Friday, March 30, 2012


(with a few extra words by Colin Farquharson)
HUMBLE, Texas: Englishman Brian Davis - one of the lesser known Brits on the US PGA Tour - changed his life last year, and he's finally seeing the adjustments translate to better golf scores.
Davis, pictured, shot a 65 in his second round Friday and shares the lead at 11 under with former Open champion Louis Oosthuizen from South Africa at the rain-delayed Shell Houston Open.
The second round was suspended due to darkness at 7:36 p.m. local time with 70 players still on the course.
Houston resident Jeff Maggert was at 10 under, but he had eight holes left to play in his second round. Defending champion Phil Mickelson (70), J.B. Holmes (67), Tommy Gainey (67), and Greg Owen (69) finished their second rounds and were two shots behind the leaders at 9 under.
Three-time major champion Ernie Els, who must win to qualify for next week's Masters, was in the group at 5 under after a second-round 69.
A thunderstorm dumped 1 1/4 inches of rain Thursday, causing the backup. The players enjoyed sunny and calm conditions Friday, but the fairways were damp, and players were permitted to lift, clean and place.
Davis played a total of 32 holes on Friday, finishing a first-round 68 and then making seven birdies on his way to his best score of the year.
The 37-year-old Englishman from London, a pro since 1994 and winner of $9,525,765 from 227 US PA Tour events over a span of years, took a hard look at his life late last year after his father, Robert, died of cancer. He changed caddies, hired a sports psychologist and retooled his swing.
"Probably the highlight of the offseason and to this season was taking a look at everything I did on and off the golf course," Davis said. "I think I'm more prepared going forward now this year."
Davis, a father of three and ranked No 119 in the world but hardly a household name in golf, even in Britain, also worked with sports psychologist Bob Winters on managing his time more precisely.
"I really struggle when my kids say, `Can we do this?' and I should be practising," Davis said. "It's hard to juggle that around. You've got to give yourself some time as well. Obviously, we looked over that at the end of the last year and changed my practice routines, changed a lot of things."
Davis felt recharged at the start of the season, but missed the cut in three of his first four starts. He finally saw signs of improvement when he tied for 47th at the Honda Classic, then tied for 63rd in Puerto Rico the following week.
"It's one of them things, you've got to stay the course and keep at it," Davis said.
Oosthuizen, the 2010 British Open champion, is also making changes, though far less dramatic. He's tinkering with his swing and gone back to the driver he used when he won at St. Andrews.
The 29-year-old South African hit 11 of 14 fairways in his second round on his way to a 66.
"I hit it well at the Open in 2010, and I feel like I'm very close to hitting it like I did there," Oosthuizen said. "Swing-wise, I feel confident."
Mickelson finished a 65 on Friday morning and started his second round on No. 10 about an hour later. His afternoon round stalled after he birdied 13 and 15, the two par 5s on the back nine. He hit his tee shot over the green on the par-3 16th and bogeyed, then parred the next five holes.
"I played pretty well the second round, but I didn't get the score that I had hoped," Mickelson said. "I've got to light it up this weekend."
Mickelson played with Fred Couples, who won on the Champions Tour last week. Couples, who played at the University of Houston in his college days and has made 18 consecutive cuts at this event, is 4 under through two rounds.


Couples moved within two shots of the lead, but dropped back when he dunked his tee shot in the water on the 488-yard, par-4 18th hole and took a double bogey. The 52-year-old Couples shot a 73 in the afternoon.
The Shell Houston Open became the run-up event to the Masters in 2007. Despite the delay, tournament director Steve Timms is hoping to finish the tournament by 5 p.m. Sunday to accommodate not only television, but also the players heading to Augusta.
Like Els, Davis must win here to earn an invitation to the Masters next week. Davis has five runner-up finishes in seven years on TOUR, but he's never won.
"Obviously, I'm well aware that I need to start winning," Davis said. "It's one of those things where you can't force it. You've just got to keep putting yourself in position."
Mickelson says he's prefers playing a tournament the week before a major to get into a "competitive frame of mind." Last year, he shot 63-65 over the weekend to win by three strokes over Chris Kirk and Scott Verplank.
The projected cut is for totals of 142 and better to qualify. On the wrong side of that figure is Russell Knox (71 for 143), Masters defending champion Charl Schwartzel (74 for 143) and Darren Clarke (71 for 143).

+70 players have still to complete Round 2.
Par 144 (2x72)
133 Brian Davis (England) 68 65, Louis Oosthuizen (S Africa) 67 66
135 Tommy Gainey (US) 68 67, Greg Owen (England) 66 69, Phil Mickelson (US) 65 70, J B Holmes (US) 68 67.

139 Ernie Els (S Africa) 70 69 (T28)
142 Padraig Harrington (Ireland) 69 73 (T66).

PROJECTED CUT (142 and better to qualify)
143 Russell Knox (Scotland) 72 71, Charl Schwartzel (S Africa) 69 74, Darren Clarke (N Ireland) 72 71.
145 Ben Curtis (US) 71 74.




Darren Clarke is facing a race against time to be fit to play in the Masters.
The Open champion limped off the course at the Houston Open on Friday, having strained a groin muscle during his second round of 71.
Clarke felt the injury while completing his rain-delayed first round on Friday morning but played on through the pain barrier to complete his second round.
"I wanted to keep going as I need to play all four rounds before the Masters," said Clarke.
Clarke's second round of 71 put him one under for the tournament and he looked certain to miss the cut by one.
Graeme McDowell completed his second round on Saturday and his 69 left him on five under and seven behind leader Jeff Maggert.
Padraig Harrington was on the projected cut mark of two under after a 73.
I've had these type of injuries in the past and there's not much you can do but rest
Clarke earned a five-year Augusta National exemption in winning last year's Open championship and he will be competing in the event for the first time since 2007, when he missed the cut.
On completion of his second round in Houston, it was suggested by Clarke's personal trainer that he attend a local doctor to assess the full extent of his injury, but he declined.
"I've had these type of injuries in the past and there's not much you can do but rest," Clarke insisted.
"It's a really long walk around this golf course and I could have come in after three to four holes this morning. It seemed okay when I finished my first round today but it just got progressively worse in the second round," he said.



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