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SHO and Tell: The Latest on The Shell Houston Open
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Sunday's Notes & Quotes - April 05, 2009
Anything but a Routine Tournament

 

John Mallinger was pleased to shoot 70 Sunday, moving himself into a tie for sixth at the Shell Houston Open.

Mallinger was part of the morning brigade Thursday that fought through the wind before the first round was delayed a day because of the conditions.

“I got what I would have to say was the bad end of the draw,” Mallinger said. “That was the worst wind I’ve ever played in.”

Mallinger stood at three over through nine holes when play was halted Thursday. He shot even par on his second nine when the round was completed Friday, then followed with rounds of 65-70-70.

Someone asked Mallinger how much he attributed to being three over Thursday to the wind.

“All of it,” he said. “I got off to that terrible start, then came back with 65. It was just frustrating.”

He played his last 63 holes in 11 under.

“I’ve been playing really well,” he said. “I kind of just stayed patient.

“It’s tough to get in a routine and get going. As soon as you get in a routine, you get knocked out. There was a lot of waiting. I was up at 5:30 every single morning for the last four days. When something like that happens, that’s the hardest thing I’d say.”

Mallinger said the long days were tougher on him mentally than physically.

“When you get days when you play 27 holes, it just wipes you out,” he said. “For me, (it was tougher) mentally. I have no problem physically. (Saturday) I was getting tired coming down the stretch. So I was glad when they blew that horn.”

Forever a Favorite in Houston

 

There was little question that the fans at the Shell Houston Open Sunday were rooting the loudest for Fred Couples, the former University of Houston golfer.

“They’re pretty loud here, yelling, ‘Go Cougar, Cougar, Cougar,’ ” said Couples after shooting 74 to finish tied for third. “But it doesn’t help you when you’re 240 yards into a left to right wind when you can’t reach the green on a par 4.”

Couples won the tournament here in 2003 and the fans would still love him if he shot 84.

 “It’s always fun,” he said of playing in Houston. “Going to school here was a blessing. It’s where I really learned how to play, and become a good player. Now I have a Champions Tour to come back and play in The Woodlands. The whole idea is always to have people rooting for you. I feel I’ve had that my whole life. Here it feels like it’s 10 times deeper because I went to school here.”

Through 15 holes Sunday Couples had nearly everyone believing he could win the Shell again, alone in first place at 12 under. But he finished bogey-bogey-bogey.

“I wasn’t tired on the 16th green, but I am now,” he said. “After I three putted I was a little more tired. I played really well until …. I am disappointed. It was awfully hard out there. I knew J.B. (Holmes) was in the clubhouse (at 11 under) when I had a lot of holes left.”

Because of the rain and wind delays Thursday, Couples ended up playing 28 holes Saturday and 26 Sunday.

“I haven’t played 54 holes (in two days) in a long time,” he said. “It’s pretty stressful out there. You’re trying to hit solid shots. You do and you’re still 40 feet from the hole and trying to two putt. I’m extremely tired now. I’m going to lie down for a couple of hours, then fly to Augusta around 8 o’clock and relax tomorrow.”

Couples said one bad shot at the par 5, 590-yard 13th hole cost him dearly.

 “Thirteen was terrible,” he said. “I hit a beautiful second shot. I had the easiest chip maybe of the whole week, and I just fluffed it. Most people would have made four there. I still would have had to play better than I did coming in.”

To the fans it didn’t matter all that much. They still love Fred Couples in Houston.

No. 18 gets even

How tough did the 18th hole play in Sunday’s final round?

Well, four players made quadruple bogeys! You may have heard of a few of them, Greg Norman, Scott McCarron, Tom Pernice Jr. and Jason Dufner.

Sergio Garcia, Peter Lonard and John Rollins made mere triple bogeys there and 11 other players scored double bogeys. That’s pretty ugly golf.

“Eighteen is tough, borderline ridiculous it’s playing so hard,” said Hunter Mahan, who bogeyed the hole Sunday. “It’s a par 5 plus, maybe. It’s a tough tee shot, a really hard second, then you’re not there because the wind is blowing so hard.”

J.B. Holmes, who lost the playoff to Paul Casey at No. 28, described standing on the 18th green in the fourth round as “scary.”

“It’s terrifying,” continued Holmes. “It’s a very intimidating tee shot. And after you master that, if you do master that, the next shot is just as hard, if not harder. The bailout’s right (to avoid the water). If you do bail it out, you’ve got the bunker shot I had. So it’s not easy.”

Holmes parred the hole his first time through Sunday, but drove it in the water in the playoff, opening the door for Casey’s victory.

