The Starter: Round 2, Shell Houston Open

By: samjack

The second round of the Shell Houston Open is set to begin. Here’s a look at Friday’s round

At most PGA TOUR events, especially those that are as affected by the winds of change like the Shell Houston Open, a few players go very low early Thursday and then are brought back to the pack when they play in the breezier afternoon wave on Friday. This year at Redstone, nobody ran off in the opening round, so watch out early Friday to see if an Anthony Kim, a Lee Westwood, a Justin Leonard or a Cameron Percy, who are very much in the hunt from the late wave Thursday, goes low and sets the pace for the weekend if the winds are down in the morning.

Westwood and Leonard got to the same opening-round number, 69, but had somewhat different attitudes headed into Friday’s second round. Westwood only made three birdies but was rarely in any trouble and didn’t make a single bogey. He seemed a bit ho-hum when I talked to him afterward while Justin Leonard was juiced by his very different 69 — with seven birdies, two bogeys and a double. Leonard felt like he had just a couple of bad swings and feels that a fix he made with his putter is finally taking hold.

Expect the pressure to rachet up a notch today for those still dreaming of punching that last ticket to the Masters with a win here. More than two-thirds of those within three of the lead beginning the day are NOT headed to Augusta unless they win. I detected a calm from all the players I saw on Thursday who are already in the Masters field, and a noticeable edge from those who aren’t — yet.

INSTRUCTOR’S CORNER: Steve Hanlon, head instructor at TPC San Antonio, analyzes the playing conditions this week at Redstone

Looking into the leaderboard I have noticed that the guys at the top are leading in putting stats as well. One of the many things we at the TOUR Academy like to talk about in putting is cadence. With the best putters in the world, it always appears that no matter the length of putt, the stroke never seems fast or rushed. I recommend getting out to your practice green and working with a metronome or any device that will begin to give you a nice rhythmical beep or tone. You hear the first tone and the putter starts away, second tone you have moved into the forward swing transition, and the third tone you should be finishing your stroke. Only then should you be starting to move your head and eyes to track the ball and ensure you have hit your line.

Putting practice is probably for most of us one of the hardest things to do, but getting out once or twice a week and working on good cadence may just put you on top of your own leaderboard.

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