Fowler in top form with Masters ahead
LPGA’s opening major suspended by high winds.
Rickie Fowler shot an 8-under 64 for a one-shot lead over Sung Kang after the first round of the Houston Open on Thursday.
Fowler had his best round in six appearances at the tournament, topping a previous low score of 68. Fowler overcame damp conditions and a chilly, breezy morning in Humble, Texas, to jump to a hot start.
Fowler won last month at the Honda Classic and is trying to keep momentum going into the Masters next week. The Honda Classic win snapped a 13-month, 25-start drought for Fowler.
Fowler held a three-shot lead over Vaughn Taylor and Keegan Bradley when he finished his round in the afternoon, then Kang closed the gap with his 65. The 29-yearold South Korean missed a putt from less than 5 feet to bogey on 18.
Kang is among the 115 players who need a victory to qualify for Augusta National, as Jim Herman did by winning in Houston last year. Among the 144 players in the Houston Open field, 29 already have invitations to play. It would have been 30, expect Dustin Johnson decided to take the week off after winning the Dell Technologies Match Play for his third straight victory.
Behind Fowler and Kang, Stewart Cink, Jhonattan Vegas and Kyle Stanley all shot 6-under 66. Jordan Spieth struggled at times and shot 3-under 69. Herman shot 2-over 74, while 2015 Houston Open winner J.B. Holmes shot 1-over 73.
Kang said he doesn’t want to get too far ahead of himself by eyeing a last-minute ticket to Augusta after the first round.
“I don’t know anything about the future, and whatever happens, happens,” Kang said. “I’ll just keep doing what I can do the next few days, and I’ll accept the results.”
Heavy rains canceled the pro-am event at the Golf Club of Houston on Wednesday but sun dried out the course later Thursday, and the greens began to play faster.
Fowler said he was fortunate to not have been too thrown off by the muddy conditions.
“I felt like I got some good breaks with having mud on the same side as where the trouble was and that I could kind of keep it fairly conservative,”
Fowler said. “If the mud was kind of kicking in, it ended up being a good shot.”
On Thursday night, Fowler traveled 20 miles south to downtown Houston to throw out the first pitch at the Astros’ exhibition game against the Cubs.
“It’s probably more nervous when you get out there on the mound than we really ever get or maybe close to Ryder Cup nerves,” Fowler said. “You’re just hoping not to screw up.”
LPGA Tour: France’s Karine Icher shot a 5-under 67 to take an early lead before high winds shortened the opening day of the ANA Inspiration in Rancho Mirage, Calif.
Half of the field in the LPGA Tour’s first major of the year was still on the course when wild winds in the Coachella Valley forced an early halt to play. The first round will resume this morning. Four players on the Dinah Shore Course were one shot behind Icher, including Michelle Wie and 17-year-old amateur Eun Jeong Seong.
Wie, the former child prodigy, played her opening round with 14-year-old Lucy Li, who was 1 under.
Lydia Ko, the defending ANA Inspiration champion and world No. 1, was 2 under through five holes.
Rickie Fowler lines up a birdie putt on the 10th hole during Thursday’s first round of the Houston Open. Fowler sank it for one of eight birdies in his 64.