|Friday's Notes & Quotes - March 30, 2012
BY GENE DUFFY
Have You Ever Seen the Rain?
When you’re hot, you’re hot. Golfers who played well early Friday morning while finishing their opening round because of Thursday’s rain delay, expressed no complaints about having to make a quick turnaround and starting their second round a little over an hour later.
“I like that,” said Tommy Gainey, who fired a four-under-par 68 in his first round. “I’d rather go right back out in the next 10 minutes. It stops the momentum when you stop like this for an hour or so. Let me get a sandwich and shuttle me to the tee. I feel like I’m playing good enough, I don’t want to stop.”
Gainey started his afternoon round on the back side and birdied three of the first six holes he played, at Nos. 10, 11 and 15 to move to seven under. He ended up with a 67, tying him for third.
Heavy rain and thunderstorms forced play to be suspended in Thursday’s first round at 1:27. Gainey was on the fifth fairway.
England’s Greg Owen knocked in a 25-foot putt for birdie at No. 18 to finish his first round Friday morning at six-under-par 66. He couldn’t wait to get back on the course.
“I’m still young enough to keep going,” said the 40-year-old Owen. “Just get a bit of fuel (food) and go out. I may hit a few (balls) to keep warm.”
Owen was forced to stop Thursday on the fourth green, facing a 30-foot putt.
The interruption didn’t bother him a bit. He returned Friday morning and ran in the 30-footer for his third consecutive birdie.
“I continued playing well, so it’s not that bad,” he said of play being suspended. “It was a good decision. We knew it was going to happen. It turned out well in the end.”
Defending champion Phil Mickelson thought the rain delay could work to his advantage.
“It might be a benefit to be able to play 33 holes today,” said Mickelson, who tied for the first-round lead with a sizzling 65. “I feel like I’ve been playing well and I can get a good rhythm going for the second round. I like being able to come out and play a lot of holes in one day. Because if you start playing well, you get in a good rhythm. You can really make a lot of birdies, especially out here.
“When we were able to lift, clean and place the second round and get the mud off the ball, we were able to be much more aggressive to a lot of the pins,” he said.
Instead of allowing the suspension of play disrupt their games, the golfers handled it without grumbling.
“It’s God’s work,” said Gainey. “You don’t complain about it. You just deal with it.”
Rain delays can be annoying.
“It can mess you up some, when you finally get it going like I did yesterday,” said Gainey.
You Got To Be a Mudder
About the only negative for the players who needed to finish their first round Friday morning was the muddy conditions on many of the fairways.
“You get a lot of mud balls out here when you hit it in the fairway,” said Tommy Gainey. “It’s not going to draw when you’ve get the mud. If you get a lot of it, it’s hard to play it.”
Phil Mickelson refused to allow the mud to bother his game en route to a seven-under-par 65 in his first round.
“Every shot in the fairway had a bunch of mud on it,” said Mickelson. “It was tough maneuvering around that. The only downside, every ball hit in the fairway had a clump of mud. I had one that shot left on 13 into the hazard.
“The conditions were ideal. There was no wind. The golf course is soft, so you get at a lot of the pins. I’ve felt good with the putter all year. You get greens like that, they’re so true, you feel like you should make everything. It’s frustrating when you miss one, because they’re just perfect greens. So pristine.”
The golfers were allowed to pick and clean for the second round.
“It was tough this morning with the mud on the ball,” said 6-foot-4 Greg Owen. “They’re going to play it up this afternoon and we’ll keep going.”
Is Phil Back-to-Back?
Not even missing a short putt on his final hole in the second round Friday could discourage Phil Mickelson. The Man finished with a two-under-par 70 to go with his 65 in the morning to stand at nine under, just two shots off the lead.
Mickelson played 33 holes Friday after Thursday’s first round was interrupted by a thunderstorm.
“I really enjoyed it, because I got in a good rhythm,” said Mickelson. “If you start striking the ball well you can get a hot hand and make some birdies. There’s some advantage to keep playing, if you’re playing well.’
Mickelson got as low as 10 under with a birdie at No. 7, his 16th hole.
He flashed back to the 2011 Shell Houston Open, when he shot a course record 63 Saturday and 65 Sunday to win the tournament by three strokes.
“It’s a lot better position than I was in last year, heading into the weekend,” said Mickelson, who went 70-70 in his first two rounds last year, trailing leader Chris Kirk by five shots. “I feel really good on this golf course and my game feels good. Hopefully I can shoot a little bit lower round than I did this afternoon.”
Michelson’s only win on the 2011 Tour was in Houston. “I look back on last year and this was the highlight, right here in Houston,” he said. “It’s good to play well and build some momentum heading into next week (at the Masters). Having a good finish, having a win, if possible, all builds confidence. “This morning (in round one) I played really well, had some good opportunities that I took advantage of and made some good putts. The second round I wasn’t quite as hot with the putter. There’s a lot of good things to build on for the weekend.”
Why Look Old if You Don’t Feel Old
Fred Couples admitted to some concern about needing to play 33 holes Friday. He is 52 years old.
“The problem is we're going to see what happens this afternoon,” said Couples after completing his morning round with a five-under-par 67. “I’ll struggle my way around and see what happens.”
Couples didn’t show any wear when he began his second round at 12:20 on the back nine. He birdied Nos. 11 and 13 to go seven under. But he gave one shot back with a bogey at 17 and gave two away more away with a double bogey at 18 and finished with a 73, leaving him four under for the tournament.
“The first 18 I played very, very well, made a few putts coming in (including a birdie at 18),” said Couples. “I drove the ball very well. I did drive it to the right on 18 (in the first round), which is kind of understandable with the ocean to the left. But I hit most of the fairways and made some putts. I birdied four of the last five holes.”
Couples won the Mississippi Gulf Resort Classic last week on the Champions Tour.
“Last week at Mississippi I one-handed that,” he said of playing a shorter course. “Out here you can't really do that. You've got to drive it in play. It's a long course.”
Just Puttering Around
Tommy Gainey arrived at the Shell Houston Open with little reason for optimism. He had played in nine previous events this year, missing the cut five times and withdrawing twice.
His two finishes were a tie for 52nd and a tie for 79th. He shot 76-77 last week at Bay Hill, once again giving himself the weekend off.
Could this be the same guy who shot 68-67, just two shots off the lead, in the first two rounds at Redstone?
“I was playing bad all year until this week,” said the 36-year-old from South Carolina. “I switched putters and kind of changed it up a little bit. This one felt good.”
Someone asked Gainey about his long day of golf, playing 32 holes Friday.
“You talk about a long day, how about a long year so far for me,” he said. “It’s been a bad year. I’m just trying to work out the kinks.”
Gainey saw a change when he made the move to an Odyssey Medal RX putter.
“I switched to it Tuesday, played with it Wednesday,” he said. “I played good Wednesday. I putted lights out (the last) two days. Sometimes when you get in a slump it’s time to make a change. That’s all I needed. I’m in love (with the putter) right now. I’m glad to see it going in the hole. I just have to take it over to the weekend.”
It was more than just putting that kept holding Gainey back this year, continually missing fairways.
“Once you start missing all these cuts, and the ball’s not going in the hole, everything starts going the other way,” he said. “When you see that ball going in the hole, it changes the confidence, it changes everything.