AUSTRALIA’S Nick O’Hern shot an impeccable 65 to be the club house leader for much of the first day of the Shell Houston Open but was knocked off late by a course record-equalling 63 by American golfer Jimmy Walker.
The West Australian left hander helped himself to seven birdies for a seven under round but in the end it wasn’t enough and after the first round sits two behind the leader tied for second with American Josh Teater.
Australian Nathan Green also had a fine round and was sitting second for much of the day but his five-under 67 saw him finish tied for fifth with five others including Steve Stricker.
One shot further back was a big group on four-under that included Aussies Steve Elkington, Robert Allenby and Jarrod Lyle.
Marc Leishman shot a 69, Mark Jones and Greg Chalmers had 70’s and John Senden finished even with the card. Aaron Baddeley on one-over was the best of the rest of the Aussies.
The tournament is the last chance for non-exempt players – including O’Hern and Green – to earn a spot at the Masters next week.
The Redstone Golf Course, at Humble outside Houston, Texas, is one of the toughest on the PGA Tour in many statistical areas and is set up so players face many of the issues that will greet them at Augusta next week.
Walker’s score matched the record set by Adam Scott (who has chosen to practice at Augusta this week rather than play in Houston) and Johnson Wagner in the first round of the 2008 tournament. Wagner went on to win that year.
The score matches the lowest of the American’s career.
“When you putt well it cures a lot of ills, for sure,” Walker said.
Most of the big name players using Houston to fine-tune their games for next week were still in the hunt today.
Lee Westwood and Padraig Harrington were in the large group of players at four-under, Phil Mickelson and Retief Goosen were at two-under and former Masters champions Angel Cabrera and Fred Couples were one-under.
Marc Leishman eagle video below.