The Port Arthur News
Round one of the Shell Houston Open was truly one of those good news, bad news deals for Chris Stroud, and none of the news had anything to do with his finishing an hour ahead of heavy thunderstorms that wound up suspending play for the day.
The good news was that Stroud's new driver experiment worked reasonably well, with one notable exception, during a three-under par 69 that was his second lowest score in 15 rounds at the SHO. He'll return expecting even better things off the tee with his Taylor Made Rocketballz big stick.
The bad news was that 69 was pretty much the highest score Stroud could have posted, and the reason was a continuing trend of giving away shots to the field on 5-par holes.
Thanks to two penalty shots, he played the four 5 pars in one over. He drove into traps on three of the four and into trees on the other.
By way of comparison, the 66s of early leaders Angel Cabrera and Carl Pettersson showed both having played the 5 pars in three under. That's four strokes better than Stroud.
In last week's Arnold Palmer Invitational, Chris and tourney champion Tiger
Stroud was not unhappy, mind you, with an overall performance that saw him shoot under par at Redstone for only the fifth time. Except for the 5 pars, his play was almost flawless. He hit fairways and greens while making five birdies and no bogeys. Starting on the back nine, he birdied three of his first five holes and was tied for the early lead.
Then came the par 5, 15th and a tee shot that hooked into the trees, resulting in an unplayable-lie penalty. He walked off the green with a bogey 6.
"Actually, I made a pretty good swing," he would say later. "But it was only the third driver of the day and I was still feeling my way with it. The ball just took off left. I told Scotty (his caddy) that the toe was realy turning over, so now I just need to kind of feel like I'm holding the shot.
"My old driver, I'd have to release it hard to hit a draw. I don't have to release it hard with this driver. That shot cost me a bogey but it helped me for the rest of the day. I hit some good drives after that."
Stroud's other par-5 bogey came after a well-hit drive kicked hard left into a sand trap on No. 4 (his 13th hole). Facing what should have been a simple position shot with a 6-iron, he hooked the shot into water. Another penalty, another bogey.
"I just went brain dead," he said. "I didn't even think about the water. I was trying to hit a draw to get in good position for my third shot. All I was thinking about was avoiding the bunker on the right. The wind kind of caught it and the next thing I knew it was in the water."
Back to two under for the day after that bogey, Stroud did manage to birdie his final par 5 — No. 8. But he had to earn it after driving into a bunker and placing his second 100-yards from the green. He wedged to 9 feet and sank the putt.
The PN-G and Lamar ex had opened the day by rolling in a 7-footer for birdie on his first hole (No. 10), got another birdie from 6 feet on No. 12 and a third bird by draining a 16-footer on No. 14. His hightlight of the day, however, a 7-iron from 185 yards to 3 feet on the dangerous, par 4, 18th.
"Overall, I feel pretty good about the round," Stroud said. "It could have and should have been better, but I'm pleased with how well I executed my game plan. The key was to have a good rhythm with my driver and see what it does. After about 9 holes I kind of got a feel for it.
"I know I'm going to be a little back in the pack, because this was a good day for scoring. But I'll be in decent position. There are 54 holes left and a lot can happen. As good as I feel about my game, and how things worked out with the driver, I can't help but be optimistic."
Stroud made those observations before what had been forecast as scattered showers became a deluge leading to flash flood warnings in the Houston area.
Since many afternoon starters never hit a shot, and their first round has been pushed back to this morning, Stroud's second round tee time probably won't come until Saturday morning.