After cursed stretch, Martin Trainer leads at halfway point in Houston

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When you’re not cashing checks on the PGA Tour, you try to save as much as you can. For Martin Trainer, who had made just four cuts in 26 starts this year before grabbing the 36-hole lead at this week’s Houston Open, that means taking advantage of his bilingualism.

Asked if he curses more in English or his other language, French, Trainer explained, “French yields less fines, so definitely French.”

Regardless of the language, it’s hard to fault Trainer for a few choice words. The 30-year-old may have been a surprise winner when he broke through for his maiden Tour victory at the 2019 Puerto Rico Open, but few could’ve predicted the struggles that followed. He made just three of 22 worldwide cuts the rest of that year, closing 2019 with 17 straight missed weekends, and in 2022, he teed it up 22 times with 20 missed cuts.

In all, Trainer cobbled together just nine cuts in his first 70 starts since winning in Puerto Rico. His best finish during that span? Technically, it was a solo 34th at the 2020 Sentry Tournament of Champions, where he finished last by eight shots.

Trainer: Houston lead 'validating' after struggles

“It is demoralizing when you keep missing cuts over and over again,” Trainer said. “On Tour, obviously it's tough to even compete and make a cut let alone, you know, get to the top of the leaderboard. It's been tough at times for me the last couple years not playing well.”

In normal circumstances, Trainer would’ve lost his card after last season, which he finished ranked No. 221 in the FedExCup standings. But because of the COVID-19 pandemic, he was afforded a year’s extension on his two-year winning exemption.

Not that he had taken advantage: five missed cuts in as many starts to begin the fall slate.

Yet, Trainer felt after last week’s event at Mayakoba, where he fell three shots shy of the cut line, that he had finally turned a corner.

“I hit the ball really well for the first time in a long time and I just didn't putt very well, so I figured if I could somehow do both those at the same time, which to be fair, every single player says that every single week, but for me it had been such a long time coming that, you know, it really was a grind for a long time,” Trainer said. “So, now to finally be able to put it together I think is, you know, it's not easy, but you have to hope that this is the week.”

Full-field scores from the Hewlett Packard Enterprise Houston Open

Through 36 holes at Memorial Park, Trainer leads at 10 under thanks to back-to-back 65s. He has just one bogey, too, and when he had finished his second round on Friday, he ranked top 5 in both strokes gained: tee-to-green and stroke gained: putting. He’s also averaging just three missed greens in regulation and over 100 feet of putts per round.

While he tops the leaderboard by a shot over Kevin Tway, Trainer says he’s not focused on Sunday’s outcome. After his first made cut since July, Trainer, who is ranked No. 1,310 in the world (shockingly low for a player who has competed for more than three straight seasons on Tour), is just enjoying the good golf.

After all, the last few years have been, well, cursed.

“There's always an incentive to play and there's always that hope that maybe I can find it,” Trainer said, “but yeah, there's definitely been times when I haven't been playing well in the last couple years where I thought about and pondered my future in the game.

“It's nice to finally have one of these validating performances where all that work actually is paying off.”