By Richard Dean
HUMBLE – When Beau Hossler was 17-years-old, he was the second-round co-leader of the 2012 U.S Open at the Olympic Club. So he’s shown he has game. Plenty of it.
And he’s showing this week at the Golf Club of Houston what he’s capable of. At the midpoint of the 2018 Houston Open, Hossler has a 1-shot lead over an elite field that has Rickie Fowler and Jordan Spieth within striking distance.
It should make for an exciting weekend of golf. If Hossler is going to win for the first time on the PGA Tour, the rookie is going to have to earn it.
“What’s interesting, I’ve had two of my worst range sessions of the year, but I played some of my best golf,” said Hossler, who has shot rounds of 65-68 for an 11-under-par 133.
While Hossler, who starred at the University of Texas, has to hold off the likes of Fowler and Spieth, there’s a number of players who have positioned themselves nicely in the tournament conducted by the Houston Golf Association.
Sam Ryder is a shot back at 10 under (134), as well as Abraham Ancer (68-66) and Nicholas Lindheim (68-66), who are both making their Houston Open debuts, and Fowler, who has posted rounds of 66-68 on the par-72 layout.
Spieth is in a group at 9 under, that includes Bronson Burgoon of The Woodlands, for a share of sixth place.
For the moment, winning may not be as important for Spieth as it is for Hossler, who is making his second start in the Houston Open after tying for 39th in 2017 on a sponsor exemption.
“My goal for the week’s been accomplished just in two rounds,” said Spieth, a three-time winner of the majors, who is using this week as a tune-up for next week’s Masters in Augusta, Georgia. “Just trying to show some consistency and make some birdies. See a couple putts go in.”
Spieth’s round of 67 on Friday was highlighted by five birdies in a seven-hole stretch.
Hossler has just one bogey through 36 holes, which came on the par-4 first hole on Friday. He was bogey-free in round one with seven birdies. On Friday, Hossler hit 11 of 14 fairways and 11 of 18 greens.
“I do like playing here,” Hossler said. “Particularly since they gave me a sponsor exemption here last year and (Houston Golf Association President) Steve Timms has been awesome giving me an opportunity to play last year with no status.
“Love the golf course. I’ve played here in college, played here qualifying in college for University of Texas. I am really comfortable with the golf course.”
And it shows. Hossler’s round on Friday was highlighted by three consecutive birdies on holes 8-10.
There were birdies to go around on Friday. Fowler had five birdies en route to a 4-under 68 that included a bogey on the finishing hole when his drive found the water. It was just the second bogey of the week for Fowler, who has yet to miss a cut in seven starts at the Houston Open.
“It’s nice to be in the position I’m in and not having my best stuff,” said Fowler. “I’ve been playing solid the first two days, but there are some things we can do to clean up and I’m looking forward to the weekend.”
First-round leader Paul Dunne followed an 8-under 64 with a second-round 1-under-par 71 to fall into a share of sixth place (135) in his Houston Open debut. This is Dunne’s fifth start of the year and 12th of his career.
With rounds of 66-68, PGA Tour rookie Ryder has made only four bogeys but they were all consecutive. Two to complete Friday’s first round that was suspended due to darkness and two on Friday to begin his second round.
Prior to the Houston Open, Ryder had never been higher than tied for 23rd after any round on the PGA Tour.
“I’m proud of myself for the way I fought back after a tough start,” Ryder said.
Hossler is making his 14th start of the 2017-18 season and remains in search of his first PGA Tour win in his 26th start. His best finish is a tie for seventh at the 2017 Shriners Hospitals for Children Open.
This marks the second time Hossler has led after the second round of a Tour event. He opened 65-67 earlier this year at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am to share the lead at 12 under with Dustin Johnson, only to close with a 74-76 to finish in a tie for 43rd.