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Houston, we have a problem: McDowell five back as rain stops play

Angel Cabrera and Carl Pettersson lead the Shell Houston Open after a rain-hit opening day.

Patrons head for cover during a lightning delay in yesterday's Shell Houston Open first round.
Patrons head for cover during a lightning delay in yesterday's Shell Houston Open first round.
Image: Dave Einsel/AP/Press Association Images

Chris Duncan, AP

ANGEL CABRERA AND Carl Pettersson took advantage of early tee times to beat the rain and share the early lead in the Houston Open.

Cabrera and Pettersson shot seven-under-par rounds of 65 in calm conditions on Thursday morning to set the pace before the first round was suspended by a thunderstorm.

Graeme McDowell was one of only 51 players to complete play before the horn sounded at 1:27 p.m. McDowell had five birdies in his opening round, but spoiled the day with a double-bogey on the par-four 12th to leave him on two-under-par, five shots off the clubhouse lead.

Darren Clarke and Padraig Harrington managed just two and one holes respectively before play was suspended. Tournament director Steve Timms said the storm dumped about one-and-a-quarter inches of rain, leaving shallow ponds on many of the fairways.

“You just can’t play under the rules of golf with that much casual water,” Timms said.

Grounds crews fanned out across the course late in the afternoon, and Timms was optimistic that Redstone would be playable when the first round is scheduled to resume at 7:30am Friday morning.

“Let it drain overnight, and I think it will be just fine,” Timms said.

Ricky Barnes and Jeff Maggert were among those who completed their rounds in the morning and were one shot off the lead. Brian Harman also was six-under, but had three holes left.

Defending champion Phil Mickelson, Fred Couples and Ernie Els, who needs a victory to qualify for the Masters next week, were playing their front nines when play was suspended.

The Houston Open became the run-up event to the Masters in 2007. Timms is hoping to finish the tournament by 5pm Sunday to accommodate not only television, but also the players heading to Augusta.

“We do everything we can operationally to hit that window,” Timms said.

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