Mickelson has “special” club in mind for Masters

Phil Mickelson has something special planned for Augusta
National this year.

A special club, that is.

Mickelson shot a 71 on Friday at the Houston Open and will get
in two more rounds in his final tuneup before the Masters in two
weeks.

He shot a 72 on Thursday with a driver in his bag, then took it
out and added a 3-wood ”that’s more like a driver” for his second
round. The new 3-wood produces a lower ball flight and more run in
the fairway.

So what’s the plan for Augusta?

”We have a special club we’re making that I’ll be hitting on
Monday,” he said. ”So, we’ll see.”

Mickelson, the 2011 champion, rallied with three straight
birdies on the back nine Friday, fueling optimism for the weekend.
Two years ago, he was five shots back after two rounds, then shot
63-65 on the weekend to win by three.

”I have a chance now when I show up,” he said. ”I’m not
searching, I’m not trying to find it. I know what it is I’m trying
to do and the feelings I’m trying to create to hit certain shots. I
have a chance to shoot a low round.”

SNEDS SLIDING: Brandt Snedeker left the PGA Tour with a rib
injury as the hottest player in golf – runner-up to Tiger Woods and
Mickelson in successive weeks, and then a winner at Pebble Beach.
He goes into the Masters having missed his last two cuts.

Snedeker returned last week at Bay Hill after missing a month to
heal his ribs. He missed the cut there, and Friday at the Houston
Open. Needing a birdie, he went for the green on the par-5 eighth
hole and found the water, leading to bogey. He finished at 1-over
145.

The good news: His ribs feel fine.

”Early in the year, everything was going right,” Snedeker
said. ”I was making key putts and hitting key shots in the round.
Now I’m not making key putts and I’m hitting loose shots where you
can’t hit loose shots. Last week I hit it bad and putted good. This
week I hit it good and putted terrible. Hopefully, that means
everything will be just right at Augusta.”

Snedeker is not playing in the Texas Open. He will spend next
week at Sea Island, where the greens are at about 13 to 14 on the
Stimpmeter to prepare for the Masters.

He’s not in top form, though Snedeker doesn’t feel he is that
far off.

”Looking back on it, I was playing good,” he said. ”The
things I was doing so good was minimizing my mistakes and
maximizing my rounds. Right now I’m not.”

MASTERS UPDATE: Geoff Ogilvy is out of the Masters unless he
wins the Texas Open, and though he’s entered in the event next week
in San Antonio, it wasn’t clear if he will play.

The top 50 in the world after this week are eligible for the
first major of the year. Ogilvy was at No. 50, though he will fall
out after missing the cut. Ogilvy was No. 47 after his runner-up
finish at the Honda Classic, but he finished toward the bottom of
the pack in his next two events, and then missed the cut his last
two weeks.

Henrik Stenson is now in the best position to crack the top 50.
He was at 5-under 139 going into the weekend. He could get in with
a top 40 finish, though that might be depend on whether Marcel Siem
wins in Morocco on the European Tour.

Augusta native Charles Howell III needs to finish alone in
fourth. He had a 72 on Friday and was seven shots out of the
lead.

COMFORT ZONE: Brian Davis is contending at the Houston Open for
the second straight year.

The 38-year-old Englishman was 7 under par after shooting a 70
on Friday morning. Last year, Davis started 68-65 and tied for
fourth, four strokes behind winner Hunter Mahan.

Redstone would seem to favor longer hitters, with its wide
fairways and light rough, but Davis came in ranked 150th in driving
distance.

”If you play well anywhere, you can get in contention,” Davis
said.

Davis had four top-10 finishes and earned $1.3 million in 2012.
He’s looking for a turnaround week after missing five cuts in his
first eight starts this year.

”It’s a funny game,” Davis said. ”You don’t feel like you
play bad and, all of a sudden, you’re in contention. That’s just
the way the game goes.”

MISSING CHAMPIONS: Mickelson is the only former champion to make
the cut in Houston.

The cut line was 143. Defending champion Hunter Mahan (145) and
past winners Paul Casey (157), Johnson Wagner (155), Stuart Appleby
(144) and Robert Allenby (147) also were in the field this
week.

ACES WILD: Carl Pettersson holed a pitching wedge on the
143-yard seventh hole, the first ace of the tournament. It’s the
first hole-in-one in the Houston Open since 2011, when Brandt Jobe
aced No. 7 in the final round with an 8-iron.

BACKING OUT: Sean O’Hair, who shot a 76 in the first round,
withdrew Friday morning because of a back injury.