Peter Malnati shoots 65 at Houston Open with wife expecting first baby

Peter Malnati poses for a photo with his wife Alicia Malnati. Malnati with wife, Alicia.

Peter Malnati shoots 65 at Houston Open with wife expecting first baby

Golf

Peter Malnati shoots 65 at Houston Open with wife expecting first baby

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Peter Malnati picked a good time to go low. The 32-year-old Malnati is competing at the Houston Open before a scheduled five-week break, during which time wife, Alicia, expects to give birth to the couple’s first child. (Her due date is Oct. 26 and Malnati says, “Momma is ready.”)

“The last couple weeks I’ve let it be a distraction in that I haven’t really prepared the way I normally would because my head’s back home, I want to be home,” Malnati conceded. “This week I was like, ‘Dude, this is your last tournament before you become a dad, like do something with it.’ The best thing you can do for your wife and your kid is to go out and play good.”

On Friday, Malnati burst out of the gate with a 5 under start through his first five holes and overcame a suspension of play and challenging conditions once play resumed to shoot 7-under 65. His bogey-free round, which included an eagle at No. 4, lifted him to a 36-hole total of 10-under 144 and the lead in the clubhouse among the early finishers.

Malnati, who blogs about his journey in the game online, had bragged in his latest post that “the game feels great.”

“In all areas, my good shots feel effortless and they are the best they’ve ever been,” he wrote. “But the consistency just isn’t there and I’ve been posting mediocre-to-poor results on the course.”

Malnati’s slow start this season includes back pain that forced him to withdraw during the third round of A Military Tribute at The Greenbrier and missed cuts at his last two starts.

Malnati would love nothing more than to deliver his second Tour title this week and first victory since the 2015 Sanderson Farms Championship. It’s been a while since he’s sniffed the lead — he hasn’t recorded a top-10 finish in an individual tournament since the 2016 Hyundai Tournament of Champions.

After opening with a 3-under 69 on Thursday at The Golf Club of Houston, Malnati did most of his damage early before the weather turned ugly. He birdied the first two holes and then rolled in a 22-foot eagle putt at No. 4 and turned in 31.

“Playing no bogeys in the conditions we played on my last, what, 13 holes, is really more than I could have ever hoped for,” Malnati said.

He saved his longest birdie putt of the day for his last at No. 15, a 24-footer and parred in from there in cool, blustery conditions.

Malnati’s 65 was two strokes better than the next best scores, a pair of 67s by J.J. Henry and Carlos Ortiz, who improved to 7 under for the tournament and tied with Mark Hubbard (68-69), who lives nearby at The Woodlands yet was still caught off guard by the weather fluctuation.

“It was weird,” Hubbard said. “I was sweating through my gray pants this morning at 7:00 a.m. and by about our 13th hole I wished I had another jacket.”

Ortiz, 28, had a chance to notch his first win a few weeks ago at the Sanderson Farms Championship, and finished T-4. He said the fickle Houston wind was tricky to judge even on the downwind holes. But Ortiz didn’t let it slow his charge up the leaderboard. He sits within three strokes of Malnati entering Saturday. Ortiz’s round of six birdies and one bogey was highlighted by a chip-in birdie from 34 feet off the green at the par-3 ninth.

Overnight co-leader Talor Gooch (9 under thru 14) was Malnati’s closest pursuer when the horn blew at 6:56 p.m., suspending play with 59 players yet to complete the second round. Play will resume at 9 a.m, ET. Sepp Straka completed his second round, a 71, to get to 8-under 136, while Nick Watney (-8 thru 14) and Lanto Griffin (-8 thru 13) are still on the course trying to chase down Malnati, who wasn’t even sure he was going to play this week because of the impending birth of his firstborn.

“I’m fully on call,” Malnati said.

When asked if he’s longed to be a dad someday, Malnati didn’t hesitate.

“Most kids, when they kick it around at their home course growing up, they’re dreaming about that putt to win the Masters,” he said. “I always took that dream one step farther. I dreamt of winning the Masters and then having my family run out onto the 18th green to celebrate with me…That was the dream stuff.”

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