PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 28, 2013

Steady 71 for Chris Stroud at Shell Houston Open

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

HUMBLE — Just went it looked like another round at the Redstone Tournament Course, and another Shell Houston Open might be slip-sliding away Thursday afternoon, Chris Stroud rallied with back-to-back birdies that paved the way for a steady 71 in the opening round of the Shell Houston Open.

  Stroud was one-over-par and leaking oil after bogeys on his 10th and 11th holes when he rolled in 7-foot birdie putts on Redstone's par 4, 3rd and par 5, 4th -- he started his round on the back nine -- to stop the bleeding. He then finished with five consecutive easy pars, one that came after missing a birdie from 4 feet on the par 5, 8th, to close at 1-under.

  Normally a 71 wouldn't be cause to celebrate but given Stroud's history at Redstone it was reason for the Lamar ex to consider it a small victory. In 16 Shell Houston Open rounds, he's only gone lower than 71 twice -- a first-day 68 in 2009 and a an opening 69 last year.

  Though he's seven-shots off the lead of D.A. Points, who fired a 64 thanks in part to a putting lesson from Lamar golf coach Brian White, there were other reasons for Stroud to walk away with a positive vibe. For openers, his 71 came under much tougher conditions as part of the breezy afternoon wave when only nine of 26 sub-70 rounds were posted.

 With an 8:40 a.m. start today, he expects find Redstone playing easier.

 Meanwhile, Stroud's former Lamar teammate Shawn Stefani, who staggered to an opening 79, would certainly have loved to have signed off on a 71. So would World No. 2 Rory McIlory (73), Steve Stricker (73) and defending champ Hunter Mahan (74).

  "I was just kind of scraping it around, then hit really good shots into 3 and 4 to set up birdies, and played  well the rest of the way," Stroud said. "I had some chances to get more birdies coming in and couldn't get putts to fall. The birdie putt on 8 did a horseshoe and came out.

  "I actually feel pretty good about my day. Scoring was much tougher in the afternoon because of the wind. I'm looking forward to going out in the morning and having the chance to put up a low number."

  As for tournament leader Points, LU's White may have done for him what Steve Stricker's putting lesson did for Tiger Woods a couple of weeks ago. And Stroud gets an assist.

  After a round at Bay Hill last week, Stroud stopped off at Points' Orlando home for a drink. Points, who was in the midst of a horrible slump caused by poor putting, was talking about taking the next four weeks off. His wife asked Stroud to try and change her husband's mind.

  "I told him to come to Houston and I'd get my college coach to work with him on his putting," Stroud said. "I don't think it's widely known what a great putting instructor Whitey is. So D.A. said he'd come, Whitey got with him, adjusted his hand position, told him he was being too "scoopy" with his stroke and he goes out and makes 155 feet of putts.

  "Like I told you earlier in the week, it's a crazy game."