Houston (AFP) – Eight months ago, there was the sight of canoeists paddling down the first fairway of this week’s host course for the US PGA Houston Open.
Hurricane Harvey had deluged America’s fourth largest city and the Golf Club of Houston was submerged under four feet of water.
But the last US tuneup event for next week’s Masters has been restored to championship standard and among those praising the work are American favorites Jordan Spieth and Rickie Fowler.
Reigning British Open champion Spieth, a Texas native, missed the Houston cut last year but tees-up this week buoyed by memories of sharing second place in 2015, a week before capturing the first of his three major titles.
“I’m excited to be back in Houston for sure and it’s amazing — I haven’t been into the Houston area, but at least this far north — how well it has recovered from the hurricane, this golf course and just the areas right around it,” Spieth said.
“The staff has obviously done a beautiful job getting this place ready.”
Fourth-ranked Spieth’s 2015 is in contrast to his results this year, his best result in eight PGA events being ninth place.
Spieth has not won since capturing his latest major last July at Royal Birkdale.
“I just haven’t been able to quite do it,” Spieth said.
“It’s simple stuff. It’s setup stuff that just got off and I just haven’t quite figured out how to consistently get it back on. I’m getting there, putting a lot of work in. If it comes by this week or next week, great. If it doesn’t, it will come soon.
“I’ve got 20-plus more years out here and a few months of setup stuff isn’t going to derail too much confidence.
“It has a little bit this year certainly, but I’m in a good place right now where I know I’ve got time on my side and these couple weeks aren’t the be-all, end-all of my career.”
Fowler began the week playing practice rounds at Lochinvar, the Houston home course of his coach, Butch Harmon.
The Californian also undertook some undercoating work in a local community project undertaken to restore homes affected by Hurricane Harvey.
“It has been fun to have a connection with the city and to help out just that little bit following the damage caused by the hurricane,” Fowler said.
“I’m not great with the paintbrush, but I’m not bad. I’m above average. I’m going to try and keep making birdies.”
– Fowler eyes Masters patiently –
Fowler heads to the Masters with four runner-up showings plus a third and fourth at the game’s top level.
“I’m trying to stay patient, especially at Augusta — it’s not a place that you can try and push or try and make things happen,” Fowler said.
“I guess it changes when you put yourself in position come the back nine on Sunday. Then you might have to make something happen, but it’s a course that you have to take what it gives you.
“There’s times where you have to kind of take your medicine and play away. I think I’ve done a good job of that at Augusta but then I can do better.”
There is extra incentive for players like England’s Ian Poulter who haven’t qualified for the Masters — the Houston Open winner will take the last available spot if he isn’t already in the field next week at Augusta National.