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HUMBLE, Texas -- The Shell Houston Open marks the last week for players to get inside the top 50 in the world rankings for an automatic invitation to the Masters.
Geoff Ogilvy, the 2006 U.S. Open champion, and Charles Howell III, an Augusta native, are two players in the Houston field with hope that good finishes here will help them lock up a place in the year's first major.
Ogilvy is 50th on the official world ranking, but he could fall out that position with a poor showing in Houston. On Thursday, Ogilvy, who had a tie for fourth in the 2011 Masters, shot a 1-over-par 73. With a missed cut, the 35-year-old Australian could put himself at risk of missing his first Masters since 2005.
Howell, who grew up playing next door to Augusta National at the Augusta Country Club, is a sentimental favorite to make it into his hometown event, where he has played eight previous times. After a solid 3-under 69 Thursday, he is positioned well to get into contention on the weekend to go after the top-5 finish that he probably needs to leap into the top 50. Howell is 57th on the ranking.
A mother's gift to her son
D.A. Points is far from a household name in the world of golf. But the 36-year-old former University of Illinois star is very well respected around the tour.
In 2011, he had a breakthrough win at the AT&T Pebble Beach National Pro-Am.
On Thursday, Points made nine birdies using a Ping Anser putter that he took out of his mother's golf bag when he was 11 or 12 years old.
He was the first-round leader after an 8-under 64.
Points used the putter for a while after turning pro in 1999. He treated it like an old girlfriend, going back and forth to it for years.
Eventually, he had Ping refurbish the putter, adding some weight to the toe and heel.
Points was putting so badly coming into this week that he decided to return to his old muse.
With seven missed cuts in nine events on the year, Points is hoping the magic in his mother's wand stays with him through the weekend.
Could all the good luck with the putter prompt Mama Points to ask for it back?
"She might now," Points said. "I've had it for a long time. I think she's been praying so badly for me to make some putts, she's probably happy for me to have it."
The duck man comes forth
I was standing on the Redstone driving range Thursday afternoon watching Angel Cabrera hit balls. It's hard to miss his waddling, duck-like gait, slouched posture over the ball and the great tempo that helped him to Masters and U.S. Open titles.
But I had trouble recalling the last time he had done anything since winning those majors. The 43-year-old Argentinian hasn't had a tour win since taking that 2009 Masters in a playoff over Chad Campbell and Kenny Perry. He hasn't even had a top 10 on tour since the 2011 McGladrey Classic.
In 2013, he made only $283,385 in 20 events. Last week at Bay Hill, he missed the cut with rounds of 80-77.
On Thursday, Cabrera rode his way to the Houston leaderboard with a bogey-free, 6-under-par 66. Maybe this is the round that could launch him back to prominence.
With the Masters two weeks off, a good showing in Houston might give him the confidence he needs to shine at a place where he solidified his place in history.