Monday qualifier Steve Wheatcroft has a one-stroke lead after two rounds in the Houston Open, a PGA Tour event.
HUMBLE, Texas — Steve Wheatcroft hates going to Monday qualifiers. He was reminded Friday why they can be worth the trouble.
Wheatcroft, who narrowly qualified for the Houston Open at the start of the week, ran off three straight birdies early in his round and kept bogeys off his card for a second straight 5-under-par 67. That gave him a one-shot lead over Jason Kokrak (69) and D.A. Points (71) going into the weekend in the PGA Tour event at Redstone Golf Club.
Rory McIlroy, who dropped from No. 1 in the world to second behind Tiger Woods earlier this week, will be around for two more days.
In his 10th full round of the year, McIlroy walked onto the seventh green — his 16th hole of the day — and saw he was tied for 77th place. He two-putted from 85 feet on the fringe for a birdie on his next hole, and safely found the green at the par-3 ninth for a 70. By the end of the day, McIlroy made the cut on the number.
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“It is a weekend where I can have a couple more rounds and try and get confidence in what I’m doing,” said McIlroy, who has decided to enter next week’s Texas Open because he feels he needs more rounds to get ready for the Masters. The Masters, the first major of the year, starts April 11 at Augusta National in Georgia.
Phil Mickelson (71) also made the cut on the number after a bogey on the last hole.
Players with scores of 144 and worse missed the cut, a group that included Kyle Stanley (72-73 — 145) of Gig Harbor; the ex-Washington Huskies duo of Richard H. Lee (72-73 — 145) and Troy Kelly (73-74 — 147); and Michael Putnam (75-74 — 149) of University Place.
Wheatcroft, 35, has no status on the PGA Tour. After missing out on a Web.com Tour event last week in Louisiana, he figured he might as well enter the Houston Open qualifier.
“Monday qualifiers are terrible. They’re just not fun, plain and simple,” Wheatcroft said. “I was on the PGA Tour in ’07, played terribly. I had no status. So I had to be back to Monday qualifiers and pre-qualifiers the next year. I hate them.”
Wheatcroft had some good sessions with swing coach Matt Killen and made it into the Houston Open field by one shot. The last Monday qualifier to win a PGA Tour event was Arjun Atwal at the 2010 Wyndham Championship.
“If I can be on top of the leaderboard at this point, I know I can keep playing well,” Wheatcroft said.
• Though he isn’t playing in the Houston Open, Jason Dufner is all the rage on the PGA Tour. He was at a Dallas-area school to help promote one of the charities of the Byron Nelson Championship. After sitting on the floor for a few hours, his back was sore and he leaned against the wall and his photo was taken.
Dufner is shown slouched against the wall, with a vacant look on his face, as the teacher speaks to the children. He is known for showing little emotion, even with a major title on the line.
The photo went viral on Twitter, and it wasn’t long before McIlroy, fourth-ranked Luke Donald and others struck similar poses while “dufnering.”
• Marcel Siem of Germany shot a 4-under 68 for a three-stroke lead after the second round of the European Tour’s Hassan II Trophy in Agadir, Morocco.
Siem had a 12-under 132 total.
Mikko Ilonen (66) of Finland and 2011 winner David Horsey (67) of England were tied for second place.