Houston On Hold and Yani Tseng Lurking At Kraft Nabisco

Houston, we have a problem.

Only 113 players in the field at the Shell Houston Open were able to finish their rounds Thursday. The rest of them were strung out across the course when the drenching thunderstorms arrived and that’s where they’ll begin Friday morning. Worse, there were still 31 players who never made it off the first tee.

So play begins Friday morning at 7:30 in an attempt to have everyone having completed 36 holes by Friday evening.

This turn of events is not Fred Couples’ dream scenario. He only finished 3 holes, so he’ll be playing 33 holes Friday…or trying to. He has a notoriously gimpy back that was feeling fine coming into the tournament, but he’s concerned that it might tighten up on him with all that golf. That wouldn’t be such a big problem if it weren’t for the Masters next week. Like most players in the field, he has come to win the Houston Open, but his motive in doing so was to get himself competitive for the Masters. So it bears watching to see if he’ll have to withdraw early.

Of those who finished their first round, Carl Pettersson and Angel Cabrera were tied at 7-under, both quite impressively. Pettersson had 8 birdies and 1 bogey and Cabrera had a clean card with 7 birdies. It helped that the course was immaculately prepared to mimic what they’ll see in Augusta next week, but still.

A lot of people had fun, completed first rounds: there were two at 6-under, three at 5-under and a couple of guys with like scores that were still to finish off their rounds.

Which allows us to turn our attention to the LPGA’s Kraft Nabisco Championship at Mission Hills Golf Club in Rancho Mirage, California. And it’s only fitting that this happen because it’s the Tour’s first major of the year. And there are a lot of compelling stories here too.

Amy Yang leads the field with a 6-under 66, 8 birdies, 2 bogeys. Still working for her first win. Anyone capable of making 8 birdies on this golf course is capable of winning. “You know, 6‑under par, it was a great day. My game felt good. Everything was working well. I think especially my putting was worked better than other tournaments.” And she gave the rest of the field something to worry about, “I feel – I like this golf course, and I feel good about this golf course, too. I’ve been hitting the ball better, putting feels better. I like it.”

But, truth be told, all eyes were on Yani Tseng. She’s in third by herself with a steady 4-under, 68 with 6 birdies and 2 bogeys. So quite competent, but she was a little disappointed with herself:

You know, I was really disappointed today because I don’t hit many good shots and I don’t leave myself lots of birdie chances out there. Kind of a little upset I don’t have good distance – my second shots I don’t have good distance control, so that’s why I don’t have many birdie chances today out there.

4‑under, I’m still pretty happy. You can still see ‑‑ you can still see my name on the first page of the leaderboard, so I’m happy that it’s only the first day of the tournament. I love this golf course, and the golf course is in great condition. Greens were so smooth. The next three days I’m really looking forward to making as many birdies as I can.

What’s interesting about Tseng is that, great as she is, she is still in full-blown learning mode. And if the lesson from today’s round is any indication – don’t try too hard to be perfect – the field should continue to be wary of her:

I think I’m learning. I always keep telling myself you don’t have to play perfect, so don’t try too hard to be perfect. That’s going to be very hard on myself. Last few years I’ve been learning even when you didn’t feel your A game was there but you still can shoot a couple under, a few under, to put yourself in a good position, but that’s how I’m learning. So it was really good to see that improve. Today I wasn’t hitting it very good but I still finished 4‑under, and I know my game was there and I’m still very confident and just don’t try too hard. I think today I was just trying too hard to play well.

It’s scary to think what she could shoot if she wasn’t trying too hard and was hitting it “very good.”

But the most heartwarming storyline out of today’s round was Aussie, Lindsey Wright. She was quietly battling depression and anxiety, but it wasn’t diagnosed until last year. Finally receiving the help she needed, she’s returned to form just in time for a really big-deal tournament…and she’s in 2nd place alone at 5-under with just one bogey. Her post-round interview can be seen here where she talks at some length about her depression: what it felt like, what her treatment was and how she feels now. It is quite touching and the LPGA media staff did a deft job of sensitively leading her through her story.

Paula Creamer and Nicole Castrale were the leading Americans at 3-under, phenom Lexi Thompson stumbled around to even par with 3 birdies and 3 bogeys, and Michelle Wie’s post-Stanford graduation round ended up at 1-over and still in touch. She had 2 bogeys and 1 birdie and says that she was hitting it great. And with 33 putts, it’s evident that she had to have been.

Tee times begin at 7:00 AM (Pacific) again Friday morning with the Golf Channel picking up the coverage at 9:00 AM and the afternoon rounds at 3:00 PM.

It’s still a very fluid situation and worthy of however much you can watch.

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