 77th.

He two-putted from 85 feet on the fringe for birdie on his next hole, and then safely found the green at the par-3 ninth for 70. By the end of the day, McIlroy made the cut on the number.

“It a weekend where I can have a couple more rounds and try and get confidence in what I’m doing,” McIlroy.

Phil Mickelson also made the cut on the number after a bogey on the last hole for 71. Mickelson, who has played the Masters with two drivers in the bag, decided to play Redstone on Friday with two 3-woods in the bag, though one of them is so strong it acts like a driver.

“If I can play like I did the back nine, I’m going to give myself a lot of birdie chances,” Mickelson said.

Wheatcroft can’t bank on anything.

Not only does he have no status on the PGA Tour, he has only conditional status in the minor leagues. After missing out on a Web.com Tour event last week in Louisiana, he figured he might as well enter the Houston Open qualifier Monday.

“Monday qualifiers are terrible. They’re just not fun, plain and simple,” Wheatcroft said. “I was on the PGA Tour in 2007, played terribly. I had no status. So I had to be back to Monday qualifiers and pre-qualifiers the next year. I hate them.”

EUROPEAN TOUR: In Agadir, Morocco, Marcel Siem shot 4-under-par 68 to maintain his three-shot lead after the second round of the Hassan II Trophy tournament.

He is at 12-under 132.

Mikko Ilonen (66) and 2011 winner David Horsey (67) are tied for second.

The 72nd-ranked Siem needs to enter the top 50 after Sunday’s final round to earn an invitation to the Masters Tournament.

LOCAL INTEREST

CHARLES HOWELL

Augusta native

Score 69-72

Shots back 7

HENRIK NORLANDER

Ex-Augusta State golfer

Score 74-68

Shots back 8

SCOTT BROWN

North Augusta native

Score 70-74

Shots back MC

PATRICK REED

Ex-Augusta State golfer

Score 72-77

Shots back MC

WILL CLAXTON

Swainsboro, Ga.*

Score 75-75

Shots back MC

* former resident

SAN ANTONIO — Rory McIlroy is going to play another week in Texas to get ready for the Masters Tournament.

McIlroy decided Friday to play next week in the Texas Open, wanting one more tournament to try to find his form ahead of the Masters, which starts April 11.

The two-time major champion and the No. 2-ranked player in the world has only played five tournaments this year, making just two cuts.

He has completed only 10 rounds through Friday of the Houston Open.

After 65 in the final round at Doral on March 10 – his last event before this week – McIlroy said he would play at Houston and not add another tournament before the Masters.

This a big change from last year, when McIlroy took off three weeks before the Masters.

That didn’t work. McIlroy, a pretournament favorite, tied for 40th place.

McIlroy lost his No. 1 ranking last week to Tiger Woods, who won at Bay Hill. Even so, his presence gives the Texas Open its biggest name in more than a decade.

He made the cut on the number in the Houston Open, shooting 73-70.– Associated Press

RORY CHANGES HIS MIND, WILL PLAY IN A MASTERS TUNE-UP


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