McIlroy one off the lead in Houston

Paul Casey and Geoff Ogilvy were battling it out for supremacy on the PGA Tour again as the wind-delayed Shell Houston Open played catch up.

With no opening rounds completed on schedule following high winds of 45 miles per hour on Thursday, England’s Casey and Ogilvy completed their first 18 holes on Friday morning in Texas with the Englishman shooting a six-under-par 66, one better than the Australian.

Casey had lost to Ogilvy at the end of February in the final of the World Golf Championships-Accenture Match Play in Tucson, Arizona, near to their homes in Scottsdale, and the pair were soon vying for the halfway lead at Redstone Golf Club.

Both men turned straight around to begin their second rounds with Casey one shot off the pace set by Americans Nicholas Thompson and Briny Baird and John Senden of Australia at seven under on the par-72, 7,457-yard course.

Open and US PGA champion Padraig Harrington carded a level 72 as did Sweden’s Daniel Chopra.

Also on six under were Australian James Nitties and an American quartet of DA Points, Scott Piercy, Colt Knost and Tommy Armour III with Ogilvy, Jonathan Byrd of the USA and Northern Ireland’s Rory McIlroy another shot back having shot 67s.

Americans Fred Couples, Dudley Hart and Justin Leonard formed part of a large group on four under alongside Justin Rose of England with Sergio Garcia of Spain and Englishman Lee Westwood among those at three under following 69s.

Thompson and Baird quickly fell off the pace as Ogilvy, starting on the back nine, holed four consecutive birdies to move into the lead at nine under. A bogey at the par-five seventh failed to derail the Australian, a two-time winner already this year, as he bounced back with three straight birdies.

The front nine, though, did stall Ogilvy as he double bogeyed the par-four second and bogeyed the par-five fourth to fall into a tie for the lead having played 14 holes of his second round to eight under for the tournament when play was halted for the day due to bad light.

There he joined Senden who had stayed in touch with just one birdie and nine pars over his first 10 holes and Casey, who managed to complete his second round in 70.

American Bo Van Pelt was in the clubhouse on seven under following a second-round 67 alongside Byrd who was two under for his round after 16 when play was halted.

Sweden’s Henrik Stenson had moved into contention at seven under after 13 holes, five under for his round with Armour and Knost also in the five-way tie for fourth and a further seven players within two shots of the leaders at six under including Nitties and compatriot Stuart Appleby and Colombia’s Camilo Villegas, none of whom had completed their second rounds.

Casey will be one of only five players in the field, including fellow Englishman Brian Davis at four under following a 69, not having to return to the course on this morning to complete their second rounds while Westwood is one of 72 players still to begin theirs.

The calmer conditions had done Westwood no favours when he resumed first-round play on Friday morning.

He had held a two-stroke lead over the field at four under par after nine holes on Thursday when play was halted with the Englishman about to putt for birdie from 17 feet at the par-four 10th.

The winds that reached 45 miles per hour on Thursday dropped dramatically overnight to between 5-10mph, yet Westwood missed out on his birdie opportunity at the 10th and went on to bogey the par-four 11th after finding a greenside bunker with his second shot before coming undone again with a bogey six at the 13th.

Westwood rallied with a birdie at the 17th to finish with a three-under 69 but wishing he had been able to play on in the wind.

“I didn’t really come out where I left off yesterday,” Westwood said. “It was no good for me to stop, really, to tell you the truth.

“The course is playing tough and I was hitting it well. When I came out this morning a bit cold and felt a bit out of sync in my swing but I got it back over the last few holes.”

Australian two-time Open champion Greg Norman, 54, will begin his second round at one under after holding his own with his younger rivals in his tune for next week’s return to the Masters after a six-year absence.

His compatriot Fredrik Jacobson finished with a 77, as did two-time winner this year Phil Mickelson, following a double bogey at the par-three seventh, his 16th.

England’s Greg Owen and Luke Donald also get their rounds under way this morning, each having carded a one-over-par 73 while Alvaro Quiros of Spain completed his opening round with an 11-over-par 83, a long way off the projected cut mark at level par.

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