Steve Wheatcroft hates going to Monday qualifiers. He was reminded Friday why they can be worth it.
Wheatcroft, who narrowly qualified for the Houston Open at the start of the week, ran off three straight birdies early in his round and kept bogeys off his card for a second straight 5-under 67. That gave him a one-shot lead over D.A. Points and Jason Kokrak going into the weekend at Redstone Golf Club.
Rory McIlroy also will be around for two more days, but just barely.
In his 10th full round of the year, McIlroy walked onto the seventh green — his 16th hole of the day — and saw that he was tied for 77th. He two-putted from 85 feet on the fringe for birdie on his next hole, and then safely found the green at the par-3 ninth for a 70. By the end of the day, McIlroy made the cut on the number.
His big surprise came later. McIlroy, feeling as though he needs more rounds to get ready for the Masters, decided to enter the Texas Open next week.
Phil Mickelson also made the cut on the number after a bogey on the final hole for a 71. Mickelson, who has played the Masters with two drivers in the bag, decided to play Redstone on Friday with two 3-woods in the bag, though one of them is so strong it acts like a driver.
“If I can play like I did the back nine, I’m going to give myself a lot of birdie chances,” Mickelson said.
Wheatcroft can’t bank on anything. Not only does he have no status on the PGA Tour, he has conditional status in the minor leagues. After missing out on a Web.com Tour event last week in Louisiana, he figured he might as well enter the Houston Open qualifier Monday.
Two-time major champion Angel Cabrera, the Argentine who has a home at Redstone, had a 72 and was four shots behind, along with Greer’s Bill Haas (70) and Cameron Tringale (73).
Also lurking was Columbia native Dustin Johnson, who threw away careless shots but was five shots out of the lead.
Siem on a mission
At Agadir, Morocco, Germany’s Marcel Siem shot a 4-under 68 to maintain a three-stroke lead after the second round of the European Tour’s Hassan II Trophy.
The French Open champion, needing a victory this weekend to have a chance to get into the top 50 in the world and earn a spot in the Masters, had a 12-under 132 total at Golf du Palais Royal.