HUMBLE, Texas — The putter D.A. Points once took from his mother paid off nicely for him Thursday in the Houston Open.
Points, a former Illini, opened with five straight birdies and wound up with an 8-under-par 64 on a pleasant morning with only moderate wind at Redstone Golf Club. He had a 1-shot lead over Cameron Tringale and John Rollins.
Rory McIlroy had to fight hard for a 73.
In his final tournament before the Masters — and his first event since August at No. 2 in the world — McIlroy caught the lip of a bunker and followed with a 5-wood into the water for a double bogey on the par-5 eighth hole that put him at 3 over par. He rallied strong on the back nine with three birdies in a four-hole stretch, only to miss a 7-foot par putt after a flop shot over a wide bunker.
“I felt like on the front nine I was a little tentative,” McIlroy said. “I just tried to commit to myself a little more on the back nine, and it seemed to help. If I could have got it back to even par, I would have been pretty happy, but I’m 1 over par and, hopefully, the conditions are a little calmer tomorrow morning.”
Points first borrowed the Ping Anser from his mother during his junior years in Illinois, and like most golfers, he abandoned it once he stopped making putts. But he recently asked Ping to clean it up for him and add some weight. He also got a putting lesson — no, not from former Illini Steve Stricker — and he was on his way.
“Maybe I’m an idiot for not having used this putter the whole time,” Points said. “It worked well today.”
Former Illini Scott Langley was at 71, Stricker carded a 73 and Luke Guthrie tallied a 77.
In women's track & field:
Spencer, relay start strong. Illinois sophomore Ashley Spencer posted the third-fastest time in the 400-meter hurdles Thursday and qualified for the finals at the Texas Relays in Austin.
Spencer was timed in 58.56 seconds.
The UI’s 4x800 relay (junior Amanda Duvendack, senior Marissa Golliday, junior Samantha Murphy and junior Ahlivia Spencer) placed second with the second-best time in school history (8 minutes, 46.08 seconds).