John Huston of Palm Harbor overcame howling winds and an unusual ruling Thursday to take a two-stroke lead in the Honda Classic. Huston, forced into new shoes by decree of the U.S. Golf Association, birdied his last two holes for an opening 4-under 68 on the TPC at Eagle Trace course. Winds gusted to 45 mph.
"On a day like this, that 68 is really more like a 65 or 64," said British Open champion Mark Calcavecchia, who is two shots back in second place.
"With winds like this, anything under 75 is a good score. It was not unplayable, but it was very, very tough."
It was Huston's shoes that were unplayable. Or at least illegal, according to the USGA, golf's rulemaking body in the United States.
Huston represents a shoe manufacturer, Weight-Rite. He wears that name on his cap and, until Thursday, wore their shoes.
The shoe features a wedge on the outside edge that forces the body's weight to the inside of the foot, the desirable position for hitting a golf shot.
However, the USGA said the shoe violated rule 14-3B, which prohibits a player from using "an artificial device or equipment" that would aid him in his play.
Huston was informed only moments before his morning tee time. He made a quick visit to the pro shop and purchased a pair of more conventional shoes.
Huston, who has yet to win a tournament in three seasons on the tour, made seven birdies in the extremely difficult conditions that, in the end, may have helped him.
On the 17th hole, where "the wind almost blew me over," Huston pushed an 8-foot birdie putt. But the wind got the ball and curled it into the cup for the birdie that put Huston in front.
"I feel like I stole one there," he said.
He moved two in front with a 25-footer on the final hole.