The putter D.A. Points once took from his mother paid off nicely for him Thursday in the Houston Open in Humble, Texas.
Points opened with five birdies in a row and wound up with an 8-under-par 64 on a pleasant morning with only moderate wind at Redstone Golf Club. He had a 1-shot lead over Cameron Tringale and afternoon starter John Rollins with the late groups still on the course.
Rory McIlroy, in his final start before the Masters Tournament, was 3 over par after a double bogey on the par-5 eighth, then rallied for a 73 in his afternoon round.
Points first borrowed the Ping Anser from his mother during his junior years in Illinois, and like most golfers, he abandoned it once he stopped making putts. But he recently asked Ping to clean it up for him and add some weight. He also got a putting lesson — no, not from Steve Stricker — and he was on his way.
“Maybe I’m an idiot for not having used this putter the whole time,” Points said. “It worked well today.”
Points, whose only win came with actor Bill Murray at his side at the Pebble Beach National Pro-am, made all five of his opening birdies from inside 15 feet. He dropped only 1 shot along the way.
Angel Cabrera of Argentina, a two-time major champion who lives in Houston, was in the group at 66.
Phil Mickelson was at 4 under and right in the mix until he hit his tee shot into the water on the sixth hole and made double bogey, nearly hooked a 3-wood into the hazard on the next hole and three-putted for bogey, and then made bogey on the par-3 ninth from a bunker to wind up at 72.
Mickelson played with defending champion Hunter Mahan, who didn’t hit the ball his best and it finally caught up with him at the end for a 74.
Lee Westwood hit 2 shots in the water and still salvaged a bogey and was in the large group at 68 that included Riviera winner John Merrick and Jimmy Walker.
Charles Howell III had a 69 in his bid to get into his hometown major at Augusta National. Howell would need to finish at least in fourth place alone to have any chance of moving into the top 50.
For Points, Tringale and so many others, they need a win to get into the Masters.
Points was just trying to see some reasonable results, having made only two cuts all year. He did manage to join a group of stars in the Tavistock Cup earlier this week, and upon leaving home, he grabbed a handful of putters. One of them once belonged to his mother.
Ping rep Matt Rollins had some weights added to the putter, and equally important was an impromptu lesson from Lamar golf coach Brian White.
“It’s one of those things,” Points said. “I holed some nice par putts yesterday in my pro-am. I didn’t hit it great, but I made a few good putts.”
Marcel Siem of Germany had two eagles to shoot an 8-under 64 and lead by 3 strokes after the opening round of the Hassan II Trophy in Agadir, Morocco. Siem also made five birdies on the Golf du Palais Royal course, with an eagle and birdie on the last two holes.
Alvaro Velasco of Spain is second sitting at 67.