Austin | Dallas | Houston
Beyond the Boxscore

Tiger Woods mistress porn, Masters flap threaten to buzz out Mickelson at Shell Houston Open

Enlarge
Slideshow
SHO_Phil_Mickelson_golf_tees_off
Phil Mickelson has to carry any buzz another year for the Shell Houston Open. Photo by Ken Carter
News_Rory McIlroy_injured_golf
Rory McIlroy's crazy bubble talk is even threatening to take some of the spotlight. Photo via The Sun
SHO_Phil_Mickelson_golf_tees_off
Tiger Woods Mistress Movie
News_Rory McIlroy_injured_golf
News_Chris Baldwin_managing editor_arms crossed

HUMBLE — Pity the golf tournament that plays in the shadow of Tiger Woods. Or a Woods' scandal/money grab for some of the women he cheated on Elin with.

There are three things that move the needle in professional golf these days. Tiger's comeback, Tiger scandal residue and Rory McIlory.

And none of them are at Redstone Golf Club this weekend.

 The Shell Houston Open's built great word of mouth around its tournament — among players and fans alike. Chances are if you've come out to Redstone once, you'll come back again. 

This is how even a tournament that does everything right can be forgotten. And make no mistake, the Shell Houston Open does almost everything right.

Behind tournament director Steve Timms, Houston's PGA Tour stop has embraced a date that most tournaments would run from — the week before the Masters. Somehow, this horror-movie-worthy date on the golf calendar's been turned into a plus.

The Shell Houston Open's built great word of mouth around its tournament — among players and fans alike. Chances are if you've come out to Redstone once, you'll come back again.

Whether you're a 26-year-old office worker or a 41-year-old four-time Major winner. A day at the Houston Open tends to make you feel good. Whether it's the greens that roll as smooth and easy as butter for PGA Tour players or the yellow T-shirt brigade that tries to say hi and bye to every fan entering and leaving the tournament grounds for the fans.

Yes, the Shell Houston Open has a small army of people whose job is to say, "Thanks for coming."

And Phil Mickelson is certainly feeling happy that he's only two shots off the lead going into the weekend, thanks in large part to a Friday morning 65 that could have easily been a 63. The co-leaders at 11-under — forgotten 2010 British Open champ Louis Oosthuizen and the never-remembered Brian Davis — are peachy too.

Yet, the buzz remains far from Houston in the golf world. Instead it's in Los Angeles where three of the porn stars Tiger slept with are touting the Masters week release of their tell-all X-rated movie 3 Mistresses: Notorious Tales of the World’s Greatest Golfer. Or it's behind those closed doors at Augusta where Billy Payne and the green-jacketed boys are trying to figure out how to still keep women out of Augusta now that one of "them" has gotten herself the head job at IBM, which traditionally means entry into the club (dinosaurs in distress!)

Or it's even in McIlroy's head where golf's new IT Man promises to live during Masters week. Greg Norman preached to McIlory about the need to put a "bubble" around yourself and the 21-year-old phenom bought right in because . . . nothing says Major calm like a choking Shark?

 It's not like the golfers are driving into Houston to check out the King Tut exhibit at the MFAH in their spare time. 

OK, no one's quite sure why McIlroy is going to Norman for a lesson in nerves (what, the 21-year-old's own Masters' collapse wasn't impressive enough last year?), but that's part of the fun.

Will it matter that all of the buzz in the sport seems like it's elsewhere, if the golf is good?

Maybe it shouldn't. But it will.

The people still love Phil and it was great to have Freddie Couples in contention until the second 18 of the 33 holes the Thursday rain forced him to play on Friday caught up to his back, but Mickelson cannot carry this tournament every year. Not that he won't try.

On a day when he shot 8-under over 33 holes, Mickelson talked like he would have liked something much more dramatic.

"You get greens like this where they're so true, you should make everything," he said. "It's frustrating when you miss one, because they're just perfect greens."

It would probably take that perfect 63 or 62 from Mickelson to bring the eyes of the golfing world fully on Redstone. But maybe it's all right that this is largely a Houston thing for Houstonians.

Big Enough

The small crowd in the SHO Club tent seating around the par 3 16th roared for, encouraged and kidded with every group that approached Friday — not just the Mickelson threesome. It isn't the 16th hole at TPC Scottsdale. But it figures to get even louder this weekend. It's building. Traditions don't happen overnight.

When a reporter asked Oosthuizen if he had fond feelings for Houston, the South African answered honestly — noting that you enjoy anyplace where you're swinging well. It's not like the golfers are driving into Houston to check out the King Tut exhibit at the MFAH in their spare time.

On this day — one that started in gloom and ended under a blistering afternoon sun that made $5 concession stand ice cream enticing — Oosthuizen wished he could have spent even more time swinging in Houston. Or at least the Houston Open's stand in — Humble.

"If you're playing well, it's great," Oosthuizen said of the marathon day. "If you're struggling or something, it's a drag."

Nothing much is a drag at the Shell — even when the big buzz is elsewhere. Someone's offering to sell you Phil Mickelson's hat. Actually several someones. (It's part of a new promotion where 100 percent of the proceeds from the $29.95 hats go toward the purchase of new books for low-income families).

Someone else wants to run you through a health test. Someone else has just the putter to completely transform your game.

Then there's Phil, swinging easy in the sun. The porn mistresses, the Masters' latest issue with women and Rory's bubble are nowhere to be found.

And that's all right.

Newsletters for exploring your city

Daily Digest

Houston news, views + events

The Dining Report

News you can eat

Insider Offers

Curated experiences at exclusive prices

Promo Alerts

Special offers + exclusive deals

We will not share or sell your email address

HTX Good Eats 2014