HUMBLE, Texas — The putter D.A. Points once took from his mother paid off nicely for him Thursday in the Houston Open.
Points opened with five straight birdies and wound up with 8-under 64 in the first round on a pleasant morning at Redstone Golf Club. He had a one-shot lead over Cameron Tringale and John Rollins.
Rory McIlroy had to fight hard for 73.
In his final tournament before the Masters in two weeks, 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. He rallied on the back nine with three birdies in a four-hole stretch but missed a 7-foot par putt on 17 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. … Hopefully the conditions are a little calmer (this) morning."
Points, 36, first borrowed the Ping Anser from his mother during his junior playing years in Illinois, and he abandoned it once he stopped making putts. But he recently asked Ping to clean it up and add weight. He also got a putting lesson.
"Maybe I'm an idiot for not having used this putter the whole time," Points said.
Points — who has made just two cuts this year on the PGA Tour and whose only win has come with actor Bill Murray at his side at the Pebble Beach National Pro-Am in 2011 — made all five of his opening birdies from inside 15 feet. He dropped only one shot along the way.
Phil Mickelson was at 4 under and in the mix until he hit his tee shot into the water on the sixth hole and made double bogey, nearly hooked a 3-wood into the hazard on the next hole and three-putted for bogey, and then made bogey on the par-3 ninth from a bunker to wind up at 72.
"It was a disappointing finish," he said. "I feel really good with the putter, and I believe that as the tournament goes on, I'll get better."