Tracker: Kuchar pulls away at Shell Houston Open

Matt Kuchar during Saturday's third round of the PGA Tour's 2014 Shell Houston Open.

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Matt Kuchar has opened up a lead during Saturday's third round of the Shell Houston Open, pulling ahead of second-round leader Sergio Garcia and the rest of the field in building momentum toward next week's Masters – while making things tough on anyone hoping for a last-second invitation to Augusta.

Recap the highlights of Kuchar's standout third round in Houston right here – and scroll down for earlier coverage this week!

• • •

Update #21: 3:19 p.m. ET

Leader Matt Kuchar finds the fairway and the green at the 18th, but three-putts for a bogey that drops him to 15 under, still four shots ahead.

Cameron Tringale pars the last for a 3-under 69 that has him T-2, a solid day but one that darkens his hopes for a win that could get him to Augusta.

Sergio Garcia gets up and down for a par to end his round T-2 at 11 under, two shots ahead of Matt Jones.

• • •

Update #21: 3:19 p.m. ET

Second-place Cameron Tringale slips another shot back of leader Matt Kuchar with a bogey at the 17th, expanding the margin to five shots and dropping Tringale to T-2 alongside second-round leader Sergio Garcia. Tringale hadn't bogeyed since the 10th, yet it's a tough closing stretch as was two shots back at one point as he chases a win here for a last-second Masters berth.

• • •

Update #20: 3:03 p.m. ET

Phil Mickelson bogeys the 17th to drop to T-8 at 6 under – 10 shots back of leader Matt Kuchar, whose birdie streak ends with a par at the 15th.

• • •

Update #19: 2:42 p.m. ET

A birdie at the par-5 13th followed by another at the par-3 14th gives leader Matt Kuchar a four-shot cushion over Cameron Tringale, with Sergio Garcia another shot back at 11 under.

Rickie Fowler, by the way, gets to the clubhouse with a birdie-par finish for a 68 that's the low round of the day so far, which has him T-5 at 8 under as he heads in.

• • •

Update #18: 2:28 p.m. ET

Well, hello Phil Mickelson: After a troubling front nine that saw early bogeys at Nos. 2-3, the reigning Open Championship victor has run off three straight birdies at Nos. 11-13 and followed with three pars to stand T-6 at 7 under.

That's still well back of leader Matt Kuchar, who's 14 under, but seeing as Mickelson likes for tournament play to help build his momentum going into a major, it could forecast a big week at Augusta if he keeps this up through tomorrow evening – and it certainly bodes well for his health after last week's WD in San Antonio.

• • •

Update #17: 2:14 p.m. ET

Birdie time for Matt Kuchar, who opens up a 3-shot lead at the 12th. Sergio Garcia keeps pace by birdieing as well, climbing back to T-2 at 11 under with Cameron Tringale, who has two straight pars.

• • •

Update #16: 2:02 p.m. ET

Golf Club of Houston apparently is not kind to those who begin the day with the lead: Second-round leader Sergio Garcia has started the back nine with two straight bogeys and is 2 over for the day, slipping to T-3 and three shots back of leader Matt Kuchar (who, if he hangs on, had better look out tomorrow). Friday, first-round co-leaders Bill Haas and Charley Hoffman turned in over-par rounds to slide down the board as well.

• • •

Update #15: 1:44 p.m. ET

A bogey at the 10th by Sergio Garcia restores leader Matt Kuchar's two-shot margin – and brings Cameron Tringale into a tie for second as he birdies the 11th.

• • •

Update #14: 1:31 p.m. ET

Leader Matt Kuchar cuts his lead in half with his first bogey of the day, which comes at the par-3 ninth after missing the green and failing to get up and down. That drops Kuchar to 13 under and a shot ahead of Sergio Garcia. Cameron Tringale bogeys at the 10th to drop to 10 under and T-3 alongside Ben Curtis. Rickie Fowler and Matt Jones are T-5 at 7 under.

• • •

Update #13: 1:01 p.m. ET

Leader Matt Kuchar pars his third straight hole to remain 14 under; through eight holes, he's two shots clear of second-round leader Sergio Garcia, who has parred five straight.

The weather radar, by the way, looks pretty favorable so far: As the lead group nears the turn, skies surrounding the Houston area are fairly clear, with rain well to the northwest.

