News & Tours
An amateur goes low, a Rose revival and Finau teases a Happy Gilmore swing
Fall Saturdays are sacrosanct to most students at the University of Texas, those precious times reserved for their beloved Longhorns on the gridiron. This is especially true of home games, and with the undefeated TCU Horned Frogs heading into town this week you best believe Austin will be a wild scene.
And if Travis Vick has his way, he won’t be there for it.
Vick, a senior at Texas, turned in one of the rounds of the day to be in the early mix at the Cadence Bank Houston Open.
“Yeah, it's always nice to get off to a good start,” Vick said after an opening 68. “I had some decision-making errors towards the end, specifically bogeying No. 16 kind of hurt, killed the momentum. But other than that, there's a lot of great iron shots. It's just a good round of golf.”
A former No. 1 junior in the country, Vick made the cut in Brookline at this year’s U.S. Open and is currently No. 10 in the World Amateur Golf Ranking. Vick’s college career hasn’t featured a lot of wins, but he did earn the clinching point for the Longhorns during last year’s NCAA Championship. Making his second start on tour after last week’s debut at Mayakoba, Vick had four birdies in a seven-hole stretch on the front to get to three under, and though the back was a bit of a roller coaster ride (three bogeys, two birdies), his two-under total was just three back of the Thursday morning wave leaders.
Better yet, it was a performance delivered in front of a number of supporters, as Vick is a native of the Houston area.
“I had about I would say 50 family, friends that I know of that have come out here,” Vick said. “Then there's a bunch of people that live in this area that I know of and so they're either volunteering or they have a booth or something. Yeah, there's a lot of familiar faces.”
Vick will need a solid Friday to make sure Thursday doesn’t go to waste, and he made no bones about his desire to be out on tour full-time. Reaching the weekend will go a long way in making that dream a reality. However, should that not come to pass on Friday, Vick does have a back-up plan.
“I think it's two and a half [to Austin] and I hope I don't make it because that means I'll be playing the weekend. But if I do miss the cut, I'll definitely be there,” Vick said about Texas’ matchup with TCU. “I think GameDay's going to be there as well, so it should be a good game.”
Three other takeaways from Round 1 of the Houston Open.
Wise continues run
Coming off a career campaign, Aaron Wise has kept the good vibes going into the fall. The former rookie of the year had a 65 on Thursday to grab a share of the 18-hole lead.
Not that Wise was particularly thrilled with the result.
“Yeah, you know, I've just been in a weird place with my game where I'm obviously playing well enough to shoot good scores, but there's just a couple shots a round that are frustrating me,” Wise said. “Maybe it's also just because it's late in the season and I played too much golf and that's just kind of how golf gets. Overall, even though I let it frustrate me for a second or two, I did a good job of staying patient, kind of letting it go. And I had a couple great saves to shoot bogey free. Sometimes you shoot bogey free and you hit 18 greens and it was just an easy round. Today, it was bogey free on the card, but it didn't feel stress free.”
Odd, because Wise’s game has looked stress-free as of late. The 26-year-old finished 13th in last year’s FedEx Cup, his best standing in five years on tour, and backed it up with a sixth-place finish at the CJ Cup and T-15 at Mayakoba last week that was highlighted by a Sunday 64. That performance carried into Houston, with Wise carding five birdies Thursday.
Yet when asked what has spurred his recent run, Wise said it’s a matter of keeping the big numbers at bay.
“A lot. I feel like even on my bad days, and I wouldn't say today's a bad day, but even on the bad days I feel like I can still get around there and shoot a score that's respectable. That's what it's all about out here,” Wise said. “Everyone's good day is going to be really good, right. It's about when turning a two or three over par into an even or one under par, that's where you really keep yourself in these tournaments and give yourself chance after chance to win. The last two years really I feel I've been building to that and it just kind of feels like a snowball effect a little bit with the confidence where you keep doing it, keep doing it and then you start to believe you can do it and it's kind of just a big snowball of confidence coming your way.”
Wise has a decent track record at Memorial Park, finishing T-26 and T-11 the past two seasons. Thursday’s start puts him on a path to better those previous starts. Ranked No. 34 in the World Ranking at the start of the week, what happens in the next three days could push him into the top 30. It’s a benchmark Wise is well aware of, and a place he feels that’s not far away.
“I feel like I'm getting there,” Wise said. “I'm pretty hard on myself, there's always things I want to improve, but I feel like I'm well on my way. I feel like I'm in a way better spot than I was a year ago or two years ago. I just want to keep pushing and keep getting better and see how good I can get.”
A Rose revival?
It was a quiet 2022 for Justin Rose, logging just two top-10 finishes in 18 starts. The year before the Englishman failed to make the playoffs. At 42 years old, it’s fair to wonder how much gas is left in his tank. On Thursday, Rose showed that tank isn’t dry just yet.
The 2013 U.S. Open champ posted a three-under 67 at Memorial Park, a score Rose attributed ignoring his recent past and focusing on what’s ahead.
“Yeah, I think I'm trying to look at this as 2023 already, do you know what I mean?” Rose explained. “So obviously the end of 2022, it's been a year to forget really for the most part, but I've had six or seven weeks back at home just trying to get 100 percent feeling good with my body. So that's been the positive of the last couple weeks is I'm feeling good. I'm able to go out there, do my job, practice a little bit, sink my teeth into it, which is great.”
It wasn’t that long ago that Rose won the FedEx Cup (2018), and a win a few months later at Torrey Pines vaulted him to No. 1 in the world. But Rose hasn’t won since the 2019 Farmers Insurance Open, with back injuries and an equipment change taking their toll on his game.
However, Rose does his best work when things get tough. Since its renovation Memorial Park has not been an easy go, and with bad weather in the weekend’s forecast the final three days will be far from a birdiefest. Advantage, Rose.
“You know, I think this golf course definitely is one that has some teeth,” Rose said. “This morning, not any wind to speak of, but you have to just kind of keep you honest and keep you interested out there. But it was the kind of morning where you felt you had to go out and put a decent number together. I think if the forecast is to be believed, it's going to get a little tougher here the next couple days, the north wind blowing pretty hard, so I felt like it was a day to get off to a good start and was able to do that.”
After being left off the 2021 Ryder Cup team, Rose may be needed to fill out Europe’s roster and give the club a veteran presence come next fall. A formidable showing this week could help the former Olympic gold medalist earn that responsibility.
Finau almost goes Full Gilmore
It was Shooter McGavin Bobblehead Day at the Houston Open, with spectators getting a commemorative statuette of the antagonist from “Happy Gilmore.” If that wasn’t enough Christopher McDonald, the actor who played McGavin, was on hand for the proceedings.
So when Tony Finau came through, Finau paid his respects the only way one does when Shooter McGavin is standing to the side: Bust out a Happy Gilmore swing.
OK, so it was more of a tease. Now that we think about it, perhaps the proper play was to give McDonald the Shooter pistol celebration. And we’re guessing Finau didn’t yell, “Damn you people, this is golf!” when wondering why McDonald was there in the first place.
Then again, Finau finished with a 65 on Thursday—which included a 60-footer for birdie at the par-3 second—so maybe Big Tone needs to add the Gilmore tease into his pre-shot routine.