Kim grabs limelight in Houston

Chris Kirk leads and Padraig Harrington features, but Anthony Kim stole Fridays 2nd round limelight at the Shell Houston Open.

Chris Kirk leads and Padraig Harrington features, but defending champion Anthony Kim stole Fridays second round limelight at the Shell Houston Open at the Redstone Golf Club in Humble on the outskirts of Houston.
Kirk was the unexpected leader after adding a solid 69 to his opening 66 to take his score to nine under par and three time major winner Harrington, finding his form a week ahead of the Masters, moved into contention at 7-under, also with a 69.
But Kim made the big news of the day
After an opening level-par round, the Californian shot a sizzling, eight-under-par 64 to storm up the leaderboard and grab a tie for second place with fellow American Johnson Wagner, who carded 67.
Twenty-five-year-old Kim spent much of his round having to recover from inaccurate tee shots, twice conjuring up superb shots from fairway bunkers to post birdies.
The 2008 Ryder Cup star, who finished with eight birdies and no dropped shots, told the media afterwards: “It helps a lot knowing I played well before; knowing I made a couple putts when it mattered and also hit some quality golf shots when it mattered, really helps, especially since I won here in college about six, seven years ago.
“Some shots I had are similar, some putts I had are very similar, so I try to remember those things and play off that.”
Kirk, in the meantime, had a double-bogey seven on hole four – his 13th after starting on the back nine – but finished birdie-birdie to seize the lead.
The 25-year-old former University of Georgia student had his first PGA Tour top-10 finish in January’s Bob Hope Open but his game had recently gone off the boil, with two missed cuts in a row before this week.
“I just was kind of in a little bit of a funk, I guess,” Kirk said. “And really, I don’t feel like I was playing that bad. I just lost interest somehow.
“That’s horrible for me to say that as a PGA Tour player, and I have the best job in the world, but I did.
“I sort of lost interest and got to the point where I would make a couple of bogeys and felt like I didn’t want to be out there.
“And so I went home this past weekend and just tried to change basically as many things as possible to try to spark my interest.”
Irishman Harrington, a three-time major champion, had looked set to move into a handy lead at the top of the leaderboard after starting from the 10th.
He posted birdies at the 11th, 12th, 15th, 16th and 17th to be four-under at the turn after
dropping his only shot on his opening nine holes at the 14th, but his round took a turn for the worse when he ran up a hat-trick of bogeys from the second (his 11th) to drop back to just one under on the day.
However, an excellent, hit-back eagle at the par-five eighth allowed him to grab a share of fourth place.
Harrington will be bidding for his first Masters title next week, and has been inspired by the recent achievements of his fellow Europeans, with the world’s top four all hailing from the continent and Paul Casey due to join them at fifth..
“European golf is very strong and I’m delighted to see it,” he said. “Obviously I’ve got to improve on my own game and what I’m doing, fully believe, will help me play the best golf of my life going forward.
“Obviously I had a peak in 2007, 2008 there, and I believe that there’s more good stuff to come. But those results were obviously really good, plus I definitely feel like I’m a better player now than I was in 2007, 2008. I’m looking forward to good things happening.”
First-round leader Jimmy Walker could not repeat the magic of his opening course-record equalling 63, with a double bogey on the 11th leaving him two over on the day and seven under overall, alongside Harrington and Josh Teater, who carded a 72.
Defending Masters champion Phil Mickelson and last year’s runner-up Lee Westwood continued their preparations for Augusta with rounds of 70 and 72 respectively to leave them both at four under par.
World number two Westwood is the top British contender, with fellow Englishmen Ross Fisher and Brian Davis at three under and one under.
European Ryder Cup captain Jose Maria Olazabal had another dismal day on the course, following his opening 77 with an 83 and didn’t make the weekend.