HUMBLE, Texas – If Spokane native Alex Prugh could pull off his first PGA Tour victory at the Houston Open, one of his rewards would be a spot in next week’s Masters.
But right now the tour rookie is appreciating the immediate benefits of his second-round 66 on Friday that left him in a two-way tie for second place at 8-under 136, one stroke back of Bryce Molder.
“I think the biggest thing is I get a couple extra hours of sleep,” Prugh said to laughter of media members. “I’m not going to lie, I played late yesterday. I was the very last time in. I was practically finishing in the dark.”
Prugh withstood a double bogey on No. 3 to shoot his 66, the lowest score of the tournament later matched by Molder. Prugh mentally regrouped on the long walk between Nos. 3 and 4, then sank a 16-foot birdie putt to get going.
“I rolled that one in, and right there, that put my round around a little bit,” Prugh said.
Molder birdied four of the last seven holes on Redstone’s Tournament Course.
The former Georgia Tech star is winless in 88 career PGA Tour starts and, like Prugh, he’s never played in the Masters. Sure, he’s thought about punching his ticket this week, but that’s not as important to him as winning.
“Once you’re out there and over the ball, you’re not really thinking, ‘Well, maybe this is what could or could not get me in next week,’ ” Molder said. “If you ask me that Sunday afternoon and I’ve got a two-shot lead walking down the last hole, maybe so.”
“If I win, the I might just take the Masters off, actually,” he said to more laughter. “That would be a tough one to take off. I definitely would be calling my fiancee and catching her a flight out here, tell her to quit her job or something like that.”
Prugh was tied with first-round co-leader Cameron Percy (69). Lee Westwood (68), Anthony Kim (69), Joe Ogilvie (67) and Kevin Stadler (70) were 7 under after another windy day.
Ernie Els, Fred Couples and Phil Mickelson made the cut, but were far off the pace. Els (74) and Couples (73) were even par, and Mickelson (76) was 1 over.
Els is trying to win his third straight start and the 50-year-old Couples is warming up for the Masters after three consecutive wins on the Champions Tour.
They’re among several big names came to Houston to tune up for the Masters. Organizers have tried to simulate course conditions that players will see at Augusta National – fast greens, light rough, shaved-down runoff areas and fairways mowed toward the tees.
Mickelson fell out of contention when he took a bizarre triple bogey on No. 10. He hooked his tee shot to the base of a bush, then went to a right-handed stance to punch it out.
A second ball popped out when Mickelson swung, and the ball he was playing ricocheted off his leg, a two-stroke penalty. He pitched his next shot to 18 feet and two-putted for a 7.