HUMBLE, Texas — Cameron Tringale's approach shot came up short on the 18th hole and he turned to caddie David Clark in mock disgust.
"I was a little bit frustrated," Tringale said, "but a little bit joking, too."
The 25-year-old Tringale saved par for a 7-under 65, matching his lowest score of the year, to finish the first round a stroke behind leader D.A. Points on Thursday in the Houston Open. Tringale hit 17 of 18 greens.
"Game is good," Tringale said. "I feel like it's been going in a positive direction all year and it's kind of coming together a little bit more on the greens and with my short game and wedges."
Tringale says Clark has made a big difference this year, and it has translated to five top-30 finishes so far. Tringale hired Clark in the offseason, getting to know him through a mutual friend.
The two hit it off, and Tringale says Clark has a keen eye on the practice range, too.
"I feel like caddies are a really important piece of the puzzle," Tringale said. "He's been great for me."
Tringale is building on a third-place finish in two weeks ago in the Tampa Bay Championship. He has putted better since the start of the Florida swing and the developing confidence carried over to his first round in Houston.
"I'm seeing the ball end over end," Tringale said. "It's really nice to just stand up there and know, if you read it right, I feel like I'm going to put a good stroke on it and that it's got a good chance to go in."
NO CLAW: Phil Mickelson had a fat handle on his putter for the second straight week, but the big change Thursday was that he no longer used the claw putting style.
Mickelson switched last year to the grip where he rests the putter between his left thumb and first finger. The reason for the claw grip was to eliminate two of his worst habits – having too much of a forward press and lowering his hands too much.
But he has new specifications on this putter.
"The way I have the putter set up, it's much more upright and much less loft, which doesn't allow me to have a forward press, and with the upright, it doesn't allow me to drop my hands," Mickelson said. "With this setup in the putter, I should be able to go to either grip. And I thought that I would go back to a regular grip to get a little bit softer touch on some fast greens."
This isn't the end of the claw. Mickelson said he could go either way.
"The principles of putt, the stroke, everything is the same," he said. "It's just a different way of putting my bottom hand."
NASTY FINISH: The water-lined, 489-yard finishing hole lived up to its reputation as one of the toughest on tour.
The par 4 has ranked as the most difficult every year since the event moved to The Tournament Course at Redstone in 2006. It was the toughest in the first round Thursday, too, with a scoring average of 4.308 strokes.
Players must drive over a pond into a fairway that bends to the left. Many bail out into the giant bunker on the right side of the fairway, but then face an uphill approach with the water and more bunkers in play.
"It's just a hard hole, there's really no bailout," said John Rollins, who shot a 65 in the afternoon. "You've got to stand up, pick your target, trust your swing and just let it go and see what happens."
LONG AND SHORT OF IT: Lee Westwood shot a 68, making bogeys on both of the par 5s on the front nine.
Westwood hit a 95-yard approach over the green on No. 4 and missed a 7-foot par putt. He birdied the next hole, then hit two balls in the water on No. 8, but pitched to 2 feet to salvage another bogey.
"I find it hard to say there's any such thing as a good six," Westwood said. "(It) was a good up and down. Good demonstration of the short game improved, bad to hit it like that."
Westwood made a birdie and a par on the two par 5s on the back nine at Redstone. He came into the tournament ranked 142nd in par-5 scoring.
"I don't know whether I'm trying to be too aggressive or what," he said. "I suppose it goes in spells like that."