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Pampling Fires Early In Late Masters Bid

Rod Pampling's opening 6-under 66 came as somewhat of a surprise (Photo: Bruce Young)
While a PGA Tour event in its own right this week’s Houston Open is as much about next week’s Masters as it is the city’s most significant championship.

For those in the field at Augusta it is a chance to iron out kinks in the game ahead of the year’s first major while for those not in it is the last chance saloon, a win earning a spot.

Almost 40 players were yet to complete their first rounds when play was suspended due to darkness but a couple of veteran Australians will like where they stand while a couple of potential Augusta contenders will have mixed feelings.

At a Redstone Golf Club softened by rain the field is bunched, 71 players sitting within five shots of the lead and 114 golfers in red figures.

Rod Pampling and Greg Chalmers are among five Australians in this week’s field and with none qualified for the year’s first major will both like where they stand.

Queenslander Pampling fired somewhat surprising opening round of 6-under 66 to be T5 while Chalmers will be equally chuffed with his 5-under 67 (ably assisted by a bounce off the grandstand to birdie range at the par-3 17th) to be sharing 10th.

Neither golfer has shown a great affection for the Redstone course in the past, Chalmers’ T8 in 2011 the only top 10 between them in a combined 18 starts, but there will be no looking towards the past as they take their chances on gaining the last available place for the year’s first major.

Impressive young American Sam Ryder leads the field at 8-under through 15 holes, one ahead of Lucas Glover and Kevin Tway in the clubhouse and Beau Hossler who has one hole remaining.

Pampling is one of five players at 6-under, all in the clubhouse except Ireland’s Paul Dunne who has two holes remaining, then a logjam of 16 players are alongside Chalmers at 5-under.

2006 US Open winner Geoff Ogilvy had just made a spectacular birdie at the 17thto reach 3-under and T48 when play was called while 2014 champion Matt Jones will be less than pleased to have finished with a bogey to drop to 2-under and T72.

Aaron Baddeley is the last of the Australians playing and has work to do if he is to make the cut after posting a 1-under 71 to be T94.

While the Australians are battling for a place in the Masters field several of those expected to contend next week are showing signs of life, Rickie Fowler opening with a 6-under 66 and both Justin Rose and Phil Mickelson signing for 4-under rounds of 68.

Despite what looks like a good start on paper, however, Mickelson will be disappointed with his eventual score after a double bogey at the par-3 14thhalted what was shaping as a spectacular round.

Three times a winner of the green jacket, Mickelson blistered the front nine at Redstone in 6-under 30 but was unable to advance on that score after seemingly hitting a wall at the 10th.

He made no birdies on the inward journey and had only the ugly double, which included leaving a ball in the bunker, to reflect on at day’s end.

Rose, too, will have mixed feelings after dropping a shot at the final hole in an otherwise steady round.

His 4-under was typically tidy with six birdies offsetting two dropped shots though in a low scoring event he will need to be sharper if he is to be in the mix come Sunday.

Fowler was out in the early groups and made the most of good conditions picking up seven birdies and a lone bogey to be in the mix early.

Jordan Spieth and Henrik Stenson are alongside Mickelson and Rose at 4-under while defending champion Russell Henley posted a 3-under 68 to be T48.

PETER MANZIE WITH A TIP TO HELP ACHIEVE BETTER COMPRESSION WITH YOUR IRONS:

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