October 11, 2019 / 1:23 AM / 2 months ago

Golf: Cook, Gooch shine at Houston as Stenson fades

FILE PHOTO: Golf - The 147th Open Championship - Carnoustie, Britain - July 19, 2018 Austin Cook of the U.S. in action during the first round REUTERS/Andrew Yates

(Reuters) - Henrik Stenson was missing a trusty old friend as he plodded to an even-par 72 that left him eight strokes behind first-round leaders Austin Cook and Talor Gooch at the Houston Open on Thursday.

Stenson started well enough with a tap-in birdie before the sun had barely risen above the Texas horizon, but he cooled down as the weather warmed up at Golf Club of Houston, dropping four shots in a miserable three-hole stretch on the back nine before clawing back birdies at the final two holes.

The Swede has finally consigned to the scrapheap the trusty old Callaway three-wood that played a big role in his resurgence this decade, and which he used with such clinical efficiency to rise to number two in the world and to win the 2016 British Open at Royal Troon.

While newer models are more forgiving of mishits, Stenson clung to his old club for longer than most since first using it in 2011.

He eschewed hitting his driver more than most, instead smashing low rockets with the old three-wood, sacrificing a few yards of carry in lush conditions but less on the firm links of Troon where the ball rolled and then some.

“It was time to get something new,” Stenson said. “Technology has moved on.”

While Stenson battled on Thursday, Cook could hardly have started better, playing the front nine in seven under par as he turned in 29 strokes, before stalling slightly in the inward half.

Gooch, conversely, did most of his damage on the back nine, picking up five strokes to match his fellow American on 64, a stroke better than Austrian Sepp Straka.

Reporting by Andrew Both in Cary, North Carolina; editing by Richard Pullin

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