Culture / Sporting Life

Memorial Park, Bizarre Fans and Love Seats Win the Houston Open’s First Round — Inside a Wild Day of Bayou City Golf

Jordan Spieth's Tease, Brandt Snedeker's Fun and Dustin Johnson's Rust

BY // 11.05.20

Memorial Park stared down the PGA Tour’s best — and didn’t blink. The dramatically revamped course proved to be more than worthy in the first major test of its $34 million rebirth. Low scores proved to be rare in day one of the Houston Open.

They had to be earned as the firm, fast greens and challenging approach shots often befuddled some of the world’s top golfers.  This is no silly season golf course that gives up birdies at the rate CNN’s John King gives up sleep. In fact, some of the pros all but outright wondered if Memorial Park was too hard.

“I think the golf course kind of forces you into being patient just because you can’t really miss too many greens,” Scottie Scheffler, the young University of Texas favorite, says. “Around the greens out here is very, very difficult to get up and down and you can get into some spots where you start playing ping pong across these greens. It’s brutal.”

It is also sort of beautiful to watch. This course that hasn’t hosted a PGA Tour event in 57 years before this week still has teeth. Houston Astros owner Jim Crane’s determination to bring Houston’s PGA Tournament out of the suburbs and back into the city allowed this to happen.

Pro golf is back in the nation’s fourth largest city — and so are golf fans. That is one thing everyone could agree on. Having fans back for the first time at a United States PGA Tour event was no small thrill to the players, tour officials and local organizers alike. First round leader Brandt Snedeker even credited the galleries for propelling his 5-under 65, which placed him two shots clear of the six golfers tied for seventh.

“I think that’s a big reason why I played well today,” Snedeker says. “I love having fans out here. I kind of feed off their energy. It’s great to hear some claps and people excited for good shots and some birdies. That’s a big reason why I think I played well. I was excited to be out there and have been missing them.

BUY ART NOW

Swipe
  • CulturePlace NOVEMBER Deck - DALLAS
  • CulturePlace NOVEMBER Deck - DALLAS
  • CulturePlace NOVEMBER Deck - DALLAS
  • CulturePlace NOVEMBER Deck - DALLAS
  • CulturePlace NOVEMBER Deck - DALLAS
  • CulturePlace NOVEMBER Deck - DALLAS
  • CulturePlace NOVEMBER Deck - DALLAS
  • CulturePlace NOVEMBER Deck - DALLAS
  • CulturePlace NOVEMBER Deck - DALLAS
  • CulturePlace NOVEMBER Deck - DALLAS
  • CulturePlace NOVEMBER Deck - DALLAS
  • CulturePlace NOVEMBER Deck - DALLAS
  • CulturePlace NOVEMBER Deck - DALLAS

“So glad to have them back.”

The 39-year-old Snedeker is one of the true good guys in sports, with he and his wife Mandy heavily involved with children’s charities in their hometown of Nashville. Seeing him return to golf form the week before The Masters would be a nice bonus for golf fans.

The Houston Open Crowds

Only 2,500 tickets were sold for each day of the tournament, but it felt like more than that when you followed the marquee groups. Especially World No. 1 Dustin Johnson’s trailing fan gallery. The limited number of fans made themselves heard. Returning to play his first tournament since his own COVID-19 bout, Johnson felt the pain that this retooled Tom Doak Memorial Park can deliver, shooting a two-over 72.

That’s good for a tie for 63rd place in a field of 132 golfers.

Johnson did get to see one twentysomething fan dressed head to toe in a red, white and blue Texas suit, tie included. And he got to hear countless other guys scream, “Get in the hole!” and “You’re the man, DJ!”

Yes, golf fans are back — in all their best and worst.

First round action at the 2020 Vivint Houston Open
Fans were back on the PGA Tour and the galleries looked larger than just the 2,500 let in. (Photo by F. Carter Smith)

Texas golf hero Jordan Spieth looked like he was back. Then, in a heartbreaking series of flashes, his game disappeared. The most baffling case study on the PGA Tour led the entire tournament heading to his 11th hole. He’d end the day with a string of bogeys (and double bogeys) that leave him tied for 73rd place.

If you want to see Spieth play in Texas, you’d better tune in on Friday. His chances of making the weekend cut are not promising.

The love seats at Memorial Park showed more crowd-pleasing, staying power. Yes, the love seats.

Cushiony chairs that aren’t quite big enough to be couches have been set up in the back of the driving range and out in the grass near the VIP tent and concession areas. And they’re already one of the hits of the Houston Open. Just because you need to sit outside and social distance does not mean you cannot be comfortable.

Memorial Park is finding all kinds of ways to shake up the game.

Discover. Connect. Buy Art Now.

Explore Culture Place
Exclusively offered by Erin Cluley Gallery on Culture Place. Left to right: Nic Nicosia, Nathan Green, and René Treviño

Featured Properties

Swipe

Like PaperCity Dallas on Facebook

Beyond the magazine. Get more of Dallas’ top restaurant, real estate, society, fashion and art in your news feed.

X
X