|Maggert takes one-shot lead after two rounds - March 31, 2012
BY ED FOWLER
Home cooking earned still another endorsement as local favorite Jeff Maggert stomped out of the shadows and into the second-round lead at the 2012 Shell Houston Open.
The 48-year-old Maggert, who lives in the Houston suburb The Woodlands and played for Texas A&M, had missed the cut in his last five events before he finally let the PGA Tour come to him.
The SHO isn’t quite as handy as at its former venue, The Woodlands TPC, when he could fall out of bed and onto the course, but he’s only a couple of zip codes from the house. And Maggert should know the way: He’s playing in his 25th SHO.
Returning on Saturday morning to complete the second round after a storm on Thursday afternoon disrupted the schedule, Maggert posted his second 6-under 66. His 132 total was one better than Brian Davis, Louis Oosthuizen and James Driscoll managed. The defending champion, Phil Mickelson, topped a group three shots off the lead.
Also in that pack was Angel Cabrera, the Argentinean two-time major winner who makes his second home a few minutes from the Redstone Golf Club Tournament Course. Like Maggert, Cabrera has struggled of late and is looking for a rebirth in familiar surroundings.
If not for a three-putt on his final hole of the second round, No. 9, he would have played all 36 without a bogey. As it was, he hit 12 of 14 fairways and 16 of 18 greens in that second lap and used 28 putts in each of the first two rounds.
“I’ve been struggling a little with my putter the last month-and-a-half,” he said, “but the greens are so good this week and I made some putts early in my round (Friday) and got a little confidence now and I’m just seeing the lines well and feeling the speed. I just get up there feeling I can make 10- and 15-footers all the time.”
“I’ve been striking the ball really good – lot of balls close to the hole, lot of easy birdies. It’s a strange game.”
For the first time in a while, he meant that in the best possible way.
Davis and Oosthuizen, the co-leaders at the end of play on Friday, each played 32 holes that day.
“It’s actually easier if you find your mojo early,” said the London-born Davis, whose mojo is based in Orlando, Fla., these days.
“It was great,” the South African Oosthuizen chirped. “If you play well, to keep the momentum going is great. Just grab lunch and go on. I would have loved to tee off on my third round.”
Mickelson might not have been quite that chipper but he was hardly pouting. The defending champion played 15 holes early to complete his first lap in 7-under 65, tied for the lead. After that start on a course on which he had birdied 18 of his final 36 holes the year before, it appeared he might retire the trophy before nightfall.
Instead, he came down with a case of the balky putter and bogeyed his final hole, missing a 3-foot par putt on the par-3 ninth, for a 70. After nine one-putt greens in his first 10 holes in the first round, that must have stung a bit, especially considering that the field played the second round with little wind, soft greens and the ball-in-hand rule in effect.
Still, Mickelson struck the ball well and looked ahead to the weekend on a course he dominated a year ago. “I feel really good on this golf course and my game feels good,” he said. “I played pretty well the second round but I didn’t get the score I had hoped. I’ve got to light it up on the weekend.”
All the frolicking was fine for the youngsters but 52-year-old Fred Couples had a tougher go of it. Playing with Mickelson, he posted a sparkling 67 for the first round. Well before completing the second, however, he was obviously feeling the effects of the long day in his tender back. He shot one-over and slipped back to seven off the pace.
The 29-year-old Oosthuizen is a farmer’s son whose career got a boost from countryman Ernie Els’ foundation in South Africa. With Els’ help beginning when he was 17, he turned pro at 20. In 2011 he began playing both the European and U. S. tours – in addition to playing as often as possible on the Sunshine Tour at home – and struggled with scheduling difficulties.
He still managed three top-10 finishes on the PGA Tour but is still trying to regain the form he flashed in winning the 2010 British Open. He appeared to be closing in. “It’s a good opportunity,” he said, “and the way I’m hitting it, I feel confident.”
His co-leader has been working through a more difficult transition. Davis, an only child, lost his father to cancer late last year. Since then, he has changed caddies and sports psychologists and his family’s traveling arrangements.
Davis, 37, has suffered two bouts of skin cancer himself and two of his three young children have had serious health issues. His son, Henry, has had kidney problems and his daughter, Madeline, had two collapsed lungs shortly after her birth.
He missed the cut in three of his first four events this year but made a strong move last week. Playing in Arnold Palmer’s tournament on a sponsor’s exemption, he wired four solid rounds and finished fourth.