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Cabrera, Pettersson Tied for Lead at Rain-Soaked SHO

on 29 March 2012.

HUMBLE, Texas—Angel Cabrera came into the Shell Houston Open having missed the cut in four of his five starts this season. That’s after packing up and heading home on Friday night in nine of his 17 PGA Tour events last year.

Angel Cabrera shot a first round 65 and is tied for the lead at the Shell Houston Open.Angel Cabrera shot a first round 65 and is tied for the lead at the Shell Houston Open.Even though the big Argentine known as El Pato (“The Duck”) finished seventh at the Masters last year—a tournament he won in 2009—it’s mostly been a struggle in recent times.

So it was a surprise Thursday when he turned in a bogey-free 65 to join Sweden’s Carl Pettersson for the clubhouse lead about 20 minutes before lightning and heavy rains suspended play for the day after a three-hour delay at Redstone Golf Club.

Well, it was a surprise to some.

“I’m not surprised at all,” Cabrera said with a shrug. “I’ve been working hard.”

His teacher can attest to it. Charlie Epps, the director of golf at Redstone Golf Club and Cabrera’s instructor since a few months before he won the 2007 U.S. Open at Oakmont, said something clicked the day before the first round of the SHO.

“We had a great practice session yesterday,” said Epps, who doubles as Cabrera’s interpreter during media interviews. “We spent three and half hours together, and he just started hitting it really, really, really solid.”

Epps said the time he spent with Cabrera on the putting green Wednesday was particularly valuable.

“I got him to practice, and that’s the key,” Epps said. “It’s all about practice. When he practices like we did yesterday, these kinds of rounds happen.”

The results bear it out. Cabrera made a combined 78 feet of birdie putts in the first round. That includes a 27-foot bomb on the first hole and the 22-footer on 18.

“The greens here are very, very good,” he said. “The course is perfect, ripe for making a good score. I took care of the chances I had.”

Pettersson also worked a hot putter on Thursday. He recorded eight birdies before making bogey on the par-4 17th. He hit 16 of 18 greens and put himself in good positions all day.

“I didn’t make any bombs,” said Pettersson, who has four career victories on the PGA Tour. “I made all my good looks. That’s the key, really, to make the makeable ones. I didn’t make any real long ones, but made all the ones I should.”

Just one shot behind Cabrera and Pettersson is local favorite Jeff Maggert of The Woodlands. The 46-year-old showed he can still keep up with all the young talent on tour with a clean 6-under 66 on Thursday. He hit 12 of 14 fairways and 16 greens.

“It was a fun day,” he said. “I was a little apprehensive the way I’ve been playing the last two months, but I felt pretty good in my practice rounds. I felt some confidence on the greens today, and I made a few putts.”

Ricky Barnes shook off a nasty case of food poisoning from Tuesday to join Maggert for third place at 6-under 66. Journeyman Jim Herman was at 6-under through 15 holes when the rain and lightning forced him off the course.

Only 51 of the 144 players finished their first rounds on Thursday. Defending champion Phil Mickelson, Fred Couple and Ernie Els, who needs to win this week to avoid missing the Masters for the first time since 1993.

Play is scheduled to continue Friday at 7:30 a.m. local time. For current first round scores, click here.

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