, Port Arthur, Texas

March 29, 2013

Wild ride for Stroud in Houston Open

Bob West
The Port Arthur News

HOUSTON — HUMBLE -- Southeast Texans who followed Chris Stroud during the second round of the Shell Houston Open Friday got to see his 2013 season in a nutshell.

  Great shots. Terrible drives. Penalties. Bushels of birdies. Too many bogeys. Failure to take advantage of par 5s. Frustration. Elation. Maddening inconsistency. And, at the end of another rollercoaster ride, a cut made on the number.

  "It's been like that most of the year," said Stroud, who was remarkably composed after a crazy day. "It basically boils down to problems with my driver. I'm killing my chances to shoot good scores because of the trouble I'm getting in with the driver. It's been a constant experiment for find one that works.”

  Stroud, who had opened with a 71, signed for a 72 on Friday in a round that included six birdies. That put him in a large group at 143 with Rory McIlory and Phil Mickelson. It also advanced him to the weekend at the SHO for only the third time in eight Houston appearances.

    Early on, his chances of sticking around didn’t look good. Not after he followed a par, par, birdie start with a three-hole stretch that saw him drive into hazards left of the fairway on back-to-holes and walk away with double bogey, bogey, bogey. At that point, he was tied for 88th, three shots over the projected cut line and on the way to adding another dismal Houston chapter.

    If Stroud is nothing else, however, he’s resilient. After stopping the bleeding with a par on the 7th hole, he would play the next nine holes in five-under par. From being on the outside looking in, he climbed all the way to a tie for 26th. But the day would end on a downer, with poor drives on 17 and 18 leading to closing bogeys.

    Stroud says he doesn’t intend to ditch his latest driver but will do some serious tweaking on it before Saturday’s round.

    “I like the way it looks but it just doesn’t perform,” he said. “It looks open at address and maybe that’s the problem. Maybe I’m subconsciously trying to close it down during my swing. It will look more closed tomorrow. It’s going to look ugly.”

    Stroud used the word “weird” earlier in the week to describe how he’s played while making four consecutive cuts. And that was probably the most appropriate word for Friday’s round.

    If he’d let himself get down after the early bad stretch, he’d have shot 75 or 76 and gone home. If he’d gotten all there was for him get once he got on a roll, he could have shot 67 or 68 and soared up the leaderboard.

    In the nine hole stretch where he made five birdies and four pars, he let birdies get away on the short par 4, 12th and the par 5, 13th and 15th holes. Despite poor drives on 17 and 18, he had 10-foot putts to save par and missed.

    What stood out was crisp iron play and an unflappable mentality that never seemingly never lets him get down on himself.

    “I’ve gotten to where I have pretty thick skin,” he said. “If I didn’t have a good attitude, this round would have gotten away. But there are things I feel really good about. My iron play is probably the best since I’ve been on tour. When I’m in play off the tee, I give myself birdie chances.”

    Four of his six birdies came from inside 10 feet. A fifth was 16 feet. The only bomb was a 33-footer on the par 3, 14th. On the par 3, 16th, he nearly made a hole in one, leaving his 188-yard tee shot 18 inches from the hole.

    “Once I get things stabilized with my driver, you are going to see me shoot some really low rounds,” he predicted. “I’m making enough birdies to do that now, but I’m throwing away so many shots with bad drives. And I’m not making as many par-saving putts as I did last year.”