“I couldn’t even get home on 18,” said John Mallinger, another bogey man on Sunday’s final hole. “You have to hit a solid shot or the wind’s going to take over. We weren’t even planning on trying to get to the green (landing 25 yards short). Other than that, it’s pretty easy.”

“It’s a tough hole,” said Norman. “Other holes on the golf course are set up fairly easy, so no problem with that. You’ve got to get in there and hit the shots. The two I guys I played with (Kirk Triplett and Martin Kaymer) made four, so it wasn’t that hard a hole.”

The average score Sunday at No. 18, not including the playoff, was 5.103, easily making it the toughest hole for the fourth round.

The Hunter and the Hunted

Hunter Mahan fought his way back into contention for a while Sunday.

Starting the day at just four under par, seven shots behind the leaders, Mahan worked his way to 10 under through 15 holes before bogeying two of the last three to finish tied for sixth.

“I was battling all day and I kind of got up there,” said Mahan, whose 68 Sunday was the low score of the day. “I looked at (the scoreboard). I saw J.B. (Holmes) finish at 11. I was trying to get there and just couldn’t do it.”

It was Mahan’s best finish of the year, though he had made the cut in all seven previous starts.

“It was nice to make some birdies, nice to play well, nice to hit a lot of good shots when I had to,” he said. “I’ve been playing like this all year. I’ve been making a lot of good swings, making some good shots, just not getting a lot out of it.”

Beating the wind was tougher than beating anyone else Sunday.

“The guys (who did play) Thursday saw all this wind and the tough conditions,” Mahan said. “It was a very tough today. It was tough to get to some of the holes where they were. It was really gusty.

“I left a gozillion shots out there this week, but it was nice to finish with a good round.”

The Waiting Game

 

The wait seemed endless to J. B. Holmes, who posted an 11 under total earlier in the day then had to hang around to see if anyone could match it. Only Paul Casey did, beating Holmes on the first playoff hole to win the tournament.

“It was rough,” he said. “I wasn’t that far behind the leaders (three shots) starting the day.”

Because of time problems, the field was not paired again after the third round, meaning Holmes teed off one hour and 50 minutes ahead of the final group.

“No excuse, but waiting almost three hours was rough,” he said. “I was watching TV and then went and warmed up after Paul hit his tee shot on 17.”

Going off earlier did give Holmes an advantage, he believed, because it wasn’t quite as windy as it was later.

“That was an advantage I thought I had,” he said. “But when you get into a playoff after waiting for three hours it turns into a little bit of a disadvantage.

“The wind was much harder when I played (18) the first time. I ripped a drive the first time. If I hit a 3-wood on that hole I wouldn’t have even got the green. 

“I don’t think I could have put any more pressure on them than I did. I posted that (score) three hours. Freddie was 12 and Paul was at 10. I thought I had a pretty good chance to maybe even win outright. Then Paul made a couple of great birdies and played great coming down the stretch.” 

Not Normal for Norman

 

Greg Norman said the Shell Houston Open, when no one had a normal 18-whole day, was probably the most disjoined of his whole career.

“I’m glad I came, obviously,” he said after shooting 81 Sunday, thanks partially to his quadruple bogey eight on the 18th hole. “But at the end of the week, when you look back on the whole lack of cohesiveness of it, we were just on the funky side of the draw.”

Norman was six under par entering the final round. He thought he accomplished something the first three days, but not Sunday. 

“I think they got scared after the first day, and the greens weren’t fast,” he said. “The greens were soft, nothing like they’re going to be next week speed wise (at Augusta National).”

Chip Shots

 

Bo Van Pelt was the leader on the course, at 11 under, when play was suspended at 7:34 Saturday night. Five other players had tied him for the lead by the time they finished their third round Sunday morning. Van Pelt led this year’s Mayakoba Golf Classic after three rounds six weeks ago in Mexico, but shot 79 the final day to end up 29th. He shot 78 Sunday at Redstone to finish tied for 19th. … Rookie Colt Knost from Dallas was tied for the lead entering the final round. Knowst, who won the U.S. Amateur in 2007, played collegiately at SMU. … John Senden’s streak of 292 consecutive holes without a three-putt finally ended Sunday at No. 16. He four putted. His last three-putt was Feb. 8 in the final round of the Buick Invitational at Torrey Pines. … The fifth and sixth holes have proved tougher on the pros through the first three rounds this week, but No. 18 tormented the players more than any other hole Sunday. … Veteran Mark Calcavecchia withdrew after nine holes of the final round with a back injury. Calcavecchia shot 69-73-81 in his first three rounds. He also withdrew last Sunday from the Arnold Palmer Invitational. … With 73 players needing to complete their third round Sunday morning, the final round did not begin until 9:30 a.m.


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