Malnati makes a move

Matt Cooper
Rotoworld

Recap of the day

Morning wave: Will they, in the long run, hold an advantage? Because poor weather, including the threat of thunderstorms, caused delays and only the alarm clock setters completed their rounds on Friday. Peter Malnati is setting the pace on 10-under 134 after posting a Friday 65. Two swings back is Sepp Straka who carded a 71 and then Carlos Ortiz (67) and Mark Hubbard (69) are on 7-under.

Afternoon wave: Or does this group hold a few aces? They get to conclude their second round in better weather. First round co-leader Talor Gooch is 1-under through 14 holes to be 9-under for the week. Nick Watney (thru 14) and Lanto Griffin (13) have joined Straka on 8-under and John Huh (13) is alongside Ortiz and Hubbard.

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Leaderboard: -10 Peter Malnati, -9 Talor Gooch (14), -8 Sepp Straka, Nick Watney (14), Lanto Griffin (13), -7 Carlos Ortiz, Mark Hubbard, John Huh (13)

The cut: Currently projected to be level-par 144

Revised outright betting: Malnati 5/1, Watney 13/2, Griffin 8/1, Straka 10/1, Gooch 10/1, Cook 11/1, Ortiz 12/1

 

Saturday weather forecast

A nice day (sunny, a 10 mph breeze, low humidity, little chance of rain) so every chance that play will quickly catch up. Round two will resume at 8:00 a.m. local time.

 

Leaders at 36 holes

Peter Malnati (65, 134) – Made a sizzling start (5-under thru five) and ended the day with no bogeys. Currently ranks 100th for SG: Off the Tee, but 11th or better for every other discipline.

Talor Gooch (-1 in R2 thru 14) – A similar numbers story to the leader. In Gooch’s case he is 72nd for Off the Tee and 16th or better for everything else.

Sepp Straka (71, 136) – All sorts of front nine numbers (four pars, two birdies, one eagle, one bogey, one double) and nine pars on the way home. And you guessed it: 64th Off the Tee, 19th or better the rest.

Nick Watney (-3 in R2 thru 14) – Landed 17 greens in regulation in round one and is 12-for-14 in round two. Leads the field.

Lanto Griffin (-2 in R2 thru 13) – Bogey-free in this second lap which is some going given that he’s landed just 6-of-13 green in regulation.

 

Fate of the favorites

Henrik Stenson (-1 thru 14 in R2, -1 for the week) – Contrasting long game rankings; 121st for SG: Off the Tee and 13th for Approach the Green.

Cameron Champ (+1 thru 14 in R2, -2 for the week) – Not ranked top 25 for any of the Strokes Gained categories.

Brian Harman (+4 thru 14 in R2, +4 for the week) – Played the back nine first and did it horribly with three bogeys and a double. He will not enjoy getting up early unless he birdies the four remaining holes in his second lap.

Daniel Berger (75, 152) – In 16 previous laps of the course Berger had never needed more than 72 blows so 77-75 will hurt. He opened round two with four birdies in six holes and then imploded with four straight bogeys, and then another three later in the round.

 

Quotes

Peter Malnati (65) - “Putting is one of my strengths, something I work really hard on and I take a lot of pride in, but it’s kind of been a weakness of mine that I'm not a great putter on windy days. I know it makes it difficult for everyone, but it really tends to mess with what is one of my strengths. I don't even know how you practice that, but I've just tried to have that be almost a mindset, I'm going to be better at it.”

Sepp Straka (71) - “It was tough. It's just so much harder to hit the fairways when it's windy like this, a lot of crosswinds. I did a good job of that.”

Carlos Ortiz (67) - “I’ve been playing great. This is my fifth week and in the past I would struggle, now I'm just a little bit tougher than I was before. I'm fighting through being tired.”

Mark Hubbard (69) - “It was weird. I was sweating through my gray pants this morning at 7:00 a.m. and by about our 13th hole I wished I had another jacket.”

 

Road to victory at Golf Club of Houston

2018 Ian Poulter – R1: 123rd, R2: 23rd, R3: 1st

2017 Russell Henley – R1: 6th, R2: 2nd, R3: 3rd

2016 Jim Herman – R1: 32nd, R2: 8th, R3: 1st

2015 J.B. Holmes – R1: 2nd, R2: 6th, R3: 18th

2014 Matt Jones – R1: 18th, R2: 3rd, R3: 4th

Notes: In recent renewals this tournament has been one for the chasers. Three of the first four winners were holding or sharing the lead at halfway, but, as you’ll see below, that trend has come to a halt. Seven of 13 winners were top five at this stage, another four were top 12, the remaining two were outside the top 20.

 

Fate of the halfway leaders at Golf Club of Houston – where did they finish?

2018 Beau Hossler 2nd

2017 Sung-Hoon Kang 2nd

2016 Charley Hoffman 33rd

2015 Andrew Putnam 25th

2014 Sergio Garcia 3rd

Notes: Five solo leaders and every single one of them failed to stay the pace. You have to go ten years into the past to find the last winner who succeeded – Paul Casey, who was part of a five-way tie for the 36-hole lead in 2009. In all 22 men have held or shared the halfway lead on this week’s course and just three have lifted the trophy.

 

Focus on – Peter Malnati

He and his wife are expecting a baby and a popular theory for many punters is that new fathers thrive. When you read Malnati’s words you can imagine he might well do so. You can also understand why he is already buzzing: “The last couple weeks I've let it be a distraction because my head's back home. This week I was like, dude, this is your last tournament before you become a dad so do something with it. The best thing you can do for your wife and your kid is to go out and play good. So I practiced with a lot more focus this week and it's nice to see that that does result in some better golf for me. My dream as a little kid, I would watch these guys hole out to win the big tournaments and their wife and their little kids would just come running out on the green. That to me, that's where the dream really is.” His post-round interview also included a warning that he is ready to flee the course if needed: “I'm fully on call. I didn't know if I was going to come play here or not. She's always encouraging me to play and she has all the phone numbers, so if someone has to come get me off the course this week, they will. But yeah, she's due two weeks from tomorrow and is beyond ready.”

 

Focus on – Carlos Ortiz

In the quote section Ortiz mentions that he has struggled when playing four or five weeks on the spin. He might be surprised to learn that he’s actually 4-for-4 in such circumstances on the Korn Ferry Tour with three top 25s. But on the PGA Tour he is right to be wary. He’s 4-for-7, but has only once finished in the top 50 and that was T30.

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