After close loss in 2011, golfer takes another swing at Victoria Open
Michael Smith has never had a poor round at Victoria Country Club.
The 29-year-old from Lafayette, La., finished a close second place at the 2011 Victoria Open, and after skipping last year's Victoria Open, he's picking up right where he left off. Overall, he's never been worse than 1-over par here, an astonishing fact considering at least a third of the field was more than 3-over for each of their rounds Wednesday and Thursday.
"It's always nice to come back to a course you play well at," Smith said. "It puts you in a good frame of mind."
Smith is in the thick of it again, in an eighth-place tie heading into the final two days at even par. His worst round at Victoria Country Club was Wednesday's opening round, in howling wind and temperatures that were plunging into the 50s rapidly. It's a major achievement that his score for that day was only 1-over.
"The weather obviously was tough (Wednesday) afternoon, and the winds were really difficult," he said. "(Thursday) morning, it was still really windy and still cold. It didn't start settling down until the 14th hole. The last four or five holes it started getting nice out there.
"It was a pretty difficult round Thursday. Not as difficult as the round before, but still difficult."
The last time Smith played in Victoria, he left with the type of defeat that could lead to several snapped clubs strewn about the golf course.
For 71 holes over three days here in August 2011, he looked unbeatable. His opening round 64 was a tournament best, and he proceeded to post rounds of 3-under par the next two days, taking a four-stroke lead into the final day.
Then, he got caught.
"I had a birdie putt on the last hole and missed it from 4 or 5 feet out; it would have forced a playoff," said Smith, 29. "I played well; I had a good week. Blake (L.) Trimble just played some great golf and beat me by one."
Blake L. Trimble, who had been hanging around in the standings for the previous three days, put together a closing round 5-under 66 that day, putting pressure on Smith. The missed putt on No. 18 was the culmination of a day in which all of the breaks went his opponent's way. Yet, he still shot a more-than-respectable even-par 71 for that final round.
"I don't think about it too much," he said of that tournament.
Smith has finished second in one other event, the TGMC Fakier Open last year in Houma, La.
This time around, he's back near the top of the leaderboard, and he did so by dominating on short holes. On Wednesday, Smith didn't meet a par-3 hole he didn't like, going a collective 3-under on the course's four short holes, including dropping a 40-foot putt on No. 15.
"I just seemed to make good putts on all three," Smith said. "Those were my good putts of the day. Other than those, which were real nice, I struggled to make putts. If I could get my putter rolling a little bit better, I think I can play well this weekend."
Smith added an eagle on the par-5 fourth hole Thursday as well, erasing two early bogies on the first two holes.
Catching up to the leader is going to be a tough task. Michael Nicoletti, after jumping out to a 7-under 64 on Wednesday, gave one stroke back with his round Thursday. Still, he's at 6-under and has a three-stroke lead over second place.
"The leader was quite a ways up there," Smith said. "Obviously, I'm going to need to play some really good golf over the weekend and get lucky with whatever he does."
• Andrew Landry and Creighton Honeck each turned in the low round of the day, with each golfer carding a 4-under 67 on Thursday. Landry, a native of Baton Rouge, La., compiled six birdies to offset two bogies and move into a third place tie behind second place Brad Besler, who is at 3-under, and Nicoletti. Honeck played steady golf, bogeying only one hole and picking up four of his five birdies on the front nine.
• 2011 champion Blake L. Trimble did not have a good tournament, done in mostly by a crooked number Wednesday. His 10-over 81 on Thursday was too much to overcome, and he was cut from the field Thursday. He shot a 1-over 72 to close out the tournament.
• Former UHV golfer Jonathan Allen made a strong bid to make the cut but fell short by two strokes. After posting an 80 to open the tournament, Allen posted a 3-under Thursday to move to 6-over for the tournament. Joe Mitchell Jr., the assistant golf professional at Victoria Country Club, also missed the cut after posting two rounds of 76.
Third round pairings
1 8:00 AM Creighton Honeck, Austin, TX 75-67--142 E, Mark Stevens, Beggs, OK 71-71--142 E
1 8:09 AM Chris Walker, The Woodlands, TX 70-72--142 E, Hudson Johnson, Longview, TX 74-68--142 E
1 8:18 AM Clinton Shepard, West Monroe, LA 72-70--142 E, Christopher E. Brown, Trophy Club, TX 69-73--142 E
1 8:27 AM Michael Smith, Lafayette, LA 72-70--142 E, Blaine Weiterman, Tyler, TX 72-70--142 E
1 8:36 AM Jeff Rangel, Scottsdale, AZ 72-69--141 -1, Lance Lopez, Richmond, TX 71-71--142 E
1 8:45 AM Garrett Driver, Humble, TX 71-70--141 -1, Clay Fullick, Baytown, TX 71-70--141 -1
1 8:54 AM Andrew Landry, Baton Rouge, LA 74-67--141 -1, Robbe Trout, Sanger, TX 69-72--141 -1
1 9:03 AM Michael Nicoletti, Dos Palos, CA 64-72--136 -6, Brad Besler, Castle Rock, CO 71-68--139 -3
10 8:00 AM Dustin Morris, Crosby, TX 75-68--143 +1, Ryan Baca, Sugar Land, TX 68-75--143 +1
10 8:09 AM Cole Moreland, Austin, TX 70-73--143 +1, Chris Brown, Garland, TX 75-68--143 +1
10 8:18 AM Scott Roudebush, Dallas, TX 71-72--143 +1, David Gossett, Austin, TX 74-70--144 +2
10 8:27 AM Daniel Hoff, Houston, TX 72-72--144 +2, Andrew Noto, Luling, LA, LA 75-70--145 +3
10 8:36 AM Troy Denton, Dallas, TX 69-76--145 +3, Dustin Mills, Arvada, CO 73-72--145 +3
10 8:45 AM - Matthew Vela, Austin, TX 77-69--146 +4, Anthony Broussard, Addison, TX 76-70--146 +4
10 8:54 AM Jeremy Frye, Palestine, TX 75-71--146 +4, Ryan Dagerman, Dallas, TX 77-69--146 +4
10 9:03 AM Joshua Havard, Wilmer, TX 74-72--146 +4