HOUSTON – Charley Hoffman had a 2-under 70 for a one-shot lead over Jamie Lovemark at the Houston Open on Friday.
Lovemark was a former NCAA champion seeking his first PGA Tour title after having his career affected by back surgery. He was one of four players to shoot the day’s low score, 68, under conditions that worsened as the afternoon went on, which helped protect Hoffman from the field.
Dustin Johnson was among those chasing Hoffman, who opened with a 64 Thursday, but Johnson dropped back to 8 under with a bogey on 17, closing with a 71 after narrowly missing a 10-foot birdie putt on 18.
Johnson was in the last group to finish the round before darkness stopped play.
A 93-minute morning weather delay brought on by rain and lightning in the area ensured that 27 players will have to complete the second round Saturday morning.
“It was really tough … cold and the wind was blowing,” Johnson said. “The course played difficult, especially the last four, five holes. I still managed to get a round under par, a pretty decent score under the conditions. I’m happy with that.”
Roberto Castro and Jamie Donaldson, are also at 8 under with three holes still to play, sharing third place with Johnson and Chez Reavie. Reavie shot 70 Friday to go with a first-round 66. Johnson and Castro had both opened at 65.
The 39-year-old Hoffman moved to 11 under with a birdie on No. 17, but gave the stroke back by bogeying 18, considered to be one of the most challenging finishing holes on the PGA Tour and made more difficult by wind gusts.
“I had a fairly straightforward bunker shot but caught it a little heavy,” he said. “That’s a tough hole. They moved the tee up today, but there’s still a big water hazard to the left and the wind was blowing in off the right. It’s tough to putt in the wind. It was blowing my ball.
“Tee to green I did pretty well, but the putts weren’t dropping like they did yesterday. I’m happy where I’m at. Anytime you’re near the lead after 36 holes you’re happy.”
Charles Howell III eagled the par-4 10th hole and was making a run at Hoffman before bogeying the par-3 16th and taking a double-bogey on 18 to finish with a second consecutive 69, leaving him in a large group four shots back.
Five-shots back in a group at 5-under was Canada’s Graham DeLaet. The Weyburn, Sask., native was even-par thru 16 holes of his second round when play was called.
Jordan Spieth, who will be trying to defend his Masters title next week, struggled with his putting and, for the second day in a row, put a ball into a water hazard on a par-5 hole. The end result was three bogies on his back nine – the Golf Club of Houston course’s front nine – and he finished with a ragged 73.
“I’m close,” Spieth said. “It’s the dumb stuff … those water balls. That’s four shots right there. It really stinks to keep on making those mistakes. And I’ve got to putt better before next week.
“I’m losing a couple strokes (to) the field on putting and normally we’re gaining strokes. I can’t get into a rhythm. I’m stepping off putts. That’s a tough feeling. It kind of bleeds into the rest of your game because you feel like you’ve got to be more aggressive.”
The 22-year-old Texan lost this tournament in a playoff a year ago before going to Augusta and leading start to finish, tying Tiger Woods’ tournament-record 18-under score. Spieth is one of 34 players within six shots of Hoffman.