• • •

Update #12: 12:51 p.m. ET

Half the top 10 on the leaderboard is comprised of players chasing a win for the final Masters berth. Topping that list is Cameron Tringale, who birdies No. 8 to rise to 11 under and three back of leader Matt Kuchar. Also needing a win to get to Augusta: Ben Curtis (5 back of the lead), Jon Curran, Matt Jones and Ryan Palmer (all 8 back).

• • •

Update #11: 12:29 p.m. ET

Back-to-back birdies lift Jon Curran to 3 under for his round as he climbs to T-7 at 6 under. Curran won last month's Brasil Champions on the Web.com Tour – and apparently the Vanderbilt product still has a hot hand, seeking his first career PGA Tour top-10 finish.

• • •

Update #10: 12:12 p.m. ET

After five straight pars, Rickie Fowler cards his third birdie of the day at No. 10 to rise to 7 under and T-6, seven shots back of leader Matt Kuchar. Fowler, an Oklahoma State product, is looking for a little momentum heading into his fourth Masters.

The most difficult hole at Golf Club of Houston on Friday was the par-4 18th – playing more than half a stroke above par (4.681). Local head pro Tommy Wofenberger outlines his tips for playing his course's water-guarded finishing hole.

• • •

Update #9: 12:03 p.m. ET

Chalk up another birdie for leader Matt Kuchar, who extends his lead to two with a birdie at the fifth and is 3 under today.

Cameron Tringale cards his third birdie in four holes after having opened with bogey, climbing to 10 under and T-3 alongside Ben Curtis.

Sean O'Hair has WD'd with a stomach virus. O'Hair started the day 3 under but fell to even par and called things to a halt when he bogeyed after the turn to drop to even par for the week.

• • •

Update #8: 11:56 a.m. ET

Let's check in on some of the players in this week's Shell Houston Open field who are among oddsmakers' favorites to win next week's Masters:

  • Rory McIlroy (8/1): T-26, 3 under (even through 10 holes today)
  • Phil Mickelson (15/1): T-12 at 5 under (1 over through six)
  • Dustin Johnson (15/1): WD after opening-round 80
  • Henrik Stenson (20/1): T-55 at even par (1 over through seven)
  • Matt Kuchar (20/1): Leader at 13 under (2 under through four)
  • Jordan Spieth (25/1): MC (70-75)
  • Keegan Bradley (30/1): T-27 at 3 under (2 under through seven)
  • Sergio Garcia (30/1): Second at 12 under (even through four)

(Also at 30/1 or better but not playing this week: Adam Scott, Jason Day, Bubba Watson, Justin Rose, Zach Johnson, Brandt Snedeker and Jason Dufner; click the link above for complete odds.)

• • •

Update #7: 11:43 a.m. ET

Matt Kuchar answers with a birdie at No. 4, the second straight day he's birdied the par 5, to reclaim the lead outright at 13 under and pull a shot ahead of Sergio Garcia for the second time today. Matt Jones also birdies the hole, rising to 9 under, as did Cameron Tringale in the group ahead; they're T-4 a shot back of Ben Curtis.

• • •

Update #6: 11:24 a.m. ET

A birdie at No. 3 lifts Sergio Garcia back into a share of the lead with Matt Kuchar. The Spaniard gets back to even par for the day after a drive in the fairway and approach to inside 10 feet, then sinking the putt.

Ben Curtis pulls within two shots, getting to 10 under as he birdies three of his first four holes to claim solo third. Matt Jones, Shawn Stefani, Cameron Tringale and Jimmy Walker are T-4 at 8 under, all even for the day.

• • •

Update #5: 11:09 a.m. ET

The low number in the early going today belongs to John Huh, 3 under at the turn to rise to T-13 at 5 under. Huh, a Cal-Northridge product looking for his first top-10 of the season, birdied Nos. 11, 13 and 15.

Leader Matt Kuchar and second-round leader Sergio Garcia par the second hole to remain 12 under and 11 under.

• • •

Update #4: 10:47 a.m. ET

With birdies on the third and fourth holes at the Golf Club of Houston, Rickie Fowler is 2 under for the day through five holes. That takes the one-time PGA Tour winner into the top-10 and six back of leader Matt Kuchar.

Garcia bogeyed the first hole from just over a foot away, while Kuchar hit a close approach shot in there to make birdie.

• • •

Update #3: 10:26 a.m. ET

Before the leaders tee off, see highlights from the second round at the Golf Club of Houston.

