BOB WEST ON GOLF — Houston Open could be game changer for Stroud

Published 12:08 am Wednesday, November 17, 2021

Making a cut, then going on to tie for 35th never has and may never again look so good to Chris Stroud. Especially when you include the bonus that was awaiting him Monday morning.

“It was huge,” said Stroud, after playing three and a half solid rounds in the Houston Open on a Memorial Park course that is considered among the toughest on the PGA Tour. “I desperately needed to make a cut, then I had to have a finish that would get me enough Fed Ex points to improve my position for getting into future tournaments.”

Stroud, in just his third start of the 2021-22 season, was playing in Houston only because of a sponsor exemption mostly tied to Astros owner Jim Crane, Lamar ex Giles Kibbe and his golf coach at Lamar, Brian White. He rewarded them by playing well enough to pocket $36,563 and earn 19 Fed Ex points.

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With what is called a “reshuffle” of those not fully exempt due after this week, Stroud is confident those 19 points will bump him high enough to get into most of the events on the 2022 West Coast swing. It is like an early Christmas present that will keep on giving, as he strives to regain his tour card full time.

Now about that bonus mentioned above. When play concluded in Houston Sunday afternoon, Stroud was the fourth alternate for this week’s RSM Classic in Sea Island, Georgia. By Monday morning, he was up to first alternate and headed to the airport. Before he boarded, he already knew he was in the field for the final tourney of 2021.

Stroud, meanwhile, was feeling good after shooting rounds of 74-67-70-70 on a course that produced the second highest scores among non-majors on the PGA Tour last year. He did have a scary scenario, though, after a two-hour rain delay Thursday morning kept the late starters from finishing that afternoon.

Forced to come back early Friday morning in frigid temperatures, he went from one over through 11 to a four-over 74. That forced him to shoot 67 later in the day to make the cut on the number. And that led to a happy ending.

“It was so cold and that course is so long,” said Stroud, of the delay that almost brought him down. “You can’t use that as an excuse. Dealing with situations like that are part of playing the PGA Tour. But it’s a challenge to get your blood pumping and your body moving in that scenario.

“Overall, I was really pleased. That is a difficult golf course. It’s really a par 72 they play as a par 70 for the tournament. I wound up having to hit hybrids into a couple of the holes that were changed to long par 4s. The tour officials did a good job of avoiding crazy pin placements or few players would have been under par.”

The difficulty of the course was reflected in winner Jason Kokrak being “only” 10-under-par. He shot 66-65 on the weekend to do that, after nearly missing the cut.

Stroud, as he has said repeatedly, thinks he’s a better player than he’s even been and expects to prove it with more competition. After almost a year layoff from tournament golf to deal with back issues, he feels his swing is in the low 90 percentile of being where he wants it.

“What I need most is to putt better and to be able to play 2, 3, 4 tournaments in a row,” he explained. “It is so hard to stay in a rhythm when you play a tournament, then can’t play another one for several weeks. That’s why getting those Fed Ex points was so important to me as far as being able to get in more tournaments.”

Among Stroud’s accomplishments in Houston was being the low player with Lamar ties. Of four other such players in the field, only MJ Daffue made the cut at one over 141. He wound up tied for 64th. Andrew Landry, Dawie van der Walt and Shawn Stefani all shot 143.

CHIP SHOTS: Otis Roubieu of Beaumont kept the string of holes-in-one alive at Babe Zaharias. Playing in a foursome with Tommy Prejean, David Balsano and Warren Flowers on Nov. 8, Roubieu sank a 7-iron from 125 yards on the 7th hole.

It was his third ace and the fifth consecutive week a hole-in-one has been reported at Zaharias.

Don MacNeil of Groves scored an eagle 2 on the sixth hole Tuesday. McNeil, playing into a wind gusting to 20 miles per hour sank an 8-iron from 81 yards. Witnesses were Cap Hollier, Harrell Guidry and Bob West.

The Monday Senior 50 Plus Game was played in a best 2 ball format. Winning the front with minus 2 was the team of Earl Richard, Gary Fontenot, Rick Pritchett and Richard Menchaca. Taking the back with minus 4 was the foursome of Bobby Wactor, Lee Bertrand, Richard Malone and Dwayne Benoit.

In the Super Saturday 2 ball at Zaharias, the team of Richard, Gene Jones, Lonnie Mosley and MacNeil won the front with minus 1. That was also the winning score on the back for the team of James Shipley, Ed Holley, Hollier and Larry Johnson.

The Friday Zaharias 2 ball saw the team of Craig Geoffroy, Jones, Johnson and Larry Foster win the front with minus 1. There was a two-way tie at plus 1 on the back between the foursome of Ron Carlin, John, Jessen, Caleb Klein and John LeBlanc and the team of Keith Mullins, Eddie Delk, Keith Marshall and Stewart Ellis.

Closest to the pin winners were Mike Brown (No. 2), Geoffroy (No. 7), Hollier (No. 12) and Bob Byerly (No. 15).

Wednesday’s Zaharias DogFight was played in an all-points-count format. Winning with 32 points was the team of Brown, Jerry May, Jake Selensky and Wally Istre. Closest to the pin winners were Mosley (No. 2), Art Turner (No. 7), Hollier (No. 12) and James Cady (No. 15).

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