Sun, Apr 05, 2015 - Page 19 News List

Birdie bonanza lifts Andrew Putnam past rising Phil Mickelson at Houston

SLOW START:PGA Tour rookie Putnam carded a one-under for his first nine holes before hitting stride and securing six birdies to finish seven-under-par

AFP, HOUSTON, Texas

Phil Mickelson, tuning up for a run at a fourth Masters title, had seven birdies on Friday, but settled for a share of second place behind Andrew Putnam after two rounds of the Houston Open.

Putnam nabbed six of his seven birdies in his last seven holes, his seven-under-par 65 vaulting him to the top of the leaderboard on 12-under-par 132.

Mickelson’s seven birdies were balanced by two bogeys in a five-under-par 67 that left him tied for second on 133.

He was joined on 11-under by unheralded US player Austin Cook, who birdied his last four holes in a seven-under-par 65.

It was a further stroke back to Canada’s Graham DeLaet, who carded a 67, and US golfer Luke Guthrie, who signed for a 68 for 134.

Putnam, a PGA Tour rookie with just one top-25 finish on his resume, teed off on 10 at the Golf Club of Houston and was one-under through nine holes.

However, he caught fire coming in, stringing together four straight birdies starting at the par-four third.

“I caught fire on the back nine, started making a lot of putts,” Putnam said. “These greens are so good out here, if you start rolling them on your line and seeing your line, you can make a lot of putts.”

“I’ve played pretty good so far. I’ve kind of been a little loose with the driver, but this course is pretty wide open so you can do that,” he said.

He punctuated his round with two more birdies at eight and nine — from the rough at the par-five eighth and with a 15-foot putt at the final hole.

Mickelson had set the early pace.

After going birdie-bogey at the second and third holes, Mickelson added three more birdies on the front nine.

His march continued with birdies at 11, 13 and 15 — where he rolled in a 22-foot putt.

Mickelson’s lead dwindled as a wayward tee shot cost him a bogey at 17, but he regrouped for a solid par at the last and held the clubhouse lead before Putnam stormed home.

“The golf course is in great shape as always. It’s a fun tournament, it’s going to be a shootout. There’s a lot of guys at eight-under, nine-under, 10-under-par that are right there,” Mickelson said.

Mickelson, who has yet to post a top-10 finish this season, is looking for a boost heading into the first major of the year at Augusta National next week.

He is expected to have plenty of competition on the weekend. Rising star Jordan Spieth carded a 66 on Friday and headlined a group of six players sharing sixth place on nine-under 135. He was joined by fellow US golfers Shawn Stefani, J.B. Holmes, Hunter Mahan and Mark Wilson, as well as France’s Victor Dubuisson.

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