(mobile readers can watch the video here)

• • •

Update #2: 10:22 a.m. ET

Luke Donald made consecutive birdies on Nos. 12-14 to get to 5 under for the tournament. Donald is looking to earn his third top-10 of the season.

• • •

Update #1: 9:52 a.m. ET

The third round is underway as tee times were moved up on Saturday to beat out potential storms that are moving into the Humble, Texas, area this afternoon.

Player competitors Chris Kirk and Jonathan Byrd teed off on the back nine this morning, and are off to fast starts. Each player birdied the Nos. 10-13 to start the round and are 3 under through three holes. Currently, both players are at 5 under for the tournament.

Leader Sergio Garcia tees off with Matt Kuchar and Matt Jones at 9:30 a.m. CT.

• • •

Friday's coverage

5 Things: Garcia surges into Houston lead; Kuchar close behind; more

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.

Notes: Harrington's grip trouble; Mickelson's reason to smile; more

Three-time major champion Padraig Harrington suffered problems with the middle finger of his left hand on the 15th tee of the Shell Houston Open second round and had trouble gripping the club. Meanwhile, Phil Mickelson's game had him saying things are beginning to "click" as his trip to Augusta National nears.

Tracker: S. Garcia pushes way to Shell Houston lead at halfway point

Sergio Garcia moved into a commanding lead early Friday before Matt Kuchar pulled within a shot during afternoon play, with the T-3 group another three shots back. Recap the highlights right here.

• • •

Thursday's coverage

5 Things: Haas, Hoffman lead; Mickelson, Bradley bogey-free; more

Keegan Bradley, Matt Kuchar and J.B. Holmes grabbed the clubhouse lead early Thursday during the first round of the Shell Houston Open. But more red numbers were to be had later in the day at the Golf Club of Houston, including a pair of 7-under 65s, from Bill Haas and Charley Hoffman, who hold a share of the first-round lead. Here are 5 Things to know.

Tracker: B. Haas, C. Hoffman lead after first round in Houston

Bill Haas and Charley Hoffman grabbed a share of the first-round lead at the Shell Houston Open, but those weren't the only low numbers recorded Thursday at the Golf Club of Houston. Keegan Bradley and Matt Kuchar shot bogey-free 66s while Phil Mickelson was blemish-free in shooting a 68. Recap the highlights right here.

• • •

Preview coverage

Expert picks: R. McIlroy a heavy favorite at Shell Houston Open

This week's Shell Houston Open features some of the game's elite, including Rory McIlroy, Sergio Garcia, Dustin Johnson, Jordan Spieth and Keegan Bradley. It could even have Phil Mickelson, depending on how his pulled muscle has healed. And our panel of experts have taken notice of the stars this week.

D.A. Points brings ancient Ping i5 irons to Houston

The divots that D.A. Points creates on the driving range are each about the size of a playing card and about a half-inch deep. After he has finished hitting a bag of balls, the grid of dirt that remains is testament to his consistency. The clubs that make those divots, his Ping i5 irons, helped the former University of Illinois star win last season's Shell Houston Open. What makes them unique is their age.

Notes: P. Mickelson's audible; D. Toms' slump; more

As always, there’s a story behind the story. In the case of Phil Mickelson missing the pro-am at the Shell Houston Open, for instance, well, no need to point fingers and make a case out of it. It’s the way the sponsors want it. In fact, it’s the way they had it last year, too. And another time before that. Sponsors reserve the right “to shift a player out of the pro-am for another sponsor function,” said a tournament director, and that’s the case with Mickelson at Houston.

PGA Tour players discuss pre-Masters no-shows

When you win the Arnold Palmer Invitational, the big prize is an audience with the man himself. The exorbitant check – this year being $1,116,000 – that comes with it is due in large part to the man who has spent the majority of his 84 years building the PGA Tour into what it is. So an inquiring mind can’t be blamed for wondering: What would have happened had Matt Every, after making the recent API his first win, thanked Palmer, then said: “Oh, and by the way, I’m withdrawing from next week’s tournament."

Change at the top defines first half of PGA Tour season

With Tiger Woods and Phil Mickelson struggling, the 2013-14 PGA Tour season has not turned out like many observers would have thought. Woods has played in only three Tour events and has not been close to winning this year, while Mickelson, who withdrew with an injury during the third round of the Valero Texas Open, also has struggled. With only one more week before the Masters, the season’s first major championship, the two most important headliners in golf are questionable.

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