Kokrak on leaderboard in Houston Open

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From staff and wire reports


Warren JFK graduate Jason Kokrak is tied for fourth place after the first round of the PGA Tour’s Shell Houston Open at Redstone Golf Club.

Kokrak shot a 6-under par 66 on Thursday and is tied with Angel Cabrera. Kokrak’s round included eight birdies and two bogeys.

D.A. Points leads with an 8-under 64. Tied for second are Cameron Tringale and John Rollins.

“The golf course sets up well for me,” Kokrak told pgatour.com. “It’s a long enough golf course, the greens are firm enough where I can take advantage because I’m hitting a lot shorter irons into the holes.

“It’s easy for me to spin it and hold it in position where I wanted it to.”

Kokrak tees off at 12:40 p.m. today. His playing partners are David Lingmerth and Brian Harman. Golf Channel coverage begins at 4 p.m.

The march to the Masters for Rory McIlroy looks more like a crawl.

McIlroy only had four birdie putts on the front nine, none closer than 20 feet. He took two chips to reach the second green. He found the water on the third-easiest hole and made double bogey. What he salvaged Thursday in the Houston Open was a 73, along with some optimism.

“I think I’m still a little bit tentative on the golf course and not committing to my shots fully,” McIlroy said. “But I think that just takes time and, hopefully, another three rounds this week and some good scores will give me confidence going into the Masters.”

Points, using an old putter he once took from his mother, opened with five straight birdies on his way to an 8-under 64, giving him a one-shot lead over Tringale and Rollins.

McIlroy, playing in the afternoon when the wind kicked up, was happy just to stay in range. Right when it looked as if the 23-year-old from Northern Ireland was headed for a big number, he rattled off three quick birdies and got it back to even par before he failed to convert a superb flop shot into par.

“I fought back well. I didn’t get too down on myself,” McIlroy said. “It would have been great to finish even par, but I made a couple of shots back, so that’s not too bad.”

Even so, the Houston Open is his final stop before the Masters, and it’s not as if McIlroy has loads of rounds behind him. Thursday was only the ninth round he has completed in five tournaments this year. And he no longer has the No. 1 ranking, taken back by Tiger Woods last week at Bay Hill.

“My swing is not as free flowing because I’m working on a few things and getting into a couple of bad habits,” McIlroy said.

Points first borrowed the Ping Anser from his mother during his junior years in Illinois, and like most golfers, he abandoned it once he stopped making putts. But he recently asked Ping to clean it up for him and add some weight.

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