In any other week, everyone in the golf world would be talking about the Shell Houston Open, which has produced a loaded leaderboard through 18 holes. Unfortunately for the SHO, most folks are reading about, prepping, and planning for the Masters already. It's officially Masters week Monday morning, but it appears we're in for one of the better weekends so far this season.
Bill Haas, Matt Kuchar, Keegan Bradley, Sergio Garcia, Phil Mickelson, Webb Simpson, Angel Cabrera and Steve Stricker are just some of the world-class names part of the huge group currently inside the top 20. The Golf Club of Houston was open to plenty of red numbers on Thursday, and the field responded with run on rounds in the mid 60s. Most of those top guys decide to play here because the Houston Open has strategically tried to simulate the conditions at Augusta as much as possible, shaving down and removing rough up around the greens. Augusta demands solid chipping and putting, and the top players in the world think the setup in Houston is a perfect way to prep. It's unlikely we get the kind of benign conditions in the first round next week, but it was good to see the best rise to the top, in particular Mickelson, who was questionable with an oblique injury.
The networks, who won't have the rights next week, certainly have to be happy with the caliber of players on the first page of the leaderboard. This is close to as good a field as you can get without Tiger Woods, and they're all in position to contend. It's also the end of the road for NBC's spring stretch on the PGA Tour schedule, handing things back off the CBS once the NCAA Tournament is over. Johnny Miller and crew will be back for The Players Championship and the U.S. Open, but this is the last event from a fairly underwhelming Florida swing and Texas doubleheader so far.
NBC's Comcast sister network Golf Channel will have the coverage on Friday again, broadcasting from 3 to 6 p.m. Mickelson will be out in the afternoon wave on Friday, along with Bradley, Kuchar, and Simpson so there should be plenty of good golf shots to show. As usual, if you're stuck in an office, Golf Channel will have a simulcast running online via their LiveExtra service. Here are all your media options for the second round in Houston.
Friday's second round coverage
3 to 6 p.m. -- Golf Channel
3 to 6 p.m. -- Golf Channel simulcast stream
Noon to 6 p.m. -- PGA Tour Radio on Sirius-XM (Ch. 93/208)