By Richard Dean
HUMBLE, Texas – Prior to this week, Kevin Tway had never played a round of golf at the Golf Club of Houston.
His inexperience didn’t show on Thursday. With just Tuesday’s practice round under his belt, Tway managed his way around the course well enough to share the first round lead at the Houston Open.
Keeping the ball in play and making a few long putts here and there, Tway’s bogey-free 7-under-par 65 puts him atop the leaderboard with Lucas Glover, who at one point reeled off five straight birdies.
At least Tway and Glover have the lowest scores among the golfers who completed their rounds on Thursday. Sam Ryder was at 8 under. He will complete his final three holes when play resumes at 7:20 a.m. on Friday.
Beau Hossler also is at 7 under and managed to complete 16 holes before play was suspended at 7:40 p.m.
Phil Mickelson, who was only one shot behind the co-leaders before a double-bogey 5 on the par-3 14th hole, finished at 4 under and shares 26th place with 21 other golfers. That long list at 4 under includes Jordan Spieth, Matt Kuchar and Justin Rose.
Those are big names on the PGA Tour and Tway is trying to make a name for himself. He’s off to a good start. Forget about a learning curve at the Golf Club of Houston. Tway didn’t need one.
“Usually if I haven’t played a course, I try to do a little extra work,” Tway said. “But this week, with not playing any holes in the pro-am (Wednesday), I was kind of going at it a little less prepared than usual. Sometimes that’s good and today it was.”
It was more than good for Tway, who like Glover, needs a win this week to earn a spot in next week’s Masters.
With receptive greens because of early-morning rain that delayed each players’ tee time by two hours, Tway made more than 110 feet in putts. The former Oklahoma State golfer also holed a bunker shot. Because the course was wet, players were allowed to lift, clean and placed their golf balls on Thursday.
Tway, who started on the 10th hole, played the back nine in 33 and his front nine in 32.
“If you hit the ball in the fairway, you can get at the pins because it kind of just stuck right where it hit,” Tway said. “I knew it was going to be pretty easy.”
Entering this week 133rd in FedExCup points, by his own acknowledgement, Tway has underachieved this season. He wasn’t underperforming on Thursday.
Glover also excelled, missing only two fairways and hitting 17 of 18 greens.
Starting on No. 10, Glover made four straight birdies to close the back nine and birdied the No. 1 hole. He had birdie opportunities on the next two holes too, but couldn’t convert.
“A little bit of a slow start but I was hitting them in the fairway, was hitting them pretty close,” Glover said. “Got hot there closing the back nine, carried it onto the front.”
After a bit of a lull, Glover, who is looking for his first win since 2011, finished strong, making birdie on holes 7 and 8.
“When you’re stroking it well, you can pick a good target and just fire at it,” Glover said. “Soft fairways, soft greens. So that’s an advantage.”
Rickie Fowler shares fifth place at 6 under. He made only one bogey and is primed for a run this weekend.
“Being in contention and getting yourself in a position to win and kind of getting the blood flowing, it makes it a lot easier to start things up come Thursday,” Fowler said. “I like where we’re heading into the next few days and going into next week.”
Mickelson liked where he was until disaster struck on the par-3 14th hole. His tee shot found a greenside bunker and it didn’t get any better from there. He left his second shot in the same bunker and struggled to post a 5 on the hole, derailing his momentum.
On his back nine, Mickelson didn’t make a birdie and played it at 2-over.
“My goal is not to win on Thursday,” Mickelson said. “My goal is to try to get in contention for the weekend. So I didn’t hurt myself there, but I didn’t help myself as much as I could have.”