Sergio Garcia came out Friday morning and fired a 7-under 65 to grab the clubhouse lead at the Shell Houston Open.
Then it was Matt Kuchar’s turn to go low. Playing in the afternoon, Kuchar shot 5-under 65 to end up at 11 under, one shot back of Garcia’s 12 under through two rounds at the Golf Club of Houston.
Here are 5 Things you need to know from Friday’s second-round action in Humble, Texas:
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1. SERGIO SURGES: Sergio Garcia had previously made just one start at the Shell Houston Open before this year – he tied for 77th in 2009.
It’s a lack of experience that proved to not matter Friday, as Garcia shot 7-under 65 to vault into the lead at 12 under. The Spaniard made five birdies and added an eagle from inside of 5 feet at the par-5 13th. He missed just one fairway, too, while four of his five birdie putts came from outside of 10 feet – including a 30-footer for birdie at the par-3 14th.
“It’s nice,” Garcia said of his putting. “I’ve been working on it for a long time now and back at home these last three weeks, trying to make sure that I keep my head still. When I keep my head still I release the putt so much better and I get better rolls on it.”
This week marks the sixth PGA Tour start of the season for Garcia, who hasn’t finished outside the top 16 in his last five events.
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2. KUCHAR CLOSE BEHIND: After hitting all 18 greens in regulation during Thursday’s opening round, Matt Kuchar missed his first two greens in Friday’s second round.
The good news, though, is Kuchar was able to get up-and-down for par both times. He missed two more greens on the front nine, and was able to save par in each instance, as well.
But then came the par-4 18th, where Kuchar missed his fifth and final green of the day. This time, he was unable to save par, missing a 6-foot putt for 66. Instead, Kuchar had to settle for a 5-under 67 that put him one shot back of Sergio Garcia at 11 under.
“It was breezy all day today,” Kuchar said. “When it’s windy like this, you really got to be hitting the ball solid. I knew from last week I was playing some good golf (T-4, Valero Texas Open). I was in pretty good control of what I was doing, hitting a lot of solid shots, which if you’re not hitting it solid, this wind will really eat your shots up.”
Kuchar’s putter was especially solid Friday. He made three birdie putts of 20-plus feet, including a 40-footer at the par-3 seventh hole.
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3. JONES’ SECOND CHANCE: Matt Jones was one putt away from earning a spot in the 2014 Masters when he missed a 6-footer on the final hole of last year’s BMW Championship.
“I had a chance on the last hole from 6 feet, and I hit a great putt that I thought was in, and it lipped out,” Jones said.
Had he made the putt, he would’ve entered the top 30 of the FedEx Cup standings and qualified for the Tour Championship the following week. Instead, he tied for eighth and his season was over.
“But I had a good year,” Jones added. “I can’t complain at all.”
Fortunately, Jones still has a chance of getting an invite to Augusta National, but he must win this week to do it.
His second straight 4-under 68 Friday has him at 8 under, four shots back of leader Sergio Garcia. He made five birdies and one bogey for the second consecutive day, as well. On the season, Jones has made eight of 11 cuts, but has no top 10s.
Should he win this week, he’d earn that first top 10 of the season, become the third Australian winner on Tour in the past four events and, of course, book his ticket to the Masters.
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4. TOAST IN TEXAS: Jordan Spieth made just one birdie Friday en route to shooting 3-over 74. The poor round dropped him to 1 over and kept him out of the weekend for the first time at the Shell Houston Open – the former Texas standout tied for 50th in his Houston debut last season.
The cut fell at even par with 77 players making it into the weekend. The cut was projected at 1 under until Tyrone Van Aswegen, playing in one of the final groups, double-bogeyed the par-4 18th to drop to even par. He and seven others, including Ernie Els and Brendon de Jonge, made the cut on the number.
Among those joining Spieth in the missed-cut group: defending champ D.A. Points (1 over), Louis Oosthuizen (1 over) and Ian Poulter (3 over).
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5. SHORT SHOTS: Phil Mickelson moved to 6 under after a second-round, 2-udner 70 while Rory McIlroy is 3 under after shooting 71. . . . First-round leaders Bill Haas and Charley Hoffman shot 2-over 74 and 4-over 76, respectively, Friday. . . . Steve Stricker, making just his third start of the season this week, is 7 under overall after carding a second-round, 3-under 69. . . . After recording a first-round, 6-under 66, Keegan Bradley shot 77 Friday to fall back to 1